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The Best Self Publishing Services

What's the Best Place to Self Publish?

Congratulations! You're an author, and now you want to share your writing genius with the world. But working with a traditional publisher can be hard. With the extra step of finding an agent and the back-and-forth with editors, there's a lot going on in the publishing industry just to get your book on the publisher's desk. Lucky for you, there's a host of self-publishing options out there to support brand-new and established authors.

Self-publishing has become an increasingly popular option for writers who want to get their work out into the world without the assistance of traditional publishing companies. One of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is the control it gives the author over their work. Instead of having to conform to the demands of a publisher, authors can use self-publishing to retain complete creative control over their work.

Monday, April 15th

2024 Self Publishing Service Reviews

Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award Outskirts Press Review 5 Star Rating

Outskirts Press

5 Star Rating
  • Prices start at $999
  • $25 annual fee to keep books in stock
  • Options for custom books
  • Varying price tiers for affordability
  • Copyediting included in prices
  • Accredited by the BBB with "A+" rating
  • Black and white, color, and multi options
  • Publishing for multiple genres
Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

Outskirts Press is a self-publishing website that's been in business for over 20 years. They promise to help authors develop, publish, and market books that are high-quality and win awards. They offer a full range of services including four main types of books: black and white, full color, publishing and marketing bundles, and eBooks and audiobooks.

Amazing options for distribution

While Outskirts Press may not be the most affordable self-publishing option available, the company offers an extensive range of services that make it a comprehensive one-stop shop for authors. These services include print and eBook distribution, as well as various marketing tools to help promote your book. Outskirts Press' strong network of distribution channels means that your novel will be automatically listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram, and you have access to even more retailers like Walmart, Follett, Target, and more. They also let you keep 100% of the net profits and you retain 100% of the rights to your creative work.

Full-package options for publication

Outskirts Press' packages are designed to provide authors with the full range of services to get their work published and distributed like an established author. The best Outskirts service for this is called the One-Click Publishing option, which covers titles within non-fiction, fiction, spiritual books, children's literature with and without illustrations, Christian books, cookbooks, and memoirs. With non-fiction, fiction, spiritual, and Christian books you get a 6 x 9 paperback, 20 free copies of your novel, professional copy editing up to 75,000 words, and an option to upgrade (for $399) to a hardcover design along with many more benefits. The children's lit options, cookbooks, and memoirs are limited to 8.5 x 8.5 size, 10 free copies, and professional copyediting up to 15,000 words. Memoirs, however, do allow for editing up to 75,000 words like the other long-form options.

Publishing package pricing

The pricing for these complete package publishing options is as follows:

  • Spiritual: $6,500
  • Christian: $6,500
  • Memoirs: $6,500
  • Cookbooks $7,000
  • Fiction: $7,000
  • Non-fiction: $8,000
  • Children's literature (no illustrations): $8,000
  • Children's literature (illustrated): $9,000

We like the support options with Outskirts

You get a full package of support from Outskirts when you pay, so the cost includes all of the heavy lifting that you might worry about with self-publishing. The benefits included in the listed price are:

  • Full-color cover
  • Standard black/white interior (most popular)
  • ISBN number
  • Standard press release with distribution
  • PDF download option from your own author website
  • Unlimited wholesale printing/fulfillment/distribution via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertram, and others
  • Editing and cover design
  • Unlimited email and limited phone support with your designated publishing consultant/author representative
Best Self Publishing Services

Budget-friendly options for publication

Outskirts also offers three options for black-and-white and full-color publication. These are Ultimate, Basic, and Economy. They are priced differently from the "full packages" section. Here's what you can expect with these more budget-friendly options:

  • Ultimate: Priced at $1,999. In this package you receive:
    • Paperback & eBook publishing with worldwide distribution
    • Book customization with a professional cover and interior
    • Up to 20 image insertions
    • 58 B&W formats available (7 book sizes, 2 paper colors, 2 cover finish)
    • 80 Color formats available (9 book sizes, 1 paper color, 2 print qualities, 2 cover finish)
    • Digital online proof of your book
    • One-on-one author support
    • ISBN assignment
    • 10 paperback copies (free shipping-continental US)
    • Book order volume discounts
    • Professional marketing assistance
  • Basic: Priced at $1,499. This package offers:
    • Paperback & Apple eBook publishing with worldwide distribution
    • Book customization with a professional cover and interior
    • Up to 15 image insertions
    • 8 B&W formats available (4 book sizes, 2 paper colors, 1 cover finish)
    • Digital online proof of your book
    • One-on-one author support
    • ISBN assignment
    • 6 paperback copies (free shipping-continental US)
    • Book order volume discounts
    • More limited marketing assistance
  • Economy: Priced at $999. In this package you receive:
    • Paperback publishing & worldwide distribution
    • Book customization with professionally designed book cover and interior book layout
    • Up to 5 image insertions
    • 6x9 book size (white or creme paper & glossy cover only); additional formats are available with the Basic and Ultimate packages
    • Digital online proof of your book
    • One-on-one author support
    • ISBN assignment
    • 1 paperback copy (free shipping-continental US)
    • Book order volume discounts
    • More limited marketing assistance

Complete with eBooks and distribution

If you want to publish with eBooks in mind, there is a fee for listing your next great novel on popular eBook sites like Amazon or Nook. If you select these individually, the cost for Amazon and Nook is $449 each. However, you can select a package deal that offers formatting and distribution on Amazon Kindle, Apple Books through iTunes and the Apple Books bookstore, and a Barnes & Noble NOOK Edition. This combo package costs $1,399.

No hidden fees, but a few maintenance costs

Regardless of which package you choose, there is a $35 starting fee per book. This is a fee that can be waived if you call, but it allows them to evaluate your manuscript before paying for the full service. You can also pay $35 if you want to use a payment plan instead of paying upfront in full. On top of this, there is an annual $25 distribution fee that authors need to pay to keep their books in rotation.

Copyediting included in prices

One of the things we like best about Outskirts is that, despite the high expenses for their services, each suite comes with free copyediting - which can get extremely expensive if you go outside of your publisher to edit. At Outskirts everything is included in the listing price and you get to keep all the profits. It's a win-win.

