7 Popular Self-publishing Platforms

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The write-up discusses 7 popular self-publishing platforms. Self-publishing has become a viable option for writers in the digital age. As traditional publishing routes become more competitive, self-publishing allows authors to take control and reach readers directly without relying on a publisher’s approval.

With print-on-demand technology and global online retail platforms, self-published books can achieve similar availability to titles released by major publishing houses. Writers retain creative control and a significant portion of royalties by handling editing, design, marketing, and distribution tasks.

1. Amazon KDP

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is at the forefront of self-publishing platforms, allowing authors to publish ebooks and paperbacks directly to Amazon’s expansive audience. Due to Amazon’s dominant position in the online book market, KDP has become synonymous with the rise of independent publishing.

KDP’s standout features include its seamless integration with the Amazon bookstore, which affords authors immediate access to a large and varied customer base. Furthermore, the KDP Select program offers an exclusivity option that grants authors enhanced promotional tools and the opportunity to earn more through the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which operate on a borrow-based revenue system.

Authors have extensive control over their book’s retail aspects when using KDP. They can independently set their list price, revise their content at will, and utilize Amazon’s tools to optimize their book’s presence on the marketplace. KDP offers a royalty structure that varies depending on the book’s price, with higher percentages for books priced within certain ranges. Authors can receive up to 70% of the list price in royalties for ebooks, while paperbacks earn royalties based on printing costs set by KDP.

The publishing process on KDP is user-friendly, involving steps to upload book content, cover design, set pricing, and select distribution territories. Amazon provides resources like Kindle Create and Cover Creator to assist authors in creating professional-quality digital and print books. Additionally, KDP’s dashboard offers detailed sales reporting that allows authors to track the performance of their books over time.

Amazon’s search algorithm and customer review system also add the value of discoverability. Books published through KDP can benefit from customer reviews and ratings, influencing consumers’ purchase decisions. KDP can thus be seen as a platform for publishing and a marketing mechanism, enhancing accessibility to an author’s work.

2. Lulu

Lulu is another significant player in self-publishing, diversifying options for authors seeking an alternative to Amazon’s ecosystem or wishing to expand their availability across multiple channels. With a focus on print, ebook, and hardcover formats, Lulu presents a broad range of publishing services while maintaining an author-centric approach.

One of Lulu’s defining features is its flexibility in terms of publication formats. Authors can create paperback or hardcover versions of their books and even academic publications, calendars, and photo books. Lulu’s platform supports a variety of sizes and binding options, providing a custom publishing experience tailored to each author’s specific needs and aspirations.

Lulu facilitates distribution on its storefront and to prominent online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. This ensures that authors can reach as broad an audience as possible, leveraging the best aspects of multi-channel distribution. In addition to retail distribution, Lulu offers a global reach program that helps authors sell their books in over 40,000 retailers, schools, libraries, and universities worldwide.

The platform is renowned for its print-on-demand (POD) capabilities, enabling authors to sell their books without the upfront costs and risks associated with large print runs. This model ensures that a book is printed only when there is a demand, thereby reducing the need for inventory and storage and helping authors maintain an environmentally sustainable approach to publishing.

Royalty rates on Lulu are competitive, and the platform is transparent about calculating these royalties. Authors can retain a significant portion of their book sales revenue, a critical consideration in self-publishing. The rates are influenced by factors such as the channel through which a book is sold, the printing costs, and the book’s retail price.

Lulu’s interface is designed to be user-friendly, enabling authors to navigate the publishing process easily. The website offers a variety of tools to aid in book creation, including templates and cover design options. Through the Lulu platform, authors can manage their projects, track sales, and view analytics to understand their book’s market performance.

Lulu’s comprehensive approach to self-publishing—its multi-format support, vast distribution network, print-on-demand technology, and supportive author community—makes it a popular choice for writers seeking to retain creative control and maximize their earning potential.

3. Smashwords

Smashwords is a versatile self-publishing platform that has carved out a unique space in the digital publishing world. Established in 2008, Smashwords has built its reputation as a comprehensive solution for indie authors who wish to distribute their ebooks in multiple formats across various distribution channels.

