10 Best Self-Publishing Companies for 2021
You’ve spent time and effort in getting your manuscript done. You’ve got a great cover ready for it, and now you’re aching to get it published. You're now on your way to become a self-published author.
Self-publishing has taken the world by storm because authors now realize the advantages it brings. Traditional publishing does have its benefits, especially the amount of support when it comes to packaging and getting your book market-ready. But with self-publishing, authors feel more in control of their time, content, and marketing, something which a traditional publisher may not provide.
What is a Self-Publishing Company?
The publishing process for each method is different. In the current digital era, there have been many companies to provide a self-publishing platform to poise writers for a promising career. They expose the author to a wide customer base, and the author earns through royalties made by their book sales.
When you think of using self-publishing companies for your book, your first thought might be that you will be dealing with the sales of e-books, but the truth is that some of them come with an additional print-on-demand service too.
Even though in the modern-day, nearly one in every four books sold in the US is an e-book, there is a distinct feeling of reading while holding a book in your hand, and the smell of fresh pages are exactly what readers yearn for.
Previously, self-publishing meant that you were responsible for everything from printing to marketing your book, but self-publishing companies have made the work of authors much easier. Every company is different, and each has its own pros and cons.
To understand what’s best for your self-publishing journey, these are 10 of the best self-publishing companies for 2021.
1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):
Amazon is, without a doubt, the best retailer of books in the world. With Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon allows authors to independently publish their book on their platform with a huge customer base of 310 million active users worldwide already present for them.
There are more than 6 million e-books on Amazon (as of April 2021), many of which are self-published books. KDP provides support for content and metadata in multiple languages.
It also offers print-on-demand (POD) for your books, all the while giving you the option to get your e-book converted into a paperback print book version (provided that you have an ISBN for it).
They also offer enrolment for two very advantageous perks for their authors that aren't offered by others, namely, KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. With KDP Select, you can run promotions for your book and even set it for free for a limited time period. With Kindle Unlimited, you can subscribe to read an unlimited number of books per month.
But for all these KDP advantages, there is a caveat.
If you get yourself enrolled in KDP Select, you are allowed to sell your book only on Amazon. You’re allowed to upload your book for free, and if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you can make a royalty of 70% for each book sold.
Given the powerhouse Amazon already is, this also makes Amazon KDP clearly the best self-publishing company in the world.
Other players in the market?
Before you consider Amazon solely for your self-publishing career, you should also know that there are other players in the market who're upping their game in unique and strong ways. Even though Amazon may be enough for some authors, but in order to expand your portfolio, it's highly recommended to keep the other players in sight.
Kobo is a Canadian self-publishing company and is a subsidiary of Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce giant. Kobo alone accounts for nearly 25% of all Canadian ebook sales.
With their Kobo Writing Life (KWL) self-publishing service, you can upload your manuscript and have it added to the Kobo catalog within 72 hours. It has been praised for its user-friendliness, and some have even said that it’s the easiest way to self-publish an e-book.
Like KDP, Kobo also provides perks and promotions to its self-publishing authors, as long as you’re not delivering to aggregators. As of 2019, Kobo had a delivery capacity covering more than 150 countries with over 38 million users. This has been made possible with its collaboration with the otherworld’s largest booksellers. One of them was the major ones was the French distribution partner FNAC for their print-on-demand facility.
A worthy competitor?
As of March 2021, Kobo holds the #5 spot in terms of market share in the US. Even though Amazon has a wider worldwide reach, but with Kobo's continual growth, it has been seen as a strong competitor to Amazon in some areas.
With support for over 5 million titles in several languages available and with the ability to make a 70% royalty on books priced $3 or more, if you plan to self-publish your book, Kobo should definitely be a self-publishing company on your list.
3. Apple Books:
Not only is Apple known for its Mac and iOS platforms, but it's also famous for providing e-books for its customers. By 2012, it was reported that more than 400 million books had been downloaded from the Apple Books platform.
Apple launched its self-publishing wing for Apple Books in 2010. Monetizing your book isn't as easy as Amazon KDP or Kobo, but the customer base is huge with its direct marketing to iPhones and Mac users.
For most books, the royalty rate is set at a flat 70%. There are few caveats to consider. You have to be a Mac user to upload to Apple Books, but it's free to upload. On top of that, you have to use the epub format, which isn't compatible everywhere as of now, but the epub format is gaining popularity.
Apple and Kobo collectively sold 15 million ebook sales and have nearly two-thirds of the Canadian ebook buyers. Given that millions of Apple products are sold each year, Apple Books is definitely a self-publishing company that you should look out for.
4. Barnes and Noble Press:
Formerly known as Nook Press, Barnes and Noble Press combines print on demand nicely into a single platform. It's simple to self-publish and easy to use.
The American book retail store has a history of trying to compete with Amazon and having a strong barrier to entry when trying to get print books on its physical stores, unlike other brick and mortar stores. But that doesn't take away the fact that it's a good platform for self-publishing authors.
Getting a book ready for POD may not be a good long-term option with Barnes and Noble Press because they retail only at their online and physical bookstores. However, they do provide helpful resources to their authors. In 2021, they introduced an advertisement portal to provide the facility to create marketing campaigns for their books.
