Best Free Digital Publishing Platforms for Aspiring Authors

There is nothing quite like the thrill of finishing writing a book and getting it ready for publication. But if you have been through this process already, then you might know how pricy it could get. From editing and formatting to cover design, an author who is planning to self-publish his book might have to spend more than a few bucks.

That is why you might be wondering how to self-publish a book for free without compromising on the quality of your ebook. For this reason, we have prepared a list of the top free digital publishing platforms, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs.

Best Digital Publishing Platforms

The world of self-publishing is filled with all types of platforms and services. From the huge book retailers to the smaller publishers that focus on a certain genre, this might leave authors a bit confused as to which one to choose.

There are a few things you need to consider when looking for self-publishing companies, such as the royalties, the publishing process, and the exposure you’ll get by publishing through them. So before you make up you’re mind, have a look at this list of the top free self-publishing websites.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

KDP Logo

This is probably the first digital publishing platform that comes to the mind of many aspiring writers. According to an Enders Analysis, about 40% of the best-selling books on Amazon are self-published. That is why publishing there is great for new authors hoping to get some exposure and reach a wider audience.

If you are still not sure whether to go for KDP or not, check our article on the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon to make an informed decision.

Supported File Formats

Amazon KDP accepts the following formats: doc., docx., Kindle Package Format (KPF), EPUB, and MOBI.

Royalties

Authors receive 70% royalties for all books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, and 35% for books that fall outside this price range. These royalty rates are applicable in most territories, with very few exceptions.

Other Services

One of the great things about KDP is that it offers other services besides publishing, such as print on demand, cover design, and advertising. Some of these services, however, are not free of charge.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on Amazon KDP and add a new Kindle ebook.
  2. Write the title and description of your book, and enter the author’s info.
  3. Verify your publishing rights.
  4. Choose your keywords, categories, age range, book release option, and DRM rights.
  5. Upload your book and book cover.
  6. Choose the territory you want to publish your book in.
  7. Select the pricing of your book and the royalties you’d like to receive.
  8. Hit publish, and your book will appear in the Kindle store within about a day.

Apple Books

Another major player in the self-publishing field is Apple books. It recently became the second-largest ebook online retailer, as it directly markets to Mac users who are over 100 million, according to AppleInsider.

Supported File Formats

The formats Apple Books supports include EPUB and Multi-Touch books that are created in Apple Pages.

Royalties

Apple Books offers the authors 70% royalties, regardless of the price of their books.

Other Services

One of the special features of Apple Books is that the author can use his DBA or Pen name as the seller for his books. Moreover, authors can use up to 250 promo codes to promote their books, and you can also suggest your book for editorial placement to be featured on the website for free

And if you decide to work with an ebook distributor, you can find a list of partners on the Apple Books websites that will help you in getting your book ready for publication. 

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an iTunes account.
  2. Enter banking and tax information.
  3. Upload your ebook, its cover image, and a sample EPUB file (similar to Amazon’s “look inside” feature).
  4. Enter your book title and author’s name, then add your book’s blurb.
  5. Choose a category, language, and interest age for your book
  6. Select pricing, the countries you want to sell your book in, as well as the release date.
  7. Once you’re done, the book will be available after being reviewed in a day or two, at the date and price you set.

Barnes & Nobles Press (B&N Press)

self publishing on B&N press

This is probably the third biggest self-publishing platform in the US. The books published through Barnes & Noble Press retail only in their online and physical bookstores. They are available in 12 different regions, including–but not limited to–the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, and Germany.

Supported File Formats

The file formats of ebooks in B&N Press can be doc, docx, txt, HTML, or EPUB.

Royalties

Earlier last year, B&N updated their royalties rates for self-published ebooks to be a flat 70%, and accelerated the payment to 30 days after purchase, instead of 60.

Other Services

One of the good things about B&N Press is the many resources offered to authors to help with the publishing process. They have partnered with a number of service providers, such as Reedsy which offer editorial services, 99designs which offers designing services, and Inkubate which provides marketing services. They also offer print-on-demand services and allow for preorders on both ebooks and print books.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on B&N Press and sign up as a vendor by submitting banking and tax information.
  2. Upload your manuscript, and you can then choose a custom sample for readers to check your book before buying it.
  3. Enter your book and author information.
  4. Within 72 hours after hitting publish, your book will appear for sale on BN.com.

Kobo Writing Life

kobo logo

This Canadian-based company is one of the largest ebook stores out there, with more than 6 million titles available in 77 languages. Kobo is a great option for self-publishing as it reaches 16 countries, outside the US.

One of the best things about this platform is that it doesn’t require exclusivity. This means that you can benefit from publishing on it and on many other platforms simultaneously. Other benefits also include setting your own prices and running your own promotions.

Supported File Formats

The file formats supported on Kobo are doc, docx, ODT, EPUB, and MOBI.

Royalties

Close to KDP’s royalties, Kobo offers self-published authors 70% on books priced more than $2.99, and 45% for books priced below that price point.

Other Services

Kobo offers a couple of services for a fee, such as promoting books. It has also partnered with a number of platforms that offer book formatting and cover designing.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on Kobo Writing Life.
  2. Enter your banking information.
  3. Upload your ebook and enter your book info, including the title, author’s and publisher’s names, and language.
  4. Upload your book cover and select the category.
  5. You can choose to either publish your book immediately or schedule a release date.