One of the primary features of Smashwords is its extensive distribution network. It isn’t just a platform for selling books; it’s also an aggregator that distributes ebooks to significant retailers and multiple smaller e-bookstores, libraries, and even mobile app platforms globally. This extensive reach enables authors to make their works available in places like Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Smashwords Store itself, among others.

The Meatgrinder is another distinctive feature: Smashwords’ proprietary ebook conversion tool. It converts a Microsoft Word file into multiple ebook formats, preparing it for distribution on different e-readers and devices. This supports the platform’s goal of making content universally accessible, regardless of which devices readers prefer. Although the Meatgrinder requires adherence to a strict formatting guide, known as the Smashwords Style Guide, once mastered, it enables efficient multi-format ebook publishing.

Smashwords also promotes author control and flexibility in various aspects of ebook publishing. Authors can set their prices, including offering free books, which can be a strategic move for new authors wanting to build a readership. The platform allows for instant updates to published works. Suppose an author wishes to change any aspect of their ebook. In that case, they can upload a new version anytime, allowing them to evolve their digital publications based on feedback or new versions.

In terms of royalties, Smashwords offers competitive rates. Authors earn up to 80% of the net sales proceeds from books sold directly through the Smashwords Store and up to 60% from other retailers in the Smashwords distribution network. The net proceeds are the sales revenue minus the PayPal transaction fee for direct sales or the retailer’s cut for third-party sales.

Overall, Smashwords distinguishes itself in the self-publishing platform market with its extensive distribution capabilities, ebook format conversion tool, price control options, competitive royalties, marketing support, and detailed analytics for authors seeking to maximize their book’s potential and reach readers in every corner of the digital world.

4. IngramSpark

IngramSpark stands out in the self-publishing landscape primarily because it is part of Ingram Content Group, which also runs the world’s largest book distribution network, Lightning Source. For authors, IngramSpark is not just a self-publishing platform; it’s a gateway to a wide-reaching distribution network, including online retailers and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

This platform attracts authors looking to publish both print and electronic versions of their books. Unlike some self-publishing platforms that focus on ebooks or have limited print options, IngramSpark offers a print-on-demand service featuring a wide variety of trim sizes, binding types, paper types, and color printing options. This diversity allows tailored physical book specifications to match nearly any conventional publishing standard.

One of the critical features of IngramSpark is its distribution reach. When authors publish through IngramSpark, their books become part of Ingram’s global distribution channels, enabling sales to thousands of physical and online bookstores, including special sales to schools, universities, and libraries. Access to this vast network is desirable to authors because it allows them to be on the shelves of stores that typically do not work directly with self-published authors.

IngramSpark also distributes ebooks to various digital retailers, ensuring that the author’s electronic titles are available on platforms beyond Amazon, such as Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble.

A significant consideration of IngramSpark is its print-on-demand technology. This means books are printed as ordered, eliminating the necessity for upfront costs and inventory management that authors would otherwise have to deal with if they went with bulk printing.

IngramSpark is not a free service. It charges a set-up fee for uploading titles, and although it sometimes runs promotions that waive this fee, the cost is something authors need to consider as part of their publishing budget.

5. Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital is another prominent self-publishing platform widely recognized for facilitating easy ebook and print book distribution for authors without the complexity and hassle of dealing with multiple individual retailer platforms. One of the most appealing aspects of Draft2Digital is its user-oriented interface and streamlined publishing process, which demystifies the often-overwhelming experience of publishing a book.

A notable feature of Draft2Digital is its role as an aggregator. It allows authors to publish their books to various online retail outlets and digital libraries from one central place. This includes well-known ebook stores like Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd. By working with Draft2Digital, authors save the time and energy it would take to manage separate accounts with each retailer and library service.

The platform prides itself on simplicity, offering a rapid and straightforward path from manuscript to published work. Authors provide their formatted manuscript in a standard file type, such as a Word document, and Draft2Digital converts it into various ebook formats suitable for the different outlets. The platform has automated systems to handle different formatting requirements, ensuring your book conforms to each retailer’s needs.

Draft2Digital outlines a transparent and competitive model: authors receive 60% of the retail price if the ebook is sold through a vendor and approximately 90% minus a small transaction fee if the book is sold directly through the Draft2Digital store. These rates are highly competitive within the industry, given that the platform doesn’t charge any upfront fees for publishing or distribution.