For books priced from $2.99 to $9.99, the royalty rate is 65%, which isn't bad either. Unlike their competition, they have no restrictions regarding exclusivity for self-published books on their platform. They'll even offer you cheaper printing services if you decide not to use any third parties.
Worldwide access for independent authors may be an issue with B&N Press because its author services are only available for use in United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Lulu provides a set of author services and its own retail store for your books, so you can be confident that you can see your book published for sure when you use them. By 2014, Lulu had issued nearly two million titles, and by 2016, they had more than 900,000 e-books.
Self-publishing on Lulu is quite simple. Simply upload the book, and later, with their services, you can see your book on their website and also have it distributed to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and other retail outlets. They will help you through every stage of the self-publishing process.
Not everything on Lulu is free.
Their royalty rate is also lucrative, with 80% for print books and up to 90% for e-books. Self-publishing is free, but other self-publishing services such as cover design, formatting, and marketing are not.
They claim that you should focus on producing content and leave the rest to them. PublishDrive is a relatively newer company, and it provides international ease of access to self-published authors.
It's an Apple-approved and a Google partnered company, so you can see your book published and distributed to more than 400 worldwide stores, including KDP, Kobo, Apple Books, Scribd, Bookmate, and Google Play Books.
The subscription plan:
Their pricing is a little unique, however. If you agree to pay $100 per month, you earn 100% of all sales. This is a good fit for bestsellers and established authors. But if you don't agree with the monthly subscription plan, as you would with other self-publishing companies, PublishDrive will charge 10% on all sales.
Another aggregator on this list, Draft2Digital, provides the same services and ease of access as the big players in the ebook market. They've been recommended by many for their user-friendly interface and customer service.
They provide uploading and ebook formatting both for free (something not provided by many other publishing companies or even traditional publishers) but charge 10% royalties on all sales. However, you do have the option to upload your book for free too.
Their distribution channels include Amazon, Scribd, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, Bibliotheca, and more. They're also one of the aggregators that have been recommended by Reedsy, a British author services, and self-publishing services company.
What makes them stand out?
They provide self-published authors with Universal Book Links (UBLs). These links take customers to each of the author's books to their favorite retailer using just one link.
This Italian aggregator provides a very strong international supply chain with a special focus on the market and self-publishing companies in Europe and Latin America. It has even managed to touch some of Africa's major retailers and markets after it targeted Egypt in 2019.
Quick growth for StreetLib:
Their quick growth is attributed to a strong expansion into Europe, Latin America, and Africa in a relatively short period of time, all the while keeping in touch with other online retailers and distributors such as Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, Tolino, Apple Books, Google Play, Scribd, and more. If you want the USA and UK included in your distribution list, StreetLib has your back.
Their website is configured in many languages, and they charge 10% royalties on sales. So if you're targeting worldwide sales for your self-published books, keep an eye out for StreetLib.
As much as you might think that this company may provide better links in China, it's a German self-publishing company with effective presence and distribution links in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The German market:
They charge 30% of net sales for books priced more than $2.49, but the customer service and the user interface need some improvement. However, if you require book marketing in German-speaking areas, you might not find a better match than XinXii.
If you have a book that you can translate to German, then XinXii might be the publishing company for your needs.
10. Self-publishing School:
Created by the self-published bestseller Chandler Bolt, Self-publishing School provides the best educational resources for you to kickstart your self-publishing career in a matter of 90 days. Maybe the process of experiencing every part of the publishing process is daunting for you. Self-publishing School has your back.
The best self-publishing course in the market?
Self-publishing School has produced more than 5,000 authors with many books published. The courses provided here help students and prospective authors get a grip of the self-publishing services in the market and the tips they need to succeed in the self-publishing industry.
This school has everything for future self-publishing authors to get a head start with great courses and one-on-one consultations and coaching provided.
Other than the self-publishing companies we mentioned above, there are other POD services with a priced barrier to entry as compared to the ones we listed above. Not all self-publishers may want to try this option, but it's there for people who believe that their work primarily deserves a print book.
The most famous print-on-demand publishing companies include BookBaby, Blurb, and IngramSpark. You can check their websites for pricing details, but you can be sure to have your books seen on key distributors such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, and Kobo. They also provide other services too, such as book cover design, book editing, and formatting.
The POD service will most likely get your book on their own bookstore as well. However, if you do plan to consider them, you would have to know what makes their print-on-demand services stand out from traditional publishing.
POD may not be for every self-publishing author but is ideal for those who have seen some success with the proof of sales earlier in their books. This is primarily because of the discoverability they receive with POD services.
Self-publishing companies offer their respective services in their own way. Each has their own benefits and carry their own set of conditions and caveats. It's a little more than personal preference and basic marketing.
Choosing the best self-publishing company boils down to how you want to plan your journey out. You might want to avoid expensive or print-on-demand services at the start to reduce costs. You'll also have to discover which distribution channel works best for you, and depending on your channel, which areas are your target market where would you first like to see your self-published book.