Great reputation and resolution-focused

Outskirts has a good customer reputation. With accreditation by the BBB and an "A+" rating, it's clear that Outskirts is doing right by its customers. The service also has a 3.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. Reviewers who rated the service 5 stars noted that they were extremely happy with the way that the customer service at Outskirts helped them through the process. They also loved the final products, saying that their work was beautiful in print. Multiple 5-star reviews highlighted how Outskirts focuses on author satisfaction. Some of the lower reviews complained about being frustrated by the $25 stocking fee, and some felt as though they didn't receive enough support from Outskirts for what they paid. However, many of the 1-star reviews wind up being resolved by the company and later retracted by the customer.

Top option for value and stress-free publication

Outskirts Press is a top-rated self-publishing service that provides everything you could need to get your book published and distributed. Despite the high prices to start with, you get what you pay for: an easy all-inclusive method to get your first, or even third, book published with 100% of the profits returned to you. With its excellent reputation, extensive range of packages and a la carte services, and transparent pricing, Outskirts Press remains our top pick among self-publishing services.

Book Baby Review 4.5 Star Rating

Book Baby

4.5 Star Rating
  • Prices start at $1,090 for publication
  • 0% royalties taken for eBooks
  • 15% charged for sales made through BookShop
  • 70-90% charged for sales through other distribution channels
  • Editing is a separate cost
  • Works with top distributors

BookBaby is a self-publishing company founded in 2011 and run by authors, poets, artists, and bloggers. The company aims to help writers across all genres to publish successfully.

Simple publishing guide

BookBaby offers a free guide that breaks down the publishing process into five simple steps, which include finishing your book, preparing it for publishing, choosing your products, selecting your book distribution options, and planning your promotion and marketing. The company also offers access to marketing professionals who can help with every step of the process, from cleaning up your copy to strategizing your marketing approach and publishing your book.

Pricing in three different tiers

Pricing for self-publishing depends on the services you choose, and BookBaby offers several different fee structures when it comes to royalties. The publication options are separated into 3 categories: Express, Complete, and Deluxe.

  • Express
    • $1,090 starting fee
    • eBook conversion & distribution
    • Print-on-demand distribution
    • Two ISBN barcodes
  • Complete
    • $2,190 starting fee
    • The same benefits as Express
    • Professional cover design
    • Printed book and eBook interior formatting
  • Deluxe
    • $2,890 starting fee
    • The same benefits as Complete
    • Ad campaigns for Facebook & Instagram, LinkedIn, and others
    • Bookshop promo bundle
    • Metadata optimization

Royalties and fees only apply to printed books

If you self-publish your work as an eBook, you won't pay any royalties to BookBaby, but if you sell your printed book through the company's BookShop, they will take 15% of your sales. For books sold at other retailers, BookBaby takes 70-90% of the proceeds. However, BookBaby also offers "the strongest guarantee in the eBook and publishing business," which means that if there are any quality or craftsmanship issues with your project, the company will work with you to make it right or issue you a full refund.

Best Self Publishing Services

Editing isn't included

While we like the design and packages with BookBaby, we aren't so impressed that editing is not included in their price for how much they charge. Adding on editing for $3-$10 per page is fairly reasonable and falls within industry standards for copy editing. However, if you have a 150-page novel, you are looking at an extra $1,500 for a full stylized line edit.

Excellent reputation with reviewers

BookBaby has a strong reputation, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars across 1500+ reviews from authors who have used the service to publish their works. The company dropped to a "C" grade at the Better Business Bureau but still has 4 out of 5 stars in reviews on that site. Happy reviewers noted that they felt the sales reps and publication guides at BookBaby were knowledgeable and helped the authors easily through the process. Comments with the words "professional service" and "responsive" appeared repeatedly across review sites. Some of the lower reviews complained that BookBaby didn't do enough for them with off-site distribution at places like Amazon. However, this makes up a very small portion of the total reviews.

Top service with reasonable prices

BookBaby is a great option for self-publishing. Although it doesn't include editing in the price, you can get editing from their professionals at a reasonable rate. With their helpful guide and professionals who can assist with every step of the process, the company offers many options for getting published and has a terrific track record. Considering its reputation and high ranking among self-publishing services, BookBaby is an excellent choice for writers looking to self-publish their work.

Publish Drive Review 4.5 Star Rating

Publish Drive

4.5 Star Rating
  • Costs start at $14.19/month
  • Royalties range from 25%-70%
  • Global distribution network
  • Management tools
  • Finance tools
  • Easy user interface

PublishDrive is a self-publishing platform that offers tiered subscription plans for global eBook distribution. This platform allows you to keep 100% of your royalties in exchange for a flat monthly fee. There are four service levels to choose from: Starter Plan, Standard Plan, Plus Plan, and Pro Plan, with pricing starting at $14.19 per month if you sign up for a year or $16.99 per month if you only want a month-to-month subscription.

Four subscription options for all authors

The four main plans offer you not only publication services, but also options for upgraded distribution networks, promotions, and book and money management. The tiers offer the following benefits:

  • Starter Plan
    • $14.19/month on a yearly plan or $16.99/month on a monthly plan
    • 1 eBook publication
    • 35 distribution channels
    • Access to all tools
    • Access to Amazon advertising
    • Access to email, sales, royalties, and categorization management tools
  • Standard Plan
    • $20.99/month on an annual plan and $24.99/month on a monthly plan
    • 6 books including e-books, audiobooks, and print-on-demand
    • 51 distribution channels
    • Access to all tools
    • Access to all promotional assistance
    • Access to the same management tools as Starter
  • Plus Plan
    • $41.99/month with an annual plan and $49.99/month for a monthly plan
    • 18 books including eBook, audiobook, or print-on-demand
    • 51 distribution channels
    • Same tools as Standard
    • Same Promo features as Standard
    • Same Management tools + Shared account options
  • Pro Plan
    • $83.99/month with an annual plan and $99.99/month for a monthly plan
    • 48 books including eBook, audiobook, or print-on-demand
    • 51 distribution channels
    • Same tools as Plus
    • Same Promo features as Plus
    • Same Management tools + Shared account options
    • Imprint management
    • Bulk import books
    • API
    • Priority support

Distribution is easy and tailored

To use PublishDrive's distribution feature, you need to spend a few minutes answering questions about your goals, experience, and the book(s) you're publishing. You'll also need to select a category for your book, such as Romance, Fantasy, Health and Fitness, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Self-Help, YA Fiction, or Other. Once you've chosen your pricing plan, you'll see your Distribution dashboard. After you upload and publish your first book, you'll have access to your sales statistics and analytics on that page.