Furthermore, Draft2Digital provides authors with comprehensive sales reporting across its distribution network, allowing easy sales performance tracking across different platforms. This data is critical for authors to understand their market and refine marketing strategies over time.

6. BookBaby

BookBaby is a comprehensive self-publishing platform that offers independent authors a complete suite of services for bringing their books to market. With its focus on providing professional-quality services, BookBaby is designed for authors looking for a one-stop shop to handle the various aspects of publishing and distributing their works.

One of the key characteristics of BookBaby is its emphasis on offering a full range of services under one roof. Authors can benefit from ebook conversion, cover design, editing, and proofreading services, all crucial to producing a book that meets professional standards. This can be particularly helpful for authors who are not well-versed in the technicalities of publishing and would prefer to rely on experts to ensure that their book is ready for readers.

BookBaby offers high-quality printing options, including custom-printed books in various formats and print runs. Unlike platforms that solely focus on print-on-demand, BookBaby allows authors to order a stock of physical books for promoting and selling their works in person, for example, at book signings or local events, which can be an important aspect of an author’s marketing plan.

Distribution is another strong point for BookBaby. The platform offers worldwide distribution to major online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Bookstore. It also allows authors to sell their books directly to readers through its own BookShop, where authors keep 100% of their retail sales net revenue, making it an attractive alternative to the industry standard.

BookBaby allows authors to keep a significant portion of their sales. Unlike other platforms that take a percentage of the proceeds, BookBaby charges upfront for its services but allows authors to collect the total price of their book (minus the retailer’s commission), potentially earning more per book sale.

7. Kobo Writing Life

Kobo Writing Life is the self-publishing arm of Rakuten Kobo, an e-commerce company based in Toronto specializing in e-readers and ebooks. Launched in 2012, Kobo Writing Life is designed for authors looking for an easy way to publish and distribute their ebooks worldwide directly on the Kobo platform. Kobo Writing Life strongly emphasizes author autonomy and global reach, aligning itself with the needs of independent authors seeking to tap into international markets.

Kobo Writing Life offers a straightforward publishing process where authors can upload their manuscripts, convert them to ePub format for free, and set their book’s metadata. Authors retain complete control over their work, including the right to set the retail price and change their titles at any time. This level of control is essential for authors who need the flexibility to respond quickly to market demands or update their content.

Kobo has a broad international footprint, with customers in over 190 countries. The Kobo eReader and Kobo e-bookstore are popular in several countries outside the United States, including Canada and Japan. For authors, this means the opportunity to reach a diverse, global audience.

One of Kobo Writing Life’s notable features is its pricing system, which, unlike other platforms, does not impose price bands or offer different royalty rates depending on the book price. Kobo Writing Life allows authors to set their pricing in different currencies, which offers greater flexibility when targeting international markets. KWL also provides promotional opportunities through the Kobo store, such as price drops, daily deals, and category-based promotions, which can increase visibility and boost sales.

Kobo Writing Life authors can opt into Kobo Plus. This subscription service allows readers to discover and read ebooks for a monthly fee, offering authors another channel to earn royalties. Through Kobo’s partnership with OverDrive, authors can also make their books available in public libraries, further expanding their potential readership.

Unlike some platforms that require exclusivity for certain benefits, Kobo Writing Life imposes no such restrictions. Authors are free to publish on Kobo while simultaneously using other self-publishing services, thus avoiding choosing one distribution channel over another.

Kobo Writing Life offers competitive royalty rates of up to 70% on sales, depending on the book’s retail price and the territory in which it is sold. Additionally, there are no hidden fees; the platform operates clearly and transparently regarding how royalties are calculated and paid out.

Understanding the Benefits of Self-publishing

Self-publishing offers writers a range of advantages over traditional publishing routes. By taking control of the publishing process, authors gain more creative freedom and retain higher royalties on book sales. Additionally, today’s digital landscape provides access to a global readership often difficult for new authors to reach through a conventional publisher.

One of the biggest perks of self-publishing is making all decisions related to your book without a publishing house’s oversight. This includes:

  • Complete control over manuscript content and final edits
  • Flexibility in book formatting, layout, and cover design
  • Independence in setting publication timelines and release strategies

Authors can shape their books without gatekeepers mediating the process to match their creative vision and business priorities. Just be sure to get feedback from beta readers before finalizing the manuscript.

