The Only Self-Publishing Platforms You’ll Ever Need

Today’s guest post is by author and writing coach Jessica Bell:

One of the questions I am always asked by authors who wish to self-publish is, Who are the best companies to publish with? There are so many choices.

The answer is simple. But without a little bit of explanation, the names of all these companies and (what they can do for you) can be a little confusing. So I’m going to break down what I believe are your two best options if you want to self-publish your book.

Note: I have used every single distributor and retailer I recommend here, so I can tell you about these from firsthand experience.

One: The Free Option

So, you want to spend zero money and you’re willing to put up with a little bit of uncomplicated but sometimes time-consuming hassle. You’re not too fussed about your book only being available from the major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks). If this sounds like you, I advise you distribute with:

—CreateSpace for print

—Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon Kindle

—Kobo for Kobo, and

—Draft2Digital for iBooks and Nook retailers.

Never heard of these publishing options before? Let me break them down for you.

CreateSpace is owned by Amazon. It enables you to self-publish in print for free from anywhere in the world. The clincher is that your print book will only be available for sale at Amazon. If you want CreateSpace to distribute to other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble and Chapters Indigo, you will have to pay a fee.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is also owned by Amazon. It enables you to publish your book electronically on Amazon for Kindle from anywhere in the world. (In case you don’t know, Kindle is an e-reader that is exclusive to Amazon.)

Kobo is an ebook retailer. (It is also the name of their e-reading device.) They do not act as a distributor for your ebook. Uploading to Kobo means that your book will be available on Kobo only for readers to purchase from Kobo only. You can upload to Kobo from anywhere in the world without any problems.

Draft2Digital is a distributor that lists your ebook at multiple retailers. Most importantly iBooks (iTunes) and Nook (Barnes & Noble). They also distribute to Kobo and a couple of other less popular sites, but they do take a little cut from your royalties which is why I suggest uploading to Kobo separately.

The reason I’m recommending you use Draft2Digital for iBooks and Nook is these retailers do not allow you to upload your book from anywhere in the world. Well, they do . . . but you might not be able to get paid because they do not accept bank accounts from all countries. Being an expat myself, I am aware of these restrictions and think you should know. If you live in the US or UK, however, you will have no problem directly uploading your books to iBooks and Nook, just like I have suggested you do at Kobo.

To register for THE FREE OPTION, go to the following URLs and follow their registration guidelines:

CreateSpace

Kindle Direct Publishing

Kobo

Draft2Digital (for iBooks and Nook + others)

or

iBooks

Nook 

Two: The Cheap & Hassle-Free Option

As Amazon is a huge player in this industry, you will benefit from going through Kindle Direct Publishing regardless, as you will be able to retain a 70% royalty per sale from them. This is a no-brainer for me, and should be for you too.

If you’re keen to spend a small set-up fee for minimal hassle in the long run, I advise you register with IngramSpark. IngramSpark doubles as a print and ePub distributor, which saves you an enormous hassle, as you can upload all your files in one place, and all your sales reports and royalties will come from the same place too. Also, the list of retailers they distribute to is phenomenal, and even though you are going to get the majority of sales via the four main players, the more places your book is available, the better for your visibility online.

To see IngramSpark’s distribution partners, Ingram Spark.

To see the retailers to which IngramSpark distributes, Ingram Spark Retailers.

IngramSpark has been a lifesaver for me as I’m very busy and I prefer spending a little money for the luxury of saving some time. And it doesn’t just save me uploading time. It means I don’t have to compile sales reports from multiple places. Everything ends up in one place.

However, there is a bit of a downside. You have to provide your own ISBNs to distribute through IngramSpark, and they cost money in most countries. I know, I know, I’m sorry. But you want my opinion? If you intend to publish lots of books in the future, and would like to go the IngramSpark no-hassle route, I would buy a batch of 100 ISBNs and be done with having to worry about them for a very long time. The costs vary per country.

