Whether you’re working on your first book or your fiftieth, it can be tough to narrow down the best self-publishing companies. Sometimes it seems as if there are a million options out there for new authors. And how do you know which self-publishing platforms are going to be the right fit for you?
Let’s take a look at the top self-publishing companies and their strengths and weaknesses, so you can find the best fit for your book. Who wants to throw all their hard work in writing a book down the drain because they didn’t pick a good self-publisher? Avoid wasting time and cut through the noise with our guide to the best self-publishing companies of 2021.
What self-publishing is (and isn’t)
Before we discuss the best self-publishing sites, let’s make sure we’re on the same page in terms of what self-publishing actually is.
To self-publish a book means you take on all the aspects and responsibilities of publishing yourself. You are in control of choosing a publisher, designing and formatting the book, and distributing it to booksellers.
Unlike with traditional publishing, you don’t need an agent to self-publish, and you don’t have to wait for a big publishing house to choose you and your book. You set the deadlines. Better yet, you get to keep all the royalties, too.
Self-publishing companies help you with some or all of these various aspects of publishing, from printing to registering to distributing your book. You retain the control, the rights over your book, and the royalties.
Types of publishing companies
There is no one-size-fits all for publishing companies. Each one specializes in something, and they differ in the self-publishing services offered. Here are some of the types of self-publishing companies you’ll encounter:
Some self-publishing companies are also retailers. You can publish your book and sell it through their store. One example is Amazon — you can publish your book through Amazon, then sell it on their website. Another example in Barnes and Noble Press.
A self-publishing aggregator is a company that allows you to upload your book once and send it to many different retailers. This style of company is dedicated to saving you time by being your one-stop distributor.
Another kind of self-publishing company offers a wide variety of author services — everything from editing to design to printing. As you might expect, authors love these companies because they provide skilled services for the author’s book.
Print on demand
Another kind of publishing company is called print on demand. With a print on demand company, you can order as many or as few books to be printed as you like. If you have a customer who wants to buy just one single copy, you can arrange to sell it through the print on demand company. It eliminates the need for you to print a large run of books and find a place to store them.
What to look for in a self-publishing company
When choosing a self-publishing company for your book, it pays to keep your eyes and ears peeled for companies with the best reputations and the most satisfied customers. Look for an established company that is known for aboveboard dealings and quality customer service.
It helps if they’ve got fair pricing, transparent processes, and access to a wide range of professionals, retailers, or customers — depending on what type of publishing company it is.
The Best Self-Publishing Companies of 2021
Now that you know a little bit more about self-publishing companies, you’re better prepared to find the best one for your book. To help you in this quest, we’ve composed a list of the best self-publishing companies of 2021.
The Best Self-Publishing Companies
1. Kindle Direct Publishing
2. 48 Hour Books
3. Barnes and Noble Press
4. Apple Books
5. Rakuten Kobo
6. Ingram Spark
9. Draft to Digital
10. Book Baby
How we chose this list
To select the books on this list, we rounded up dozens of self-publishing companies and applied a strict set of criteria to compare self-publishing companies. Ones that didn’t make our cut were eliminated. Finally, we narrowed the list down to 10 of the best self-publishing companies of 2021. Having a list of 10 provides a range of publishing company types to suit every kind of book and every kind of author.
The criteria we used:
Reach: For a publishing company to make it on our list, they had to have sufficient reach in terms of access to a large customer list (if a retailer), a variety of retailers (if an aggregator), or extensive services (if an author services company). We eliminated any company that was not sufficiently wide-ranging in its offerings.
Reliability: We immediately disqualified any publishing company that was found to be unreliable, unresponsive to customer requests, or otherwise offers poor customer service. The author/customer deserves to receive exactly what the publishing company says they will provide, on time, and at the agreed-upon price.
Reputation: Relatedly, any company on our list of the best self-publishing companies needed to have a solid reputation for quality, ease of use, customer service, and integrity. If a company could not pass muster for this quality, it was eliminated from contention.
Cost: Lastly, all of the companies on this list offered transparent, fair pricing for their offerings. We believe pricing is not be the main factor when it comes to publishing your book. We also firmly believe that any company that does not price its offerings fairly and does not stand by its pricing model does not deserve to make the list of self-publishing companies.
The List of Best Self-Publishing Companies
Now that we have explained our decision process, here are the best self-publishing book companies of 2021.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Category: Retailer/printer (eBook and paperback)
Royalties: 35% or 70%
Cost: As low as $0.85 per book
Reach: Customers in U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, and more
For authors, publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing gets their book in front of millions of readers, instantly. They’re a huge seller, and they offer both print and digital publishing, which is an attractive combo to many authors. They also offer a wide variety of author tools, which are helpful for formatting, uploading, and tracking sales.
For even more reach, go with KDP Select, which is a program that provides extended reach and additional tools for authors who enroll their books. You have the potential to sell even more books when you take advantage of this program.
However, it’s important to note that if you lock down exclusivity with Amazon, you won’t be allowed to publish that same title elsewhere, which may cramp your plans.
48 Hour Books
Category: Author services, printing
Royalties: You keep 100% of your royalties
Cost: Varies depending on service selected
Reach: U.S. and Canada, with overseas shipping available through your preferred carrier
For fast, beautiful, professionally printed books, you can’t beat 48 Hour Books. We pride ourselves on our quick turnaround and high-quality service. Whether you choose a plain paperback or a Diamond 3D casebound beauty, you’ll love the service and quality you receive at 48 Hour Books.