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On-demand can get you out there faster

One unique feature offered by PublishDrive is its access to print-on-demand publishers. You can choose to make your books available in thousands of physical stores by submitting them to the PublishDrive print-on-demand publishers on their website. This way, you can easily have your books distributed and earn more money for your writing genius.

Global distribution network, but high royalties

We love the wide distribution network available with PublishDrive. All of their network partners are listed on one page with easily visible updates to the royalty costs. The costs do change depending on where your book is sold. The range starts at a minimum of 25% of the cost and up to 70%, so you might be paying a bit more royalties with PublishDrive than our top options, but you're still getting a great deal on distribution.

4-star satisfaction

In terms of customer satisfaction, PublishDrive has a solid 4 stars out of 5 when you average the reviews across sites. There's a lot of professional buzz about the site, and it appears to be well-deserved. Users who loved PublishDrive noted that the site was user-friendly and that they liked how the publisher got them access to distributors that they wouldn't have otherwise found. Multiple 5-star reviews also talked about the stellar customer service at PublishDrive. However, unhappy customers complained that they were charged more than the plan they signed up for, or didn't get their work published after paying, so there you may need to check in with customer service if you have issues.

Great option if you're open to subscriptions

PublishDrive is a great self-publishing platform that offers a wide range of services and benefits for authors at reasonable subscription prices. With a solid 4-star customer satisfaction rating, the platform's user-friendly interface, global distribution network, and excellent customer service make it a great option for anyone looking to self-publish their work. Plus, the access to a variety of print-on-demand publishers sets PublishDrive apart from other self-publishing platforms. While the royalty costs may be slightly higher, the benefits and opportunities for distribution and promotion make it well worth it. For these reasons PublishDrive gets a high rating for self-publishing companies.

Barnes & Noble Press Review 4 Star Rating

Barnes & Noble Press

4 Star Rating
  • Free to use
  • Authors make 70% of eBook sales
  • Authors make 55% of print-book sales
  • Resources for preferred editing and marketing partners
  • Price calculator and transparent costs
  • Listing on B&N website and US distribution

Barnes & Noble Press is one of the top 3 publishing houses right now for self-publishing. Starting as a competitor for Amazon's publishing house, Barnes & Noble offers the opportunity to be listed by one of the major names in bookselling today. The best part? It's completely free. B&N gets paid from the purchase instead of you having to pay anything upfront. With B&N you'll earn 70% of the royalties for eBook sales and 55% for print sales, minus printing costs.

Pricing is transparent and author-friendly

The pricing is super easy with B&N Press. From the get-go, everything is free. B&N lets you list books without paying a dime. They get paid when books sell. Their profit margins for authors are better than many other options in our review, too. The only thing you have to watch out for is the cost of printing is deducted from your total sales before you get your cut when you print on demand.

See for yourself

If you want to see what that looks like in practice, there's a calculator right on the front page of the ebsite. With this tool, you can enter different prices for your book and see exactly how much you'll make after B&N's cut and the printing fees are taken out. For example, with a 150-200 page book with the standard features, you'll earn $4.65 for a book listed for $15.

Featuring best-selling authors

One thing we liked about Barnes and Noble Press is that they have a "featured" authors section right on their front page. So, if you're wondering what kind of novels your book will be sitting next to on the shelf, you can sift through a variety of "bestsellers" and award-winning authors. There's no question about the quality of writing when you go with Barnes and Noble Press.

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External resources with preferred partners

If you're looking for extra help with your novel, Barnes & Noble Press offers a resources page to connect you with their preferred partners. They offer partnerships with editors, audiobook creators, publicity assistance, and marketing help. While we know some authors might prefer this to be handled in-house by B&N, it's important to remember this is a free service, so they're only distributing and publishing for you.

We wish it had a wider reach

Barnes and Noble's major drawback is its limited reach. By exclusively selling on BN.com, the company restricts the distribution of your book to the United States only. If you're an independent author who wants to reach a global audience, it's crucial to self-publish internationally. While Barnes and Noble can help you sell your book in the US market, you'll have to explore other options to connect with readers beyond the US borders. However, since B&N Press doesn't require exclusivity, you have the option to publish at multiple venues to get the widest reach possible.

User-friendly overall

In terms of user response, other than the author spotlights on the website, it's hard to see how Barnes & Noble Press rates for user satisfaction. The reviews for B&N Press are lumped in with reviews for B&N the company, making it hard to determine the user rating for B&N Press. According to the few reviews out there, authors found B&N Press to be a user-friendly model for creating and publishing their books.

Great free option for easy publishing

Barnes & Noble Press is a great option for self-publishing authors who want to be listed by one of the major names in bookselling today. With no upfront fees and better profit margins than many other options, it's a cost-effective choice. Plus, their resources page can help connect authors with preferred partners for editing, audiobook creation, publicity, and marketing assistance. Although the company's limited distribution may be a drawback for those looking to reach a global audience, B&N Press doesn't require exclusivity, so authors can publish at multiple venues to get the widest reach possible. Overall, Barnes & Noble Press is a valuable tool for independent authors looking to publish their work.

Draft 2 Digital Review 4 Star Rating

Draft 2 Digital

4 Star Rating
  • FREE to use the service
  • Royalties: 10% charged from net royalties on every sale
  • eBook specialization
  • Provides formatting for print books to take to an outside printer

Draft2Digital is a self-publishing company that specializes in eBook distribution. Although they are a newer company in the industry, they have quickly established themselves as a popular choice among writers.

