The 17 BEST Self-Publishing Companies of 2021
Deciding to self-publish your book is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Once your book has been edited, designed, and you have a marketing plan in place, you still have to figure out how you'll publish and distribute your work — the number of options available is so large that it can be a bit overwhelming.
There are a lot of companies out there advertising their services to self-publishing authors. Some of them are reputable but many of them are vanity presses looking to take advantage of aspiring authors.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the 17 best self-publishing companies in the industry to see which ones you might want to work with — depending on the book you’ve written.
The beauty of ebook publishing is that any author can upload and launch their books without any outside help. Broadly speaking you can take two approaches to this process:
- Sell directly through book retailers, such as Amazon and B&N Press. These are online bookstores where your book can be discovered and sold. Big book retailers generally provide a branded ebook publishing platform for you to individually upload your book.
- Use an aggregator, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords, to distribute to a bunch of book retailers all at once. This will probably save you time and energy, though you’ll need to pay an extra fee for their services.
When you’re publishing an ebook, regardless of the approach, you’ll get to keep the lion’s share of the profits. Most retailers and aggregators will only take a cut of the royalties once a copy of your book is sold.
But what’s best for your book will depend on your personal situation. So, first, we recommend taking this quick 1-minute quiz that will help point you towards the best self-publishing company for you.
Which self-publishing company is right for you?
That said, if you want to get an overview of the ebook publishing landscape then read on!
Let's start with the four most prominent book retailers. Book retailers are the stores through which you’ll actually sell your book to the public — which means that they’re pretty important as far as your self-publishing ambitions are concerned! Like we mentioned before, each retailer offers its own ebook publishing platform for authors to upload their books. Where they differ is in the cut that they take of your royalties and their exclusivity programs.
1. Amazon KDP
💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 OR 35% if priced below $2.99
Amazon is the titan of online bookstores — accounting for 74% of U.S. ebook sales in 2015 — it is the world's biggest seller of digital volumes. It's no wonder Amazon is often the first retailer authors consider to sell their titles.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s self-publishing platform (not to be confused with "Amazon Publishing" — their division that operates like a traditional publisher). Any author can self-publish using KDP, though you’ll need to do it manually yourself.
Note that Amazon KDP is not the same as Amazon KDP Select. KDP Select is Amazon’s exclusivity program — meaning that, if you choose to enroll in it, you can only sell your book on Amazon. In exchange for this, Amazon will give you:
- Access to Kindle Countdown Deals and free promotions. You can discount your book — and even set it to free on the Kindle store — for a certain period every 90 days. Learn more about the power of discounting (and the smart way to go about it) in this Reedsy Live.
- Enrollment in Kindle Unlimited. KU is Amazon’s subscription service for readers, which allows members to read as much as they want. It’s very popular and a good portion of Amazon customers only read titles from KU these days.
If you’ve researched these perks and decided that KDP Select is the route for you, then there’s no need to read the rest of this post, as you’ve essentially agreed not to use any other self-publishing company 🙂 Instead, you can familiarize yourself with the KDP Select program with these resources:
- KDP Select vs. “Going Wide” — Which Option is Right For You?
- How to Self-Publish with Amazon
- The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution
2. Apple Books
💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on most books
Another big name that everyone should know, Apple founded its self-publishing arm in 2010. In 2012, Apple announced that 400 million books were downloaded on Apple Books (though it’s important to note that the number of downloads differs from the number of books sold, as The Digital Reader clarifies in this post). Though Amazon has far eclipsed it as the foremost ebook reading platform since then, Apple Books still gets a fair amount of eyes.
While figuring out ways to monetize a book on Apple Books might be a challenge, it’s much easier to actually publish one. Using iBooks Author, self-publishing authors can quite easily upload their titles onto Apple Books, all without having to pay a fee!
3. Barnes & Noble Press
💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on ebooks priced above $0.99
As you might expect, Barnes & Noble Press (formerly known as NOOK Press) is the self-publishing platform belonging to the big box bookseller. It has pretty infamously struggled for market share against Amazon. However, as far as interfaces are concerned, B&N Press is easy to use — and, similar to the other big retailers, it’s free to upload your book. Exclusivity is not required to publish with B&N Press.
It’s important to note that you can set your book for free on this platform. What’s more, Barnes & Noble is still working on innovating and adding new features for self-published writers. Just January 2021, B&N Press introduced an ad portal to help new authors to create marketing campaigns on the Barnes & Noble website for their books. Check out this page for more information on self-publishing on B&N Press.