We help with all aspects of the self-publishing process, from editing and design assistance, to ISBN and barcodes, to printing and shipping. Plus, our customer service team is extremely responsive and friendly — something you won’t find at other self-publishing companies.
Barnes and Noble Press (B&N Press)
Category: Retailer, platform (eBook and print)
Royalties: Flat 70% for eBook sales
Cost: Varies. No hidden fees. Calculate your net with their online tool
Reach: U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium (personal books only ship in U.S.)
If you publish with Barnes and Noble Press, you don’t have to worry about sacrificing exclusivity. Your book will be accessible to Barnes and Noble’s large audience of book buyers, and you’ll even have the chance to see your book featured in B&N’s emails and online promotions. They offer robust sales reports for authors to track their book’s success, and you can choose whether you want to publish a digital book or a printed one (or both).
If you need help with author services, Barnes and Noble Press has partnered with several other companies to provide things like editing and design service.
Category: Retailer, platform (eBook and audiobook)
Royalties: Flat 70%
Cost: Varies depending on service selected
Reach: Apple Books customers/Mac Users
Publishing on Apple Books is fairly simple. You’ll need an iTunes Connect account, which is where your business information goes so you can get paid. Apple pays a flat 70% royalty for every book, no matter the price, which is a nice change from other retailers like Amazon, who change the royalty based on book price.
While Apple Books doesn’t have the audience Kindle Direct Publishing does, it’s still a great resource to reach the millions of Apple Books users out there, who are less inclined to balk at slightly higher prices. That can help your bottom line as an author. Plus, you can publish audiobooks, which isn’t possible at some other self-publishing companies.
Category: Retailer, platform (eBook)
Royalties: 45% or 70% depending on list price
Cost: Varies depending on service selected
Reach: Online bookstores in more than 190 countries
Rakuten Kobo’s Kobo Writing Life portal opens the door to selling your eBook to a massive worldwide audience, as they are the online backbone of many an international bookstore. It’s free to upload your book to the site, or you can use an aggregator (see below). Kobo also makes e-readers, so there is a built-in audience for those who are already using a Kobo reader.
Kobo does not require exclusivity, so it’s a great addition to your distribution plan. If you publish direct with Kobo, you can get 70% royalties on your list price.
Category: Print on demand, distribution (aggregator)
Cost: Varies. Try their calculator tool for printing; distribution ranges from $25 to $49
Reach: Worldwide, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble
IngramSpark offers both book printing and distribution services to its authors. That means once you’ve written the book, you can arrange to have it distributed to online booksellers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more.
However, Ingram Spark’s setup fees can turn off some authors, and the site makes it difficult to make changes or adjust previous uploads. Their print service doesn’t provide proof copies, so you’ll have to order an author copy for review. (In comparison, 48 Hour Books offers a variety of proof options, including printed proofs).
Category: Author services
Cost: 20% commission on services (10% from author, 10% from service professional)
Reach: International service and support
If you’re looking strictly for author services, Reedsy is a company that focuses only on connecting authors with freelance professionals who can help them — editors, designers, marketers, and more. Reedsy takes a cut of the final fee in exchange for the introduction.
Reedsy is a great option if all you need is, say, a designer to do your cover for you, but if you want full publishing and distribution services, you’ll have to add another company to your roster.
Cost: Monthly fee: $10 to $100 per month depending on number of titles
Reach: International (100 countries)
Publishdrive is a distribution aggregator, helping to sync your books to multiple stores. You upload your book to Publishdrive, then toggle on which bookstores you’d like to distribute to. Publishdrive sends your book to the appropriate seller and collects your royalties all in one place. You keep all the royalties you earn, but Publishdrive collects a monthly fee for their service, which ranges from $10 to $100 per month depending on the number of titles managed.
Publishdrive sends to major players, including Amazon, Audible (for audiobooks), Barnes and Noble, Google Play, OverDrive (library lending app) and Rakuten kobo.
Draft 2 Digital
Category: Aggregator, print on demand (beta)
Cost: 10% of retail list price (15% of net royalties)
Draft 2 Digital offers complete formatting and distribution of your manuscript. When you use Draft 2 Digital, you can upload something as simple as a Word Doc and they’ll turn it into eBook. D2D offers a print on demand service, too, but it’s currently in the beta testing phase, so you may not want to rely on that for book printing.
D2D gives you one place to distribute your book to many of the major sellers, including Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, plus many others.
Category: Aggregator, printing, author services
Royalties: Varies. BookBaby keeps 15% of sales made through BookShop.
Cost: Varies. Try their Pricing Calculator.
For an all-in-one self-publishing option, there’s BookBaby. They offer printing, distribution to major sellers, and author services all in one place. BookBaby distributes to Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.
In terms of printing, they offer a variety of book printing packages, some of which include additional services such as cover design or eBook formatting. Or, you can choose a print-on-demand service, where you print books only as you need or want them, or wholesale, which prints larger quantities. Printing takes one or two weeks — so if you need your book faster than that, 48 Hour Books is the better alternative.
Now that you’ve gotten an in-depth overview of the best self-publishing companies, we hope you feel prepared to begin your self-publishing journey! As always, our helpful customer service team is standing by to help you every step of the way. Reach out and get started today.