Author-friendly pricing

One of the main reasons they've become so popular is their pricing. Draft2Digital offers a remarkable service that includes formatting, conversion, distribution, and sales tracking of your eBook for absolutely no charge. Their motto is that they make money only when you make money, so they're as motivated as you are to sell books. Their cut from sales is 10% of the proceeds, but the rest is yours to keep.

eBooks for everyone

What sets Draft2Digital apart from other eBook-only self-publishing companies is their user-friendly approach. Instead of providing extensive style guides for writers to follow, Draft2Digital's automated tools detect the necessary formatting elements from your .doc or .docx file, including chapter breaks, headings, and other necessary elements. The result is a perfectly-formatted eBook that's ready for distribution in .epub, .mobi, and PDF formats.

You'll have to edit somewhere else

While the automated system is convenient, it may not be perfect for everyone. To address this, Draft2Digital has support staff available during regular business hours, as well as via email, to help authors with any tweaks they need to make to their eBook. However, Draft2Digital doesn't include editing, so when you upload your document to their formatting tool, you'll want it to be ready to go. Or, you'll have to find an editor somewhere else.

Wide network including top eBook distributors

At the time of our review, Draft2Digital had a distribution network of over a dozen partner stores, including popular eBook retailers such as Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Scribd, and OverDrive as well as Barnes & Noble and Baker & Taylor. This makes it easy for authors to reach a wide audience without having to manage multiple accounts across different platforms. And with distribution and marketing help from Draft2Digital's toolkits, you'll be able to reach a wide audience even if you don't have an author website to direct sales.

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No hard copies

One thing to note about Draft2Digital is that they specialize in eBook services and they don't print for you, though they do offer free paperback-ready PDF files that authors can take to any Print-on-Demand service of their choice. However, if you're looking for a place that will publish and distribute hard copies for you, Draft2Digital isn't the right one.

"A" rating but too few reviews

In terms of customer feedback, Draft2Digital has an "A" rating from the BBB and authors love that this option is free. Reviewers noted that while there is limited distribution for non-English-speaking countries, Draft2Digital is one of the easiest places to put together a published book with the right formatting. We wish there were more reviews for this service, but there's not much feedback from authors on the BBB or other popular review sites.

Super easy to use

Draft2Digital offers a user-friendly, convenient, and affordable service for authors who want to self-publish their eBooks. The company's unique pricing model, where they charge nothing for formatting, conversion, distribution, and sales tracking of eBooks, is impressive. With over a dozen partner stores, including popular eBook retailers such as Amazon, Apple Books, and Kobo, authors can easily reach a wide audience without managing multiple accounts across different platforms.

Fantastic option for free eBooks

While Draft2Digital specializes in eBook services and doesn't print hard copies, they offer free paperback-ready PDF files that authors can take to any Print-on-Demand service of their choice. While we wish they offered hard-copy books, Draft2Digital is a great overall choice for authors looking for an easy and cost-effective way to self-publish their eBooks.

Virtual Bookworm Review 3.5 Star Rating

Virtual Bookworm

3.5 Star Rating
  • Publishing packages start at $430
  • eBooks start at $199 for black and white
  • Additions and upgrades available
  • Marketing starts at $400 or added to a package
  • 50% taken from royalties

Virtual Bookworm, also known as VBW, is a self-publishing service that provides authors with a range of options for publishing their work. This service was created by a writer who wanted to offer an alternative to big publishing houses and vanity presses. VBW does not accept every manuscript for publication but instead reviews each submission for quality and content. This ensures that your book will not be sold alongside books with numerous errors just because the other author had enough money to pay for publication.

Website hard to navigate, but prices are fair

It's a little hard to find the prices on VBW, but with a little searching, we found their publication options. There are 7 tiers which start at $430 and go up to $2,100 for black-and-white publishing in hardcover. The top 3 tiers include marketing services. For color publishing, the 7 tiers start at $700 and go up to $2,160, with the top 3 tiers including marketing services. If you're looking for eBooks, the starting price is much lower at $199 for a black-and-white interior or $299 for a color interior or books with a high number of images.

Lots of publishing benefits

With the print and publication packages, you receive the following benefits:

  • Electronic proof
  • Page counts as low as 18 and as high as 1200 pages
  • ISBN assignment (author can provide own ISBN and imprint at no additional charge)
  • Copyright application instructions
  • Book page in our online store
  • Barcode
  • 15 free internal graphics/images (must be submitted to specs)
  • Data backup
  • Full distribution
  • Drop shipment
  • Book registration through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books in Print, and many others
  • 50% royalties of net receipts

Requires exclusive publication rights

One thing we didn't love about VBW is that unlike some of its competitors, you have to commit to an exclusive agreement. You can't publish anywhere else for 2 years. However, you can terminate the agreement with 90 days' notice if the publisher isn't working for you. If you opt for their eBook packages, you will also have to sign an exclusive agreement for electronic distribution.

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Costs add up with VBW

We also didn't love that Virtual Bookworm takes 50% of the royalties. And, since none of their packages offer editing services, you'll have to add that cost on top of the money you'll lose to their royalties and the cost of working with this publisher in the first place. Their editing service is part of their additional options and costs $0.01 per word. An average manuscript is about 80,000 words, so you're looking at an additional $800 for editing.

Marketing is separate except in top-tier packages

If you're looking for marketing, you'll also have to buy that separately at Virtual Bookworm, unless you choose levels 5, 6, or 7 for your publication. Then, the marketing is included in the price. The three marketing tiers include:

  • Bronze Marketing Package: $40. Includes professional press release, 100 four-color business cards, and a personal storefront for two years.
  • Silver Marketing Package: $700. With this package, VBW will write a press release and send it to over 200 media outlets, and copies of your book will be sent to at least 10 major reviewers. The same personal storefront as bronze and 100 four-color business cards.
  • Gold Marketing Package: $1,300. This package includes the same press release as Silver, copies of your book sent to at least 15 major reviewers, the same personal storefront as Silver, placement in Ingram's Advance Magazine, 500 four-color postcards, 500 business cards, and 500 2x6 bookmarks.

Good ratings, but not a lot of feedback

In terms of author satisfaction, Virtual Bookworm has an "A+" rating at the BBB and has not had any complaints filed over the 19+ years it has been in operation. However, there are also few reviews of the service and absolutely no reviews from customers on the BBB, so we're a little worried about the lack of feedback from the authors.