4. Rakuten Kobo
💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on ebooks priced more than $2.99 in the U.S. OR 45% for books priced below $2.99
Rakuten Kobo is the last big retailer that you should know. It’s a Canadian company (that’s a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten) — as such, it’s got a strong reach in the international ebook market. Kobo is only the #5 store in terms of market share in the U.S., though it’s growing year by year.
If you're hoping to reach readers outside of the U.S., Kobo is a strong candidate. Kobo's self-publishing arm, Kobo Writing Life, is simple and free to use. It also comes with several perks, including exclusive promotion opportunities, if you choose to distribute through Kobo and not an aggregator.
Speaking of aggregators… if you’re getting a migraine just thinking about uploading your book onto all of these different book retailers by yourself, then perhaps aggregators are what you’re looking for.
Aggregators collect and manage all of these markets: pushing your book to each retailer and centralizing it all into one sales report. With a single upload to, say, Draft2Digital, your book would be on sale on Amazon, B&N Press, Apple Books, Kobo — and even smaller retailers.
Then you’ll be able to track your sales across all of these retailers through the aggregator’s interface, receiving monthly royalty checks. In exchange for this service, an aggregator will take an additional cut of your royalties — which means that this route is for anyone who wants to quickly save on time and doesn’t mind paying extra.
How much will it cost you to self-publish?
💰 Pricing: 10% of the book’s retail price per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, Kobo, Playster, Tolino, OverDrive, Scribd, Bibliotheca — more info here
If you decide to use an aggregator, Draft2Digital is the one that we recommend at Reedsy. Why’s that? Lots of factors, including excellent customer support, a user-friendly dashboard, and a sleek website design. Not to mention the extra perks that D2D packs into the deal: they do the formatting for you. D2D also:
- Gives authors Universal Book Links (UBL). As its name suggests, these UBLs make books discoverable by allowing authors to generate a link to each of their books, which goes straight to the customer’s preferred book retailer.
- Touts an “automated back matter” tool. This nifty service automatically adds your newly published ebook to the “Also by this author” section of any other book you’ve distributed via D2D.
Add the fact that it distributes to all of the major ebook stores, and you’ve pretty much got the whole package in Draft2Digital.
💰 Pricing: 15% of the retail price on Smashwords and 10% on other platforms per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Kobo, Blio, the Smashwords store — more info here
The original aggregator, Smashwords was the undisputed king in town until Draft2Digial entered the picture. However, Smashwords is still very popular today.
On a simple side-by-side comparison, Smashwords and Draft2Digital offer similar pricing structures and royalties. Where Smashwords falls short is in terms of its user experience — you need to do the formatting yourself on Smashwords, which definitely isn’t a piece of cake. Smashwords also does not distribute books to Amazon. That said, outside of Amazon, it’s got a slightly more extensive distribution network than Draft2Digital, so if you want to sell your book to smaller retailers, this might work. Kindlepreneur's Dave Chesson wrote an in-depth take on the differences between Smashwords and Draft2Digital, which you can read here.
💰 Pricing: 10% of the retail price per copy sold OR subscription pricing
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, OverDrive, Playster, Odilo, Bookmate — more info here
PublishDrive might be the new kid on the block, but it’s definitely made the most of its time. Founded in 2015, it works with over 4,500 publishers and can now connect you to over 400 stores. It’s got all the workings of the other aggregators: a modern interface and regular sales reports to keep you up-to-date on your profits. What sets PublishDrive apart from the pack are:
- PublishDrive’s subscription pricing options. If you just agree to pay $100 per month, you can keep all of your royalties, which might be a good fit for established authors.
- Its distribution options. Along with all of the major Western retailers, PublishDrive also specializes in international distribution, giving indie authors access to foreign markets that were previously out of reach.
💰 Pricing: 10% of the retail price per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Google Play, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Indigo, Baker & Taylor — more info here
Another international distributor, StreetLib gives you even more options if you’re aiming to reach an international audience. It’s got a strong presence in Latin America and Europe, to the extent that its dashboard can be configured in English, Italian, Spanish, Hindi — and more! One other case in point for its international strength: in January 2019, it began offering its services for authors in Egypt.
Originally founded in Europe, StreetLib is certainly great for international distribution, but if your plan is to include the U.S. and U.K. as well, it's also got your back. As of April 2019, it distributes books to all major Western stores.
💰 Pricing: 30% of net sales for books priced more than $2.49 OR 60% for works between below $2.48
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Hugendubel, Angus & Robertson, Thalia, Buecher, Whitcoulls, Indigo, Kobo, Livraria Cultura, Kobo, Scribd — more info here
XinXii isn’t actually Chinese — it’s based in Berlin. (Surprise!) As such, it offers authors foreign distribution channels that might not be readily available elsewhere. Note that it’s got a particularly strong presence in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. However, its customer support could be found wanting, and its user interface is a bit on the clunky side: trade-offs that the author will need to make to conduct business with XinXii.
