Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

14 April 2023


The Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Self-Publishing Platforms

Self-publishing platforms - Photo by Adrienne Andersen for Pexels

Self-publishing has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more writers opting to take control of the publication process themselves. Self-publishing platforms provide writers with the tools they need to publish their work independently, without the need for traditional publishing houses. This can be a great way to get your work out into the world on your own terms, and reach readers directly.

Why choose self-publishing?

Traditional publishing is not easy to break into. It can be a long and frustrating process, with no guarantee of success. While success is still not guaranteed, the benefit of self-publishing is that it allows you to take control of every aspect of your book’s journey: from editing and formatting to cover design and marketing. Plus, you retain the rights to your work and benefit from higher royalty rates.

There are a variety of self-publishing platforms out there, each with its own set of features and benefits. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, self-publishing offers a viable alternative to traditional publishing. With the ability to publish your work quickly and easily, and reach readers around the world on your own terms, it’s an exciting and more accessible option for writers of all genres and backgrounds.

Self-publishing - Photo by Tuan PM for Pexels

The top five self-publishing platforms

Self-publishing platforms offer a variety of tools and services to help authors publish their work independently. These platforms typically allow you to publish your work in digital format, but print options are also available with various formatting and design options to ensure that the final product looks professional and polished.

In addition to formatting and design, some self-publishing platforms also offer marketing and promotional tools to help you reach a wider audience. These might include access to advertising programs, tools for building an author website, or social media promotion.

When assessing which self-publishing platform to use, it’s important to consider factors like ease of use, pricing, and available features. Some platforms may be more suited to certain types of books or genres, while others may be better if you’re working with a limited budget.

With so many options available, it’s important to do your research and choose the platform that best suits your individual needs and goals as an author. So let’s dive in to see what the top self-publishing platforms have to offer:

self-publishing platforms - KDP-

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform owned by Amazon. It allows authors to publish their books in both ebook and print-on-demand formats. KDP provides a user-friendly interface and promotional tools to help authors reach a wider audience. With a variety of formatting and design options, KDP is a popular choice for authors looking to self-publish their work.


  • Wide audience: Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, so publishing through KDP means your book is available to a vast audience of potential readers.
  • User-friendly interface: KDP is known for its simple and intuitive interface, making it easy to upload and publish your books.
  • Royalty options: KDP offers a range of royalty options, including the ability to earn up to 70% royalties on sales.
  • Marketing tools: KDP offers a variety of promotional tools to help you reach a wider audience, including advertising programs and social media promotion.
  • Print-on-demand: KDP’s print-on-demand option makes it easy for you to offer print versions of your books without having to worry about inventory or fulfilment.


  • Exclusivity: To take advantage of KDP’s most robust marketing tools requires you to enrol your book in the Kindle Select program. This means your book can’t be available for sale on other platforms for the initial period of exclusivity.
  • Limited control over pricing: KDP sets pricing limits based on the royalty option you select, which can impact the profitability of your book. They also reserve the right to change the retail sale price of your work without notice based on competitor pricing or the list price of a physical vs ebook.
  • Limited distribution: While KDP offers print-on-demand, its distribution channels are primarily limited to Amazon, which may not be ideal if you’re looking to reach readers through other channels, like bookstores.
self-publishing platforms - ingram spark


IngramSpark is a self-publishing platform that helps authors publish their books in print and ebook formats. It offers services like file creation, distribution, printing, and marketing. Unlike other platforms, IngramSpark doesn’t require exclusive distribution rights, giving you the ability to distribute your books through other channels as well.


  • Wide distribution: IngramSpark has a wide distribution network that includes major online retailers, bookstores, and libraries, which can help you reach a larger audience.
  • High-quality printing: IngramSpark uses high-quality printing technology and offers a range of paper and binding options to create professional-looking books.
  • Flexibility: IngramSpark allows you to publish your books without requiring exclusive distribution rights, giving you the ability to distribute your books through other channels as well.
  • Access to marketing and promotional tools: IngramSpark offers a range of marketing and promotional tools to help you promote your books and reach new readers like advance reading copies (ARCs), press releases, book clubs, and awards programs.