Google Play Books

Google Play Books Logo

If you are looking for a platform with millions of users to reach the largest audience possible, then you won’t find anything larger than Google! Serving in 75 countries with more than 3 billion users, Google now allows authors to publish and sell their books on Google Play Books. 

Once you get your book published there, it will be indexed on Google and will be searchable on the largest search engine. This increases your visibility, and you can even utilize their marketing services by using promo codes to promote your ebook to readers. Last but not least, Google doesn’t require exclusivity, so you can publish your book on as many platforms as you like.

Supported File Formats

Google accepts only PDF or EBUP formats.

Royalties

Google set the royalties at 70% for all books, regardless of the price.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on Google Play Books Partner Center.
  2. Enter banking and tax information.
  3. Choose “Add your first book” then enter your book information, such as the title, author and publisher names, book summary, format, and page count.
  4. Upload your ebook and cover image.
  5. Set the price of your book.
  6. After you review your book and the information you entered, hit publish and your book will go live within 12 hours.

Lulu 

self-publishing on Lulu

Lulu could be the answer to many self-publishing authors’ prayers, as its ebook publishing and conversion services are free of charge. Its large platform helps writers with every step of the publishing process. So it isn’t only a place where you can publish your ebook, but it is also where you can use their distribution services to sell your book with other major book retailers for a little fee.

Supported File Formats

Lulu only accepts EPUB and PDF formats for ebooks.

Royalties

Authors get 90% of the net profits, after subtracting the hosting fees, for the ebooks sold through Lulu.

Other Services

Lulu has partnered with many service providers that help authors get their books ready for publication. These services include book formatting, editing, cover design, and marketing.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on Lulu, then choose “Start Your Book” from the “Create” tab on the website home page.
  2. Select Ebook from “Product Types”, then select “Publish Your Book.”
  3. Enter your book’s information, such as the title, language, and category.
  4. Add copyright info, which includes title, subtitle, contributors, copyrights license, and ISBN (we can use yours if you have one, or use a free ISBN provided by Lulu).
  5. Upload your ebook file and cover.
  6. Add the ebook metadata, such as the description, categories, keywords, and the intended audience.
  7. Set a price for your ebook.
  8. Add payee and tax information.
  9. Review your book info and files, then hit publish.

Smashwords

self-publishing on Smashwords

This platform is the best of both worlds; it is a book retailer and an aggregator at the same time. This means you can sell your ebook at their bookstore as well as other major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Nobels, and Walmart. 

The process of publishing and distributing ebooks through Smashwords is fast and free. It also has a wide audience, with more than 500,000 books published by over 140,000 authors and publishers, worldwide. 

Supported File Formats

Smashwords accepts only EPUB and MOBI for ebooks sold on their platform, but only EPUB for ebooks meant for distribution.

Royalties

The royalties for selling on Smashwords bookstore go up to 80% of your ebook price. 

Other Services

Smashwords has partnered with Findaway Voices to allow authors to publish and distribute their audiobooks. They also offer many free services, such as:

  • Ebook conversion.
  • ISBN.
  • Sales reporting.
  • Exclusive sales and marketing tools.
  • Custom coupon discount codes.

Publishing Steps

  1. Sign up for a free account and confirm your email.
  2. Make sure to read the Style Guide before uploading your ebook.
  3. Head to the Smashwords Dashboard and choose “Publish”.
  4. Enter your book’s information, including the title, release date, description, and language.
  5. Determine the price of your ebook.
  6. Choose whether or not to take a percentage of your book available for free as a sample.
  7. Select the category and tags.
  8. Upload the book cover and manuscript.
  9. Hit publish and your book will be available on the Smashwords website.

Wattpad

Wattpad is quite different from the previously mentioned platforms in that it is mainly for short stories or novels published in short episodes. It allows readers to access these stories for free, and it has a very limited number of paid ones.

You might be thinking, if it’s for free, then why should I publish there? Well, Wattpad has more than 90 million readers, thousands of stories, and over 50 writing resources for authors. This will help you create a community of readers you might not be able to reach otherwise. 

Moreover, some authors have achieved amazing success through Wattpad. For example, the author Anna Todd had her novel, After, read over 1.5 million times on this platform, and it was later turned into a movie.

Publishing Steps

  1. Create an account on Wattpad.
  2. Enter the story details, including its title, cover, and description.
  3. You can start typing your story by entering the name of the chapter and the content.
  4. Preview your story after you finish writing.
  5. Hit publish, and your story will be ready for sharing with your readers.

Free Self-Publishing Platforms

Platform Supported File Formats Royalties
Amazon KDPDoc
Docx
Mobi
Epub
KPF
35% or 70%, depending on the price and territory
Apple BooksEpub
Multi-Touch Books
70% flat
Barnes & Noble PressDoc
Docx
Txt
Html
Epub
70% flat
Kobo Writing LifeDoc
Docx
ODT
Epub
Mobi



45% or 70%, depending on the price
Google Play BooksPDF
Epub
70% flat
LuluPDF
Epub
90% of the net profits
SmashwordsEpub
Mobi
Up to 80%

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right platform to publish your ebook could be just as important as writing it in the first place. Because if your book doesn’t get the exposure it deserves, then what is really the point of publishing it? Also, if you are still in the earlier stages of self-publishing and need some help, make sure to check our basic guide to self-publishing.

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