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Top 7 Places to Publish Your Book

publishing platforms May 03, 2021

Deciding where to self-publish your book shouldn’t be difficult. There are dozens of platforms to choose from, but in my opinion, there is one clear winner. However, I don’t suggest you stop with one. It’s typically best to publish in multiple places to reach as many readers as possible.

Here are my favorite self-publishing platforms. If you publish your book in the order listed below, you can maximize the number of books you sell and the profit you make on each book.

Platform

Type

Book Formats

1. Amazon’s KDP

retailer

e-books & paperbacks

2. Google Play Books

retailer

e-books

3. Barnes & Noble Press

retailer

e-books, paperbacks, & hardcovers

4. Apple Books

retailer

e-books

5. Kobo

retailer

e-books

6. Draft2Digital

aggregator

e-books

7. IngramSpark

aggregator

e-books, paperbacks, & hardcovers

Honorable mentions: PublishDrive (aggregator), Lulu (retailer and aggregator), and Smashwords (retailer and aggregator)

 

Retailers vs. Aggregators

Before you read the details about each self-publishing platform, it’s helpful to understand the difference between book retailers and aggregators. It will help you understand why the top 5 platforms on my list are retailers and why I reserved the top aggregators for the end.

Retailers sell your book directly to readers. When you publish on retailer platforms like Amazon’s KDP and Barnes & Noble Press, they sell your book to people who plan to read it. Your royalty rates will be higher when you publish with retailers rather than on aggregator platforms.  That’s because aggregators charge an additional distribution fee, which you can avoid when you publish directly on retailer sites.

Aggregators, on the other hand, distribute your book to many different retailers. When you publish with an aggregator like IngramSpark and Draft2Digital, they distribute your book to retailers, libraries, and schools. The downside with aggregators is that you’ll receive lower royalty amounts since they take a percentage of your book’s sales in addition to the percentage a retailer will take.

Since retailers provide higher royalty rates, I recommend you start by self-publishing your book on the top retailer sites listed below. Then go to the aggregators who can get your book into places that don’t offer self-publishing options. Below are examples of royalty rates for each platform so you can compare the difference in revenue between retailers and aggregators.

 

  

#1 Amazon’s KDP

It’s no surprise that Amazon is at the top of my list. Their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform is the most compelling place for self-publishing authors to start. It’s easy to upload your manuscript to their site, they provide the broadest customer base, and they offer attractive royalty rates.

KDP is one of the few platforms on my list that will publish both e-books and paperbacks. Once you publish in one format, KDP makes it easy to also publish in the other.

Amazon doesn’t require you to make your book available exclusively with them, that is, unless you opt into their Kindle Select program. The main benefit of Kindle Select is that it makes your book available to people in the Kindle Unlimited program, a subscription service for those who prefer to pay a monthly fee to read e-books rather than pay for each individual book. Despite the extra revenue you might get if you’re in Kindle Select, I recommend you skip it so you can make your e-book available beyond Amazon.

Publishing Website: kdp.amazon.com

Book Formats: e-book and paperback

Pros:

  • Massive customer base
  • User-friendly publishing site
  • Excellent customer service
  • Both e-book and paperback formats
  • No cost to publish
  • Generous royalty rates for e-books (70%) and paperbacks (60%)

Cons:

  • If you enroll in Kindle Select, you can’t publish your e-book on non-Amazon platforms.
  • If you select Expanded Distribution, you’ll get lower royalty rates from non-Amazon booksellers who get your book from Amazon.

Sample Royalty Amounts:*

  • E-book = $3.42* [ (price x 70%) - delivery costs]
  • Paperback = $4.00* [ (price x 60%) - printing costs]

Pro Tip: If you plan to broaden your distribution beyond Amazon, make sure to opt out of their Kindle Select program and Expanded Distribution. If you enroll in Kindle Select, your e-book sales will be restricted to Amazon. If you select Expanded Distribution, your royalty rate for your paperbacks that are sold to booksellers beyond Amazon will be only 40%.

 

After you’ve published your book on KDP, there’s essentially a 4-way tie for where to go next. I recommend you publish on platforms #2 through #5 before moving on to #6 on this list. Establishing distribution with these retailers will get you higher royalty rates than if each retailer gets your book through an aggregator. If you have the patience to do it, you could even hit the retailers on my Honorable Mention list above before going to aggregators. I typically don’t publish with other retailers, despite them offering generous royalties, because sales on their platforms tend to be relatively low.