Middle ground option, with good vetting system

Virtual Bookworm offers a mid-tier self-publishing service that provides authors with a range of options for publishing their work. While it may not be the ideal service for everyone, its commitment to reviewing each manuscript for quality and content ensures that authors are not published next to lower-quality titles. The exclusive agreement and higher pricing for some services may be a drawback, but the benefits of full distribution and the option to terminate the agreement provide some flexibility. While there is a lack of feedback from authors, Virtual Bookworm has maintained an "A+" rating at the BBB for over 19 years. It might be worth looking into, but there are better publishers out there to consider first.

Smashwords Review 3.5 Star Rating


3.5 Star Rating
  • Free
  • Global distribution options
  • Authors keep 45-85% of net sales proceeds
  • Marketing tutorials
  • "A-" rating from the BBB

Smashwords is an eBook distributor with a global reach, boasting a distribution network that includes major retailers such as Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. They have been helping authors publish and distribute their eBooks for over a decade

More than 130,000 published authors

Smashwords has helped more than 130,000 authors distribute nearly 500,000 eBooks. However, their website is slightly outdated and their process relies on the author doing most of the marketing work. On the bright side, their service is completely free except for royalties. Authors get 45-85% of proceeds depending on where the book is sold.

Free services and distribution

Smashwords offers a variety of free services, such as providing ISBNs, author profile pages on the Smashwords bookstore, anytime updates to books and metadata, exclusive marketing and selling tools, and much more. Moreover, they have an extensive distribution network where you can list your book for free. However, you will still have to pay royalties, and your profit margin will depend on the channel where your eBook is sold.

Formatting is required for Smashwords

While you can publish any genre, Smashwords does require you to format your writing to fit their specifications. To ensure proper formatting of your manuscript, you can download the Smashwords Style Guide, which is available in several languages including Spanish, German, Italian, French, Dutch, and Bengali. Alternatively, you can create a free account and begin publishing your eBooks directly on their platform.

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Website could use an update

If you're looking for a polished and modern website, Smashwords isn't the right option. Their "How to Publish on Smashwords" page, for instance, is made up of block text in small fonts and bullet-point lists. Since one of their benefits is offering you guidance for strong marketing approaches, it's a little worrying that users have to sift through information that's hard to read.

Mixed reviews for Smashwords

In terms of customer satisfaction, Smashwords has an "A-" rating with the BBB and has 5 out of 5 stars on that platform. However, on other review sites like Sitejabber and Trustpilot, the reviews average 2.5 stars out of 5. With the higher-rated reviews, customers noted that working with Smashwords feels like working with real people. They enjoyed interacting with customer service and felt that their needs were met. Reviewers called Smashwords "honest" and "helpful." In the lower-rated reviews, customers griped that uploading their work to Smashwords was the most difficult out of the various self-publishers. Authors felt that the system is "clunky" and not user-friendly.

Variety of free services

Smashwords is an eBook distributor that offers a range of services to help authors publish and distribute their work. While the website may not be as polished as some of its competitors, Smashwords does provide a variety of free services, including author profile pages, marketing tools, and access to its extensive distribution network - though the authors are expected to do the marketing legwork themselves. The platform requires authors to format their work to specific specifications, but the Smashwords Style Guide is available in several languages to help with this process.

Good free option, but there are better sites out there

For a free site, Smashwords is a decent option. However because of its poor usability, you might want to check out other self-publishing options first.

Kindle Direct Publishing Review 3.5 Star Rating

Kindle Direct Publishing

3.5 Star Rating
  • FREE to self-publish eBooks and paperbacks
  • 30-70% charged on each sale
  • Sells strictly on Amazon
  • Options for unique genres of books like comics
  • "A-" rating from the BBB

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform that has gained worldwide recognition and popularity as the go-to service for publishing eBooks. KDP is owned by Amazon, and the publishing branch started out as an online bookseller that has since expanded to become a dominant player in the online publishing industry. KDP allows you to publish your book for free, but you'll need to pay royalties which are different for paperbacks and eBooks.

Wide variety of genres

We love the full range of publication options at Kindle Direct. Not only can you publish traditional novels for fiction and non-fiction, but there are also built-in options for business books, comics and graphic novels, kids' books, and teen fiction. They offer additional options for a range of genres including romance, sci-fi, and mystery.

Easy to use publishing system

One of the advantages of KDP is the easy-to-use tools that guide you through the self-publishing process. KDP Jumpstart offers step-by-step directions, while KDP University provides a comprehensive suite of resources to assist you at every stage. However, it's worth noting that KDP doesn't offer professional editing or formatting services. If you need these services, KDP provides a list of recommended companies that specialize in those areas. However, an average editor costs $10 per page, so you may be looking at a significant increase in price if your manuscript isn't ready to go.

Complicated royalties, and not the best cut

The royalties with Kindle are a little complicated. For eBooks, you can choose between two royalty options: 35% or 70%. However, to be eligible for the higher-paying option, your book must meet certain requirements such as a list price that meets certain criteria, and your eBook must be sold for at least 20% below the printed book price. The royalty calculation for paperbacks is different, with a fixed rate of 60%, minus printing costs at a fixed rate of $4.45 per unit. In order to list, you simply have to meet the "minimum list price" requirement. This means you can list a book for anything over $7.45. The higher the price, the more you make, but it's a lot of math at the get-go.

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Limited distribution for Amazon only

One thing that we don't love about Kindle Direct is that the distribution is limited to Amazon. Most other self-publishing services offer distribution to a broader range of channels, including Google, Apple, and OverDrive. While KDP is an affordable option, it may not be the best choice if you want your book to reach a wider audience. Since Kindle does require an exclusive contract, you can't publish in multiple places and widen this distribution, unfortunately.

Customer feelings are mixed on value

In terms of customer satisfaction, Kindle Direct has an "A-" rating from the BBB. With varying reviews across user feedback and different sites, KDP has earned an average of 3.3 stars out of 5. Happy reviewers noted that they felt that the customer service at KDP was top-notch and helped them with issues during the book creation and formatting process. Others were disappointed in the low profile of an Amazon-only distribution.

No editing or formatting

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) provides a variety of options, from traditional novels to business books and comics, with easy-to-use tools and resources to guide you through the self-publishing process. However, it's worth noting that KDP doesn't offer professional editing or formatting services, which can increase your costs significantly. Additionally, the royalties can be complicated, with different requirements for eBooks and paperbacks.