Note: If you choose to purchase ISBNs, you will need to assign one ISBN for the paperback and another ISBN for the ePub version. So you’ll need two ISBNs per book if you go this route. You will not need an ISBN for your Kindle ebook because Amazon will assign it an ASIN, which is an exclusive Amazon Kindle cataloguing number.

Here’s a list of where you can purchase ISBNs:

  • Australia – Thorpe-Bowker: Prices range from $42 for a single ISBN (plus a $55 registration fee for new publishers) to $2,890 for a block of 1,000.
  • United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland – Prices start from £120 (plus VAT) for the smallest block.
  • Canada: Library and Archives Canada – Free! (The way it should be, in my opinion!)
  • United States – Bowker: Prices start at $125.00 for a single number.

If you’re not located in any of the above countries, you can obtain ISBNs from your respective national ISBN registration agency. A directory of ISBN agencies is available here.

To register for THE CHEAP & HASSLE-FREE OPTION, go to the following URLs and follow their registration guidelines:

Kindle Direct Publishing

IngramSpark

If you’d like a comprehensive list of distributors, retailers, and assisted self-publishing services, as well as information about specific costs and royalty rates to compare, you might like to check out Choosing a Self-Publishing Service by Jim Giammatteo. But if you were looking for this, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post!

Jessica Bell is Australian writing and publishing coach, novelist, poet, and singer/songwriter/guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. Her newest book in her “Writing in a Nutshell” series is now out: Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick & Easy Step-by-Step Guide.

Jessica Bell author shotSign up for Jessica’s newsletter and receive Book #1 of the Writing in a Nutshell series, Show & Tell in a Nutshell, or Muted: A Short Story in Verse, for FREE. Connect with Jessica at her website here, and follow her on Twitter.

43 Responses to “The Only Self-Publishing Platforms You’ll Ever Need”

  1. Ekta Garg July 6, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks, Jessica, for all the helpful advice. Where does Smashwords fit into all of this, though? Would you recommend IngramSpark over Smashwords? Thank you!

    (And thanks, Susanne, for posting this and for all you do to help authors!)

    • Jessica Bell July 6, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      Hi Ekta,

      I think Smashwords is too complicated and not worth the hassle. Some people like it. I don’t. The learning curve is too steep. IngramSpark will distribute to all the places Smashwords does. And so will Draft2Digital.

      🙂

      • Ekta Garg July 6, 2015 at 11:36 am #

        Thanks, Jessica! I’d love to hear more, but I don’t want to hijack the comments section. Could I email you some more questions?

        • Jessica Bell July 7, 2015 at 1:22 am #

          Ekta, feel free to write your questions in here. There are bound to be other people who have the same ones.

          • Ekta Garg July 7, 2015 at 5:50 am #

            Thanks, Jessica. I really appreciate it. You said you felt like Smashwords had a steep learning curve, and I wasn’t sure what you meant by that. I just published my third book on there and didn’t find it difficult at all. I don’t do any of the formatting myself — I have a formatter who takes care of that — and aside from the formatting I’m not sure what would make it difficult to use. Could you elaborate?

        • Jessica Bell July 7, 2015 at 6:13 am #

          I did mean with regards to formatting. If you are able to pay for someone else to do that, then fabulous. You shouldn’t have any problems. But for those who want to do it entirely on their own, I think Smashwords is a bit of hassle. That’s just my opinion and others are bound to feel differently. My suggestions above are for those who are just starting out, and want/need the easiest and smoothest ride.

          • Ekta Garg July 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

            Thanks, Jessica. I appreciate it. You’ve got some great ideas here, and an indie author can always use as many outlets as possible so I’ll definitely check out IngramSparks and Draft2Digital.

            For everyone else here, I appreciate your patience as I peppered Jessica with questions. By the way, I have a fabulous formatter who does an excellent job at very reasonable rates so if you need a reference please feel free to get in touch with me.

            Thanks again, Jessica!