 

#2 Google Play Books

Having Google Play Books in the #2 slot may seem like a surprise. While this platform doesn’t have as many customers as other retailers on this list, it offers one advantage others don’t. Publishing with Google Play Books makes your book easier to find through Google searches.  

Since it’s free to publish on this platform and it offers 70% royalties, the Google searchability benefit puts it a nudge above the rest. With most of the world’s search engine traffic going through Google, making your book more easily available through Google can tap into customers beyond those searching only on bookseller sites.

Publishing Website: play.google.com/books/publish

Book Formats: e-book

Pros:

  • Helps people find your book through Google searches
  • User-friendly publishing site
  • No cost to publish
  • Generous royalty rate (70%)

Cons:

  • Relatively small customer base for books
  • E-book format only; no paperback

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $3.49* (price x 70%)

Pro Tip: If you want to create an author website, consider using Google Sites. It provides inexpensive, user-friendly features including website creation, hosting, domain services, blog pages, and more.

 

#3 Barnes & Noble Press

Barnes & Noble is one of the most established booksellers in the world. Barnes & Noble Press, their self-publishing service, offers authors the opportunity to make their books available through this well-known bookseller. They offer many of the same benefits as Amazon’s KDP, but with a smaller customer base.

They have a user-friendly interface, and it’s free to publish using their platform. Like Amazon’s KDP, Barnes & Noble Press offers self-publishing services for e-book and paperback formats. They also offer self-publishing services for hardcover books, which isn’t yet available with KDP.

As a bonus, they help authors find service providers such as editors, marketers, and book cover designers through their partnerships with Reedsy, Inkubate, and 99designs.

Publishing Website: press.barnesandnoble.com

Book formats: e-book, paperback, and hardcover

Pros:

  • User-friendly publishing site
  • E-book, paperback, and hardcover formats
  • Partnerships with service providers for editing, marketing, and book cover designs
  • No cost to publish
  • Generous royalty rates for e-books (70%) and paperbacks (55%)

Cons:

  • Smaller customer base than Amazon
  • Lower royalty rate than Amazon for paperback books (55% vs 60%)
  • Higher printing costs than Amazon

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $3.49* (price x 70%)
  • Paperback = $3.15* ( (price x 55%) - printing costs)

Pro Tip: Before you use any of the service providers that partner with Barnes & Noble Press, see if you can find more compelling providers on Fiverr, Freelancer, and other freelance service sites.

 

#4 Apple Books

For many people who read e-books on Apple devices, the Apple Books app is becoming a top choice for purchasing their books. Apple’s self-publishing platform, Apple Books for Authors, offers many of the same features as Google Play Books, but is not as user-friendly and doesn’t connect as smoothly to major search engines.

Still, because of its high royalty rates and no-cost publishing, it’s worth it to publish directly to Apple Books. Brace yourself for a challenging user experience, especially if you try to upload your book from a non-Apple device. The publishing site is challenging, and some authors give up when trying to navigate through the required process.

If you can successfully upload your e-book, royalties are a generous 70%, which is the going rate for most self-publishing platforms. The only format Apple accepts is e-book, so you’ll have to go elsewhere to publish your paperback.

Publishing Website: authors.apple.com

Book formats: e-book

Pros:

  • Becoming a go-to place for people with Apple devices to buy books
  • No cost to publish
  • Generous royalty rate (70%)

Cons:

  • Challenging publishing site, especially when uploading a manuscript from a non-Apple device
  • E-book format only; no paperback
  • Relatively small customer base for books

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $3.49* (price x 70%)

Pro Tip: If you want to publish on Apple Books for Authors, use an Apple device (Mac computer, iPad, or other). You can publish directly from Pages or use Apple’s iTunes Produce app.

 

#5 Kobo

Kobo Writing Life is the self-publishing platform for the giant international retailer Rakuten Kobo. Kobo only offers e-books, so paperbacks aren’t an option here. Like the other retailers on this list, Kobo gives a generous 70% royalty rate, and it’s free to publish using their platform.

Kobo has especially strong distribution internationally. It also has a strategic alliance with Walmart, giving authors distribution in Walmart’s popular e-book app.