A big-name option, but a little limited

While KDP is an affordable option, the biggest limitation is that your book will only appear on the Amazon platform. Overall, KDP is a great and reliable option for self-publishing, but it's important to consider your distribution needs before making a final decision.

IngramSpark Review 3 Star Rating


3 Star Rating
  • $49 to get started with any book
  • $25 revision fees
  • Editing done outside Ingram
  • Price calculator
  • "A+" rating from the BBB

IngramSpark is a self-publishing distributor owned by Ingram, who is widely considered one of the top book distributors in the US. However, fees and printing costs can add up quickly.

Inexpensive to start

Simply publishing a book with Ingram is fairly inexpensive compared to some options in our review, with each book type only costing $49 to get started. However, there are extra fees for revisions, as well as for setup and printing, so it does start to add up. The royalties are variable with Ingram: you can set them at your preference up to 65-70% depending on the market, so you get a higher profit.

Obvious and slightly hidden fees

For every book you set up on IngramSpark, whether it's just an eBook or both print and eBook, you will be charged a setup fee of $49. However, keep in mind that if you need to make revisions to your book, it will cost an additional $25 per revision, which is a significant drawback compared to competitors who let you edit for free. In addition to the setup fee, you will also have to pay for the printing and distribution costs of your copies, which will be deducted from your royalties. The cost of printing will depend on the print options you choose and the number of units in your order.

Calculator tool needs an update

If you want to see what the cost will be to print each book, IngramSpark offers a calculator tool. However, it's much less intuitive than competitors. You have to fill out a full-page questionnaire, and if you don't know some of the answers for your particular book yet, you'll have to make them up to get a general price. The worst part is that some of the book sizes won't allow particular page counts - but nothing on the calculator tool tells you that. Instead, you have to fiddle with the options until the little red error message goes away, which is super frustrating.

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Steep learning curves for non-techies

In general, the interface for IngramSpark is somewhat less intuitive than many competitor platforms. While we had trouble with their calculator tool, many other users also had trouble with the actual manuscript upload and editing tools. The process isn't intuitive and the website feels a bit outdated. Some authors quit the process at this point even after paying the $49 to publish.

Users don't love the interface

In terms of user feedback, Ingram Spark does have an "A+" rating from the BBB, but it averages about 2.5 stars out of 5 across different review sites. Most of the complaints were about how difficult the platform was to use, saying that they wished the process was more intuitive and user-friendly. Some of the positive reviews noted that authors felt like the customer service at IngramSpark was top-tier and that they were helped through the process. And yet, some of the lower reviews say the exact opposite and that they couldn't get any help from customer service. With such mixed reviews, it's hard to say one way or the other, but there are more user-friendly sites out there.

Mixed user reviews

IngramSpark offers a relatively inexpensive self-publishing option for authors with set-up fees of $49 per book. However, the additional fees for revisions and printing/distribution costs can add up fast. While IngramSpark allows authors to set their royalties up to 65-70%, their calculator tool and interface may be difficult for non-techies to navigate. Mixed user reviews also highlight the need for a more intuitive and user-friendly upload process.

Big name, but not the best option

Ultimately, authors should consider their individual needs and preferences before choosing a self-publishing platform. If stress-free is what you're looking for, you might want to look higher up on our review list.

Lulu Review 2 Star Rating


2 Star Rating
  • Starting at $5.03 for a single standard paperback
  • Full range of distribution options
  • "A+" rating and accreditation by the BBB
  • 10-20% charged on most sales, plus any applicable retailer fees/markups

Lulu has been in the self-publishing industry since 2002 and has published over two million books across 225 countries and territories. The company offers its services in six different languages and has sub-brands like Glasstree Academic Publishing and Lulu Jr.

Updated website

The website has had an update since it was last reviewed and comes across as a modern workspace. However, it was still hard to find the pricing details. Regarding royalties, Lulu takes 10% of net sales for eBooks and 20% for print books. They also charge "hosting fees" for eBooks listed on their bookstore.

Pay by copy

Lulu is a print-as-needed publisher. So you decide how many books you want and you order them as needed. Since this is how they print, the prices are per-book also. In order to get a ballpark idea for how much you'll spend with Lulu, you'll need to know the number of pages your book will be (in the size that you want) as well as answer questions about the quality of paper, black and white vs. color options, and cream or white paper. Once you've put in all the information, Lulu's calculator will give you a price per book. For example, a standard 6x9 paperback novel of 140 pages in black and white ink and white paper would cost $5.03 per copy to print through Lulu.

Design process is lengthy

To use Lulu's services most effectively, it is recommended that users start with the Create section. You have to choose your book type from the available options which include print books, photo books, notebooks, calendars, children's books, comic books, magazines, cookbooks, yearbooks, education books, and eBooks. The most frustrating thing about Lulu is that you can't create a print and eBook simultaneously. Instead, users must follow Lulu's downloadable Creator Guide carefully and format their manuscript to ensure their submission is approved. It's at this point you get to publishing services, and Lulu provides links to options for editing, cover design/illustration, and all-inclusive packages.

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Sales options are competitive

After completing the manuscript, users can head to the Sell tab. It is vital to pay attention to formatting to ensure that your submission is approved for retail distribution. Lulu currently offers limited distribution channels, including their own, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram for print, iBooks, Nook, Amazon Kindle, and Kobo for eBooks.

BBB accreditation, but low reviews

Lulu is accredited by the BBB and has an "A+" rating. However, Lulu only has an average of 2.4 stars out of five across different review sites. The 5-star reviews offer feedback from some users who have been publishing with Lulu since 2008. Many happy customers say the site is easy to use and that they love the quality of the books. However, the lower reviews note that customer service with Lulu isn't top-notch. Many reviewers complain about being refused by Lulu after paying or having older versions of their manuscript distributed instead of the final.

Disappointing customer feedback

Despite Lulu's long history in the self-publishing industry, we're a little disappointed in their customer feedback. However, Lulu's print-on-demand model allows for customized orders, provided that users enter specific details to get an accurate price per book. It is recommended to start with the Create section and follow Lulu's downloadable Creator Guide carefully to ensure manuscript approval. Customer feedback is mostly positive, citing ease of use and book quality, but some reviewers have had issues with customer service and distribution.