      • Iain Dryden March 18, 2017 at 8:43 am #

        Hello Jessica,
        You recommend Ingram Spark. Having a well reviewed book in print, I’ve found it’s hardly selling, despite throwing loads at advertising (physically and virtually) posting fliers in key places, writing key blogs, a dedicated site, online stuff such as Facebook, giving talks, and more, so I know getting it known is V hard! Do Ingram Spark help with this and how? There’s not much on their site.
        Thanks, Iain.

  2. Nicholas C. Rossis July 6, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    What a great post. It’s wonderful to have these resources in one place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Irene Olson July 6, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Thank you for this helpful commentary.
    Neither of the Ingram links worked (distributors or retail partners). An error came up indicating the link was broken.

    • cslakin July 8, 2015 at 9:23 am #

      I think I fixed them. She had a 1 after www. See if they work now.

      • Jessica Bell July 9, 2015 at 1:06 am #

        The 1 is actually meant to be there. It was when I published my book! 🙂 But it seems they have changed it. However, when I still include the 1, it redirects to the new link. Thank goodness!

        • cslakin July 10, 2015 at 7:39 am #

          Maybe it’s a Greek thing. When I use the link with the numeral, I get an error message!

  4. Emma Larson July 7, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    Thanks Jessica! What about for the writing process, prior to book distribution? Do you have any recommendations for independent authors in that stage?

    • Jessica Bell July 9, 2015 at 12:59 am #

      Hi Emma,

      What kind of recommendations are you after? Books? Websites? Are you looking for writing craft information?

  5. Charlotte Easter Earl July 7, 2015 at 5:43 am #

    I have recently been considering Fast Pencil. Do you have any opinions about its good or bad points?

  6. Caleb Mannan July 7, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    Hey Jess, this is great! Quick question- I published my book on Amazon, and it included Ingram as a distributor, I just had to select it. It is available in major stores like Barnes & Noble (for order). Do I need to sign up for Ingramspark additionally? Thanks!

    • Jessica Bell July 9, 2015 at 1:03 am #

      Although it technically SHOULD be if Ingram is listed as a distributor, I’m afraid book stores will not order from Createspace. They will take books direct from Ingram though. However, your best bet would be to contact Createspace and ask them outright as things are changing every day. Let me know what they say!

  7. RK Logan July 8, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    This is a great article. This information puts all of the key points to publishing in perspective. Without this new option I would’ve been fine with 70%, but that’s not the case any more. I’m publishing my e-book on bookbypart.com, and with the revenue from those sales I’ll send the print copies myself.

  8. Steve Ceaton July 9, 2015 at 1:26 am #

    Hi Jessica,

    Have you any idea what sales are like on Ingramspark? Have you sold many books on there? I have a middle grade book. Do these sell on there?

    Thanks

  9. Meena Rubaina July 9, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    Hi Jessica, please do you have any info on Iuniverse and if i should publish my book with them.

  10. Fritze July 10, 2015 at 7:22 am #

    Just the info I needed today. Thanks!!

  11. Denise Covey July 13, 2015 at 12:26 am #

    Thanks Jessica. What a comprehensive post and comments. I read them all. I hadn’t heard of Ingram, but will definitely look into them.

    Hope things are looking up in Greece. 🙂

  12. Kristen Steele August 3, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    I will definitely be sharing this post! It’s great to have the answers to frequently asked questions in the self-publishing world all in one place.

  13. Lisa Virtue August 9, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    Hello, thank-you for the informative article. I have one question, since I had my book on amazon via KDP for some time, I was under the impression that authors sign a contract making their books exclusive to KDP. Is that not correct?
    Thanks for your help!

    • cslakin August 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      KDP is the portal to publish your books. You have the option of enrolling your books into KDP Select for 90 days at a time. During that time, you may not have your book up for sale anywhere else. You are allowed to offer your book for free for 5 days during that period. You get paid for page reads when your book is purchased during that enrollment, and it’s also available for Kindle Unlimited lending. You can go to KDP and read up on all this.

  14. Sally Gulbrandsen January 2, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    @cslakin
    I am planning to publish a craft book this year and wondered which platform you recommend for self-publishers who would like to publish a craft book. I would need to add a lot of images as a means of explanation!
    Thank you.