While advance payments from a traditional publisher are enticing, self-published authors generally earn more of their book sales. On Amazon KDP, royalties range from 35% to 70% depending on factors like ebook vs. print and pricing decisions. With the right visibility, self-publishing can be quite lucrative over time compared to the typical 10-15% royalty from a conventional publisher. Just be prepared to lead your marketing efforts.

Digital shelves have no geographic boundaries, opening up a worldwide readership. Retailers like Amazon make self-published books available across their country stores, while aggregation platforms like Smashwords distribute to major ebook retailers globally. And with multi-format publishing, self-publishing authors can reach any e-reader audience. Reaching readers still requires marketing, but the potential is there.

Maximizing Your Impact: Marketing and Promotion

A strong book description and eye-catching cover are crucial for standing out in the crowded self-publishing. Focus on highlighting your book’s core themes, conflicts, and emotional resonance in the description to entice readers. You only have a few seconds to capture attention, so make every word count. Consider analyzing bestselling books in your genre to inspire your cover design and typography choices. Simple yet bold graphics tend to perform well.

Social Media, Email, and Advertising

Leverage existing platforms to spread the word about your book launch. Share snippets, quotes, and graphics on social channels and interact with bookish hashtags and groups. Compile an email list of fans, friends, and family to keep engaged. Run cost-efficient ads on Facebook, Amazon, and Google tailored to your target demographics. Focus on driving traffic to your book’s online sales page while collecting emails for future releases.

Reviews for Organic Promotion

Reviews and word-of-mouth draw significant attention to self-published titles. Proactively seek reviews on Goodreads and Amazon by distributing free advance reader copies. Join relevant online groups and subreddits to discuss your book organically. Take the time to engage with reviews and feedback thoughtfully. Consistent high ratings and genuine community connections can boost organic visibility over time.

The Road Ahead: Post-publication Strategies

After publishing your book, managing ongoing marketing efforts and adapting to industry trends is crucial. Promoting your book through social media, email lists, paid ads, and other channels will help maximize visibility. As you build an audience and get reviews, be responsive to feedback and adjust your messaging and outreach accordingly.

Stay on top of major developments in self-publishing by following industry blogs, newsletters, and online communities. Be ready to implement new marketing tactics like utilizing book influencers or exploring emerging platforms. Consider testing out promotional strategies like free giveaways, countdown deals, or paid Kindle Unlimited promotions if the options make sense for your goals and budget.

Expanding Your Self-publishing Portfolio

Once you have published your first book, leverage that experience and platform to expand your self-publishing efforts. Building out a series or publishing additional stand-alone titles will help establish you as a brand that readers can rely on for quality content in your niche.

A consistent publishing schedule, even if only releasing a book annually, will keep you at the top of your mind. Developing a unique author voice and style across your books will also cultivate reader loyalty over time. Extend your brand reach by launching a mailing list, blog, podcast, or YouTube channel to cement yourself as an authority in your field.

Translations, Audiobooks, and Other Formats

Consider translating your self-published book into other languages to access wider global audiences. Spanish, French, German, and simplified Chinese may be good options. Professional human translation services tend to yield better results than automated translations. Producing an audiobook version of your title can also help capture listeners.

Amazon’s ACX platform connects authors with narrators and handles distribution to audiobook sellers. Finally, you could explore adapting your book into a video course, PDF workbook, or other formats that best align with your topic and audience. Repurposing your content can maximize its value and give existing readers new ways to engage.


We have discussed 7 popular self-publishing platforms, including their features and advantages. The landscape of self-publishing is varied and dynamic, offering a multitude of avenues for authors to share their work with a global audience. Each platform presents unique features, from Amazon KDP’s vast reach and integration with the Amazon marketplace to IngramSpark’s expansive distribution network, including physical bookstores. Lulu excels with its customizable print options and environmental consciousness, while Smashwords stands out for its wide distribution network and Meatgrinder conversion tool.

Draft2Digital simplifies the publishing process across various retailers, whereas BookBaby bundles comprehensive professional services for those seeking a full package. Kobo Writing Life focuses on a strong international presence and flexible pricing strategies. These platforms equip authors with the tools to navigate the publishing process, reach readers directly, and control creative and financial aspects.

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