Worth checking out for the price

Overall, Lulu can be a viable option for self-publishing. Still, users should carefully look at the higher rated options before making a final decision.

Xlibris Review 2 Star Rating


2 Star Rating
  • Publishing packages range from $999 to $16,999
  • 50%-90% paid to Xlibris before author gets anything
  • Distribute with Ingram
  • Accredited by the BBB and "A+" rating

Xlibris has been in the business of helping authors get their works published for more than two decades. As a self-publishing service, it enables authors to retain full control over their books, from design to distribution.

High initial investment

Xlibris is one of two self-publishing companies owned by Author Solutions, a parent company that has an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). One downside is that Xlibris is expensive unless customers have a budget of at least $999, and that price doesn't cover much. Unfortunately, the royalty price minimum of 50% means you aren't making more than half of the profits to make up for the high initial payment.

Expensive for not enough bonuses

The most basic package at Xlibris for $999 includes a limited number of image, text, and design treatments, one round of alterations and corrections, and only 17 of the 47+ add-ons and benefits offered by the higher tiers. While most of their print packages include eBook formatting, there is no option for authors who only want to self-publish their work digitally and not in print. As a comparison, the most expensive tier (Platinum) which includes all of the add-ons costs $16,999, making Xlibris one of the most expensive options in our review.

Authors aren't making money after royalties

In terms of royalties, Xlibris will keep 50% of the retail price on eBooks and as much as 90% when sold through partners like Amazon. Furthermore, Xlibris sets the retail price for the book unless the author purchases the right to set their own price. So, you're not looking to make much on book sales here.

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Limited but heavy-hitting network

Xlibris' distribution network is somewhat limited. They use Ingram Distribution as well as Baker and Taylor; however, Ingram is one of the largest book distributors in the US. Additionally, if customers are publishing a black-and-white or full-color paperback, their book will be listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book retailers. However, their distribution list for eBooks is vague, and authors won't know upfront which channels Xlibris will use to distribute their books. Compared to other options in our review with extensive distribution networks, Xlibris' is pretty slim.

Accredited, but mixed reviews

In terms of author feedback and user ratings, Xlibris is accredited by the BBB and has an "A+" rating. However, it only has 1.4 stars out of 5 from the Better Business Bureau and averages 3.4 stars out of 5 across other review sites. Happy authors at Xlibris note that they have published multiple books with this publisher and liked the expertise that was offered throughout the publication process. Many reviews note a sense of "tailored" assistance or "personalized" help that made users particularly happy with Xlibris. On the other hand, the 1-star reviews included frustrations about waiting for refunds, and many authors were frustrated with how little they were paid after royalties were taken out of their sales.

Doesn't stack up against competitors

When compared to other self-publishing services on the market, it becomes clear that Xlibris cannot compete. Other companies offer much more for less money and provide authors with a much broader reach for their self-published books. Despite mixed reviews with some very happy authors, it's clear that there are better options that offer a better overall deal to support authors' income.

iUniverse Review 1 Star Rating


1 Star Rating
  • Cost: From $1,999 to $14,999
  • 75-90% charged on each sale
  • Benefits like author website for up to 3 years
  • Editing included on all but the cheapest package

iUniverse is a self-publishing service that is owned by Author Solutions, which is an accredited and highly rated company by the Better Business Bureau. However, there are some potential negatives associated with using iUniverse.

High royalty fees

The royalty fees that iUniverse charges are among the highest we've seen - between 75-90% in royalties, which is much higher than other self-publishing services. This pricing model is not competitive with other self-publishing services that let authors keep most of their profits. The only book type that you receive 100% of the profits from is audiobook publishing at iUniverse.

Expensive packages without many benefits

If iUniverse offered an exceptional publishing experience, it might justify the high royalties. However, the company's publishing packages are expensive and start at $1,999. For this price, you only get two format options: softcover and eBook. The designs are also standardized and you don't have any say in them, but they do help you market the book and set up an author website. And yet, the base price doesn't include editing. If you want the full package, you'll have to shell out $14,999. This allows for full customizability and editing, but the cost is much higher than many competitors who offer similar features.

Some options are nice while others just charge you extra

While we liked that iUniverse offers in-house editing, it's not available as part of every package. You can only start getting editing included if you pay for the $4,999 Voyager package. Further, some of the bonuses you get - like an author website - have time limits. For the lowest two tiers of payment, you only get your author website for a year. With the $9,999 Explorer package you get 2 years, and with the most expensive $14,999 Navigator tier, you get 3 years before you have to pay fees for the website.

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Decent ratings, but not enough reviews

While there are several testimonials on the iUniverse website, the company does not have as many reviews as its rivals despite having been in business for two decades. Although the service has 4 out of 5 stars from Trustpilot, there are just over 300 reviews for iUniverse, which is very low engagement overall. At the BBB where the parent company Author Solutions is accredited, the iUniverse brand is only rated 1.4 stars out of 5.

Good customer service, but really high fees

The happy users noted that they were impressed with the customer service with multiple individual reviews saying that iUniverse was patient and thorough in assisting authors. Those who weren't as happy with iUniverse complained that paying over $2,000 for publication and only getting 10% of the royalties was unfair, and not worth the benefits of using the publication house.

Too expensive for what it offers

While iUniverse is a self-publishing service owned by a reputable parent company, the high royalty fees and expensive publishing packages may not make it the best choice for authors. The company's pricing model is not competitive with other self-publishing services that allow authors to keep most of their profits. Additionally, the limited availability of editing and the time-limited bonuses may not justify the high cost of the service.

Better choices available

While iUniverse has received positive feedback from some users, the low engagement and negative reviews on the BBB listing suggest that the service may not be worth the investment for some authors. Ultimately, authors should consider all their options and choose a self-publishing service that meets their needs and budget - knowing that iUniverse is likely not going to measure up.

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Continued from above...

There are several advantages to self-publishing a book. For example, an author can make decisions about everything from the book cover to the formatting of the text. This control can lead to a more authentic representation of the author's vision, which can be appealing to readers.