    • cslakin January 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Sally, I don’t put illustrations in my books (except with short PDFs), and I don’t know how that factors in with ebooks. I would check with The Book Designer blog for posts on that. Or send a query to Joel there and ask his recommendation. http://www.thebookdesigner.com.

      • Sally Gulbrandsen January 2, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

        It was photographs I would like to use, not drawings – would your reply be any different?
        Thank you
        Sally.

        • cslakin January 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

          No, same answer. I don’t really know anything about images in books. Print books, I have a designer do those for me. You might also Google this and see what you come up with 🙂

  15. Sherri February 4, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    This is my first time on your site and it’s really informative and helpful as I’m new to publishing, and in the process of writing my first book. I look forward to receiving more info via your blog and email. Thank you!

  16. Iain Dryden March 18, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    Hello Jessica,
    Thanks for the above. I’ve a book which is not selling well despite loads of great reviews from respected, key personalities, which I’ve advertised loads on Youtube, Facebook, a weekly, blog, internet articles, radio, newspaper articles and much more with posters in key locations. My printer also makes it available on amazon and in various bookshops. SO my question is, do Ingram Spark distributed to whom I say, or do they sin out blurb to that impressive list, or what? I fail to find this info on their site.

    Tnaks,
    Iain

    • cslakin March 18, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

      I used Ingram Spark for awhile. I recall they distribute to 38,000 catalogs or something like that. I didn’t see practically any results from them, and not compared to Amazon. However, having IS distribution can get you easier into brick and mortar stores like B&N.

  17. Iain Dryden March 20, 2017 at 5:43 am #

    Thanks Jessica, Yup, it’s a tough choice- amazon who only sell via amazon or others who charge more than most indies wish to pay or continual rejects from trad. publishers. I struggle on – maybe with amazon to start with…, what do you think?

    My current book is with UK’s YPD (http://www.yps-publishing.co.uk) who are excellent printer-distributers, even posting to individuals around the world, but you must do the advertising and that’s what I’ve found tough. Iain

  18. Iain Dryden March 20, 2017 at 6:10 am #

    Jessica I’ve just had a thought, Do Apple (or any other such assoc) allow authors to see their books elsewhere (i.e. in physical shops?) Thanks, Iain

  19. iaindryden March 22, 2017 at 5:11 am #

    Hello Jessica,

    It seems Apple only does ebooks, but the deal they offer is good. I want printed books. I found this excellent article on the topic – he suggests using two platforms – Create Space and Ingram’s Lighting Spark. It’s got loads more and interesting links and suggestions (made by a professional) so is worth reading carefully.

    Bye, Iain

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/1/8/1355957/-Self-publishing-101-Why-Indy-Publishers-are-Smart-to-Use-Two-Printers-and-Not-Just-One

  20. iaindryden@btinternet.com March 27, 2017 at 1:47 am #

    here’s something on hybrid publishing and advice for writers from a PR

    https://www.thebalance.com/book-pr-advice-for-hybrid-and-self-published-authors-2800264

  21. Lindsey June 19, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

    This is great info! I’m interested in how you created the format for the ebook? I’m about to write my first ebook and I haven’t started because I don’t know if there’s a special program I should be using. I am interested in learning how to make sure it shows up right once it is written. Can you point me in the right direction please? Thank you!

  22. Tina Saad August 16, 2017 at 1:38 am #

    Hi
    I was wondering if you are at all familiar with Partridge Singapore.
    I was offered a package forn US$3300 to publish my children’s book.
    In turn they will sell via Amazon, Barnes&Nobles… and others.
    They will deal with copyright,ISBN, Marketing
    Provide author website.
    I am very new at this and wondered of I could get a better deal for less.

  23. Jina carvalho October 7, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    I am self-publishing a simple book of poetry ( chapbook) not too interested in distribution just to complete this body of work and publish and have it out there.I am considering CreateSpace. Have any comments, since its a simple book?

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