Author Services for Self-Publishing Authors
Now, if you haven’t gotten as far in the publishing process as the actual publishing bit, and you’re still concerned with the editing, design, and formatting of your book, then perhaps the companies above don’t quite match what you’re looking for. Thankfully, there’s one place where you can access world-class talent to take care of all three — and you’re already there 😉.
💰 Pricing: Average costs here
🖋️Services: Editing, interior design, cover design, illustrations, and more.
A marketplace for freelance publishing professionals, Reedsy is where authors can connect with editors and designers with years of relevant experience in traditional publishing. Each professional sets their own rate — you can get quotes from up to five of them a time and find the ones that best suit your needs and budget.
In addition to the marketplace, Reedsy has a book formatting tool that allows any author to quickly create a professional-grade ebook and print book file — at no cost whatsoever.
Print-on-Demand Services for Self-Publishing Authors
While most self-publishing authors will rely on the ebook market for most of their sales, that doesn’t mean they should overlook the printed book. After all, there’s nothing quite like holding a beautifully designed paperback in your hand! And with print-on-demand technology that allows for copies to be produced only when they’re purchased, almost any indie author can put a paperback up for sale — without breaking the bank.
If that sounds good to you, then here’s a quick look at some of the major players in POD.
11. KDP Print
Formerly known as CreateSpace, Amazon’s own print-on-demand service has the benefit of sharing Kindle Direct Publishing’s platform. Authors already selling ebooks on KDP can easily launch a print edition by uploading a formatted PDF and cover design with a spine and a back. With KDP’s Expanded Distribution option, authors can sell to shops and libraries across the globe — though it’s important to note many booksellers are inclined to order through Amazon.
💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Follett, EBSCO, Booktopia, Kobo, Zola Books, 24Symbols, Bookmate
IngramSpark, owned by Ingram, the biggest book wholesaler in the world. If your focus is on getting your book into brick-and-mortar stores, it’s worth setting your book up with this company (perhaps in addition to KDP Print, which you can use to sell your book on Amazon). For a promo code, read our IngramSpark review.
💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, the Blurb bookstore
Blurb is one of the most well-known and trusted print-on-demand services out there. We particularly recommend it for visual works — such as magazines and photo books. For an in-depth evaluation of its user-friendliness and pictures of the quality of its printed books, go to this review.
💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Google Play, Vearsa, Apple Books, Kobo, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million
Boasting an easy-to-use interface and reliable customer service, BookBaby is an option for many first-time self-publishing authors. To learn more about BookBaby, go to this review.
Marketing Services for Self-Publishing Authors
Getting your book published is only half the battle, of course. You’ve created a wonderful book and launched it on the world’s biggest retailer platforms — but you still need to find a way to make people buy it. To help your book reach its potential, there are few companies you can turn to for assistance.
15. Reedsy Discovery
💰 Pricing: $50
Reedsy Discovery helps thousands of self-publishing authors get the boost they need every month. When you submit your book, you get an editorial review in time for your launch date — as well as a chance to be featured in our weekly newsletter, sent out to over 200,000 eager readers.
In addition to reviews, Reedsy’s marketplace has dozens of experienced book marketers who can help you optimize your book’s product page, plan an ad campaign, and perfect your email marketing strategy.
💰 Pricing: Varies among genres
Perhaps the single biggest promotional platform in publishing, BookBub offers self-publishing authors a powerful way to publicize their discount deals. Through BookBub’s Featured Deals and self-serve ads, an author can tap into their subscriber-base and access devoted fans of almost any genre.
However, these days, it’s incredibly hard for self-publishing authors to secure one of their featured deals. Thankfully, BookBub has more than a little competition.
17. Written Word Media
💰 Pricing: Varies between platforms
With a range of platforms catering to free and discounted books (the most prominent of which is their newsletters), Written Word Media provides authors with another way to connect with thousands of readers. Together with FreeBooksy and BargainBooksy (which promote free and bargain books, naturally), WMM has other sites devoted to steamy romances, new releases, and even audiobooks.
And if that isn’t enough, you can find more services over on Reedsy’s directory of book promotion sites.
Whichever options you choose, understand that it may take a bit of trial and error until you realize your perfect self-publishing system. There's no right or wrong way to go about it — which is all a part of learning how to self-publish a book in the first place.