  • Cost: IngramSpark charges fees for many of its services, including file creation, revisions, and distribution. These costs can add up quickly and may be prohibitive for some authors.
  • Complexity: IngramSpark can be more complex to use than some other self-publishing platforms, particularly if you are new to the publishing process.
  • Limited support: While IngramSpark offers support for its users, some authors have reported difficulty getting timely or helpful responses to their questions or issues.
  • Shipping time: Since IngramSpark prints books on demand, shipping times can be long, which can be a disadvantage if you need to get your books to readers quickly.
self-publishing platforms - draft2digital


Draft2Digital is a self-publishing platform that helps authors create and distribute ebooks to major retailers like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It offers tools for formatting, cover design, and metadata management, and provides real-time sales data. Unlike other platforms, it doesn’t charge upfront fees, but takes a percentage of each sale.


  • Wide distribution: Draft2Digital allows you to distribute ebooks to a wide range of major retailers, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, which can help increase exposure and sales.
  • User-friendly interface: Draft2Digital’s platform is user-friendly and easy to navigate, even if you are not tech-savvy.
  • No upfront fees: Draft2Digital does not charge any upfront fees, which can be a more affordable option if you are just starting out and don’t have a big publishing budget.


  • Limited customisation: While Draft2Digital offers a range of tools for formatting and designing ebooks, you may find the customization options to be somewhat limited.
  • No print options: Draft2Digital currently only offers ebook distribution, so if you’re looking to distribute print books, you will need to use another platform or service in addition to Draft2Digital.
  • Revenue share: While Draft2Digital does not charge upfront fees, it does take a percentage of each sale, which can reduce your earnings.
self-publishing platforms - smashwords


Smashwords is a self-publishing platform that enables authors to create, publish, and distribute ebooks to major online retailers such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It offers various tools for formatting ebooks, creating cover images, and managing metadata. Authors can upload their manuscript files in several formats, and Smashwords will convert them into ebook files optimized for each retailer’s specifications.


  • Multiple formats for wide distribution: Smashwords easily supports all major ebook formats, including downloads for PCs, laptops, and tablets to send to your preferred distributor, making it easier than formatting for each one individually.
  • Author page: Smashwords provides a landing page for your book that usually gets good search engine rankings without requiring additional promotion.
  • No upfront fees: Smashwords does not charge any upfront fees for its services, making it a more affordable option if you are on a budget.


  • Complicated formatting: Smashwords has very particular formatting rules that are different from other platforms, making it frustrating to adhere to their style guide.
  • Poor shop experience: The shop interface on Smashwords’ home page is not particularly intuitive, making it cumbersome for some readers to purchase books.
  • Revenue share: Smashwords takes a 15% commission on sales made through their platform and a 10% commission on sales made through other channels.
self-publishing - lulu


Lulu allows authors to create, publish, and sell their books in print and digital formats. The platform offers a wide range of services, including book design templates, distribution, and marketing tools to help authors bring their books to market. Lulu also has a built-in online marketplace where authors can sell their books directly to readers, and the platform takes care of all the printing and shipping logistics.


  • Fast shipping: Once you have completed the design, uploaded your cover, and hit publish, your book will be printed and shipped in 3-5 business days, making it a quick process.
  • Affordable printing costs: Lulu offers affordable printing, with a 120-page book in either of the two template sizes provided costing approximately $5.
  • Solid ROI: Selling books directly on Lulu’s website can result in a strong return on investment (ROI) per book sold. This is great if you’re looking to maximize your earnings.


  • High additional costs: The publishing services like editing, cover design etc. provided by Lulu can be expensive. Hiring freelancers through other channels is usually more cost-effective.
  • Lack of customer support: Lulu’s customer service is widely considered subpar, with authors having difficulty reaching them by email or phone. The FAQ, forums, or Help guide may not always provide the answers needed, making it difficult to get the support you need.
  • Low royalty rates: Selling Lulu print copies on other sites results in weak book royalties. Rates are better directly on Lulu, but this limits your potential audience. The website does not have the same traffic as other retailers, especially Amazon.

Self-publishing has opened up a world of opportunities for authors to bring their stories to life and reach a wider audience. The various self-publishing platforms available offer a range of options and benefits to suit different needs and preferences. While each platform has its own set of pros and cons, they all provide authors with the ability to publish their work without the need for a traditional publishing deal.

Ultimately, choosing the right self-publishing platform depends on your specific needs and goals. Researching each platform thoroughly and considering factors such as distribution, pricing, royalties, and ease of use can help you make an informed decision.