Publishing Website: www.kobo.com/us/en/p/writinglife

Book formats: e-book

Pros:

  • User-friendly publishing site
  • Generous royalty rate (70%)
  • No cost to publish
  • Broad international customer base
  • Good way to get distribution in Walmart’s eBooks app

Cons:

  • Smaller customer base than Amazon
  • E-book format only; no paperback

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $3.49* (price x 70%)

 

Aggregators

Once you’ve established your distribution with top book retailers using their self-publishing platforms, it’ll be time to go broad with aggregators. You’ll get less revenue on each book sold through aggregators, but these platforms will get your book into places you might not be able to get into otherwise. On my list, I’ve included the top aggregator for e-books (Draft2Digital) and paperbacks (IngramSpark). There are many other aggregators to choose from, and other than spending your time and effort, there’s not a compelling reason to stop with these two.

 

#6 Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital is my favorite e-book aggregator. It has a user-friendly site, excellent customer service, and handy features.

Its e-book formatting tool makes it an ideal place to format your book before publishing it. The tool is free, and it works well to make your e-book look amazing. It’s so useful that I recommend you format your e-book on their site, save the manuscript on your computer, and upload that file to the other e-book publishing platforms listed above. The best part is Draft2Digital doesn’t charge anything for its formatting tool.

Draft2Digital has an expansive list of e-book retailers that it distributes to. In addition to many of the booksellers listed above, they also distribute to Bibliotheca, OverDrive, Scribd, and many others.

There is a small upcharge for books you publish on Draft2Digital. They charge 10% of each book’s retail price in addition to the 30% most of their retail customers charge.

Publishing Website: www.draft2digital.com

Book formats: e-book (paperback publishing is in beta test)

Pros:

  • Broad distribution across many e-book retailers
  • Excellent formatting tool for e-books
  • Excellent customer service
  • User-friendly publishing site
  • No cost to publish

Cons:

  • Lower royalties per book than when publishing directly with retailers
  • E-book format only; paperback publishing still in beta testing

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $2.97* (price x 60%)

Pro Tip: Publish your book on retailer platforms first and verify that your book is active on their sites before publishing on Draft2Digital and other aggregator platforms. That way, you’ll maximize your royalty amounts on books sold on retailer sites where you’ve published directly.

 

 

#7 IngramSpark

In the past, IngramSpark was #2 on the self-publishing list for most authors. It has dropped, not because it’s declining in quality but rather because other platforms have become better.

It’s still worth publishing your book on IngramSpark since it reaches booksellers that are difficult to reach through other platforms. However, since it provides lower profit per book, it’s not an ideal place to start.

IngramSpark has broad global distribution for paperback and hardcover books. If you want to get your book into libraries, schools, smaller retail chains, and other hard-to-access places worldwide, IngramSpark is still the best choice.

That distribution comes at a price. IngramSpark is the only platform on this list to charge authors a set-up fee for publishing books. It also provides lower royalties per book than any of the platforms listed above. As such, use it to fill in gaps in your distribution, not as your primary publishing platform.

Publishing Site: www.ingramspark.com

Book formats: e-book, paperback, and hardcover

Pros:

  • Broad global distribution
  • Distribution to libraries, schools, and small bookseller chains worldwide
  • E-book, paperback, and hardcover formats

Cons:

  • Set-up fee to publish books (currently $49 per title)
  • Lower royalty rate than other publishing platforms
  • Poor customer service
  • Slow to report sales information

Sample Royalty Amounts: *

  • E-book = $1.99* (price x 40%)
  • Paperback = $1.50*

Pro Tip: Use IngramSpark to fill in distribution gaps after you’ve published your book on all the retailer sites listed above. Only publish paperback books on IngramSpark as their distribution of e-books is not fully developed, and demand for hardcover books is minimal.

 

Bottom Line

For most self-published authors, it’s best to publish on a variety of platforms. The benefits of having your book available through Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and other booksellers greatly outweigh the downsides.

To maximize your profits, start by publishing with top retailer platforms. They’ll give you the highest royalty rates. Then fill in your distribution gaps with aggregators like Draft2Digital and IngramSpark. While they offer lower royalty rates, aggregators can deliver incremental sales from places you can’t get your books into without them.

 

* Sample Royalty Amounts are based on books with the following attributes:

  • E-book: retail price of $4.99 and minimal graphics (Note: e-book file attributes only impact royalties for Amazon’s KDP platform since it’s the only platform that charges an e-book delivery fee based on the file size)
  • Paperback: retail price of $12.99, 250 pages, 6" x 9" dimensions, and black & white printing

 

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