Another advantage of self-publishing is that it allows authors to reach a broader audience. Traditional publishers are often selective about the types of books they choose to publish, and many authors may struggle to find a publisher who is willing to take a chance on their work. Self-publishing, on the other hand, allows authors to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and get their work in front of readers who may be interested in their particular niche.

And the best part? Self-publishing can be more lucrative for authors than traditional publishing. Traditional publishing deals often involve the publisher taking a significant percentage of the book's profits, leaving the author with a smaller cut. With self-publishing, authors keep a larger share of their book's profits, which can add up over time. Additionally, self-publishing often allows authors to set their own prices, which can help them maximize their revenue.

Writing is a lot of work, but publishing doesn't have to be. To make sure you have the easiest path to getting your bestseller out to the public, we've researched the most popular self-publishing options so you don't have to.

If you're not sure where to start, here are several factors to keep in mind to find the best fit for you and your writing:

  • Cost. What is the cost to work with this publisher and how much will you make as the author? Costs include fees and royalties, so it's important to check both.
  • Specialty. Are you a poet or a playwright? Or maybe you prefer to write short stories or long sci-fi trilogies? You want to make sure the publisher you choose specializes in the kind of writing that's important to you. You want to be able to reach your ideal audience.
  • User-friendly tools. Are you looking for complete control over the final publication, or do you want a publisher that helps you along the way with technology tools?
  • Sales. Where does this self-publishing platform promote your work? Are sales integrated into the process or do you have to do all of the marketing yourself?

To help you make the jump from writer to published author smoother than ever, Top Consumer Reviews has evaluated and ranked the best self-publishing companies out there today. We hope this information helps you get the book of your dreams in print and in the reader's hands ASAP!

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Self Publishing Service FAQ

Absolutely! There's no need to wait for an acceptance letter from a big publishing house to get your work out into the world.
You can do either one. There are lots of self-publishing services that can help you with the entire process, including illustrations, editing, and even marketing, regardless of whether you're trying to get your book printed or made available as an eBook.
You definitely can take the steps to get your book published without using a service, but you may waste a lot of time (and money!) making mistakes that could easily be avoided. Self-publishing services already know all of the ins and outs of the process and can help you focus just on what you need to accomplish your particular goals.
That depends. The more bells and whistles you want, the more you'll usually spend. There are platforms that let you print out a single standard paperback for under $2, and comprehensive service packages upwards of $15,000! There are also options that are free for the publishing side, but you'll pay a certain percentage of any royalties your book sales generate. That's a great choice if you've got a shoestring budget and just want to get started right away.
Most self-publishing in the print world is print-on-demand, so no! In other words, when someone orders your book, the publishing service you're using will print off a copy and send it directly to your customer.
The sky's the limit! Some popular add-ons include cover design, author ads on social media platforms, internal images and graphics, and online distribution.
Some self-publishing platforms offer more "hand-holding" than others. If you think you might want a provider that has more of a team feel, choose a service that offers email and phone support with a designated representative, so that you'll always be working with the same individual.
While it's true that there are fly-by-night, "Get Published Fast!" companies out there, it's easy to find services that have a long history of providing reputable service to aspiring and experienced authors alike. Be sure to see what other clients say about the service you're considering, before you make a commitment. You can also look up the company's listing with the Better Business Bureau for more reassurance that you've picked a good one.

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Select any 2 Self Publishing Services to compare them head to head

  • Outskirts Press
  • Book Baby
  • Publish Drive
  • Barnes & Noble Press
  • Draft 2 Digital
  • Virtual Bookworm
  • Smashwords
  • Kindle Direct Publishing
  • IngramSpark
  • Lulu
  • Xlibris
  • iUniverse
Outskirts Press vs Book Baby Outskirts Press vs Publish Drive Outskirts Press vs Barnes & Noble Press Outskirts Press vs Draft 2 Digital Outskirts Press vs Virtual Bookworm Outskirts Press vs Smashwords Outskirts Press vs Kindle Direct Publishing Outskirts Press vs IngramSpark Outskirts Press vs Lulu Outskirts Press vs Xlibris Outskirts Press vs iUniverse Book Baby vs Publish Drive Book Baby vs Barnes & Noble Press Book Baby vs Draft 2 Digital Book Baby vs Virtual Bookworm Book Baby vs Smashwords Book Baby vs Kindle Direct Publishing Book Baby vs IngramSpark Book Baby vs Lulu Book Baby vs Xlibris Book Baby vs iUniverse Publish Drive vs Barnes & Noble Press Publish Drive vs Draft 2 Digital Publish Drive vs Virtual Bookworm Publish Drive vs Smashwords Publish Drive vs Kindle Direct Publishing Publish Drive vs IngramSpark Publish Drive vs Lulu Publish Drive vs Xlibris Publish Drive vs iUniverse Barnes & Noble Press vs Draft 2 Digital Barnes & Noble Press vs Virtual Bookworm Barnes & Noble Press vs Smashwords Barnes & Noble Press vs Kindle Direct Publishing Barnes & Noble Press vs IngramSpark Barnes & Noble Press vs Lulu Barnes & Noble Press vs Xlibris Barnes & Noble Press vs iUniverse Draft 2 Digital vs Virtual Bookworm Draft 2 Digital vs Smashwords Draft 2 Digital vs Kindle Direct Publishing Draft 2 Digital vs IngramSpark Draft 2 Digital vs Lulu Draft 2 Digital vs Xlibris Draft 2 Digital vs iUniverse Virtual Bookworm vs Smashwords Virtual Bookworm vs Kindle Direct Publishing Virtual Bookworm vs IngramSpark Virtual Bookworm vs Lulu Virtual Bookworm vs Xlibris Virtual Bookworm vs iUniverse Smashwords vs Kindle Direct Publishing Smashwords vs IngramSpark Smashwords vs Lulu Smashwords vs Xlibris Smashwords vs iUniverse Kindle Direct Publishing vs IngramSpark Kindle Direct Publishing vs Lulu Kindle Direct Publishing vs Xlibris Kindle Direct Publishing vs iUniverse IngramSpark vs Lulu IngramSpark vs Xlibris IngramSpark vs iUniverse Lulu vs Xlibris Lulu vs iUniverse Xlibris vs iUniverse
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