Do You Want an Alternative to Amazon KDP? Here’s Our Top Five.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing dominates the self-publishing market and many, if not most, self-publishing authors feel obliged to use it at least as a part of their publishing strategy. But there are other options. Some have been around for a while, and some are fairly new. Each has their own pros and cons, so let’s take a look at the top five alternatives to Amazon KDP.

When I formed Utility Fog Press, the only self-publishing options were vanity press or Lulu. A short time later Amazon’s Createspace joined the scene for print books and KDP for e-books, and the marketplace was largely fixed.

It was an exciting time as the publishing frontier had opened for independents but everyone was still exploring the landscape. We were all uncertain what could be accomplished in this new world. The focus of conference talks at that time was mostly how to work through the online systems to get an account set up (the tax system was more cumbersome then) and constant comparisons of the services and which gave the best product.

Fast forward a little over a decade and self-publishing has seen massive growth. With only mild exaggeration, I can say that empires are being built through self-publishing. Furthermore, the options for self-publishing have also increased, with new platforms and new markets coming online all the time.

Createspace merged with KDP, forming Amazon’s very easy to use inegrated self-publishing system that dominates the market — expecially as they also own ACX/Audible for publishing and distributing audiobooks. But the Amazon system is not without its problems as many authors I know have discovered when their books have been suddenly and permanently removed. So, for those looking for an alternative to the giant, or for those who don’t want all their eggs in one basket, here are our top five alternatives to Amazon KDP for self-publishing.

1.

Launched in 2013 by printer Lightning Source, IngramSpark was established as an alternative to Amazon, with rigorous standards that would enable self-published authors to more easily get their books in libraries and bookstores.

Currently, IngramSpark is considered by most to be the favoured competitor to Amazon’s KDP and many self-publishing authors prefer it because of the greater access to brick-and-mortar distributors it allows. IngramSpark does also distribute to all major online distributors, including Amazon.

Compared to publishing with KDP, the process with IngramSpark is more costly and more involved. While KDP has three pages of information to fill in (Details, Content, Pricing), IngramSpark has almost ten. There is also a setup fee upon upload of your manuscript that can be hefty. However, they regularly have discount codes that will allow you to avoid the fee if you time your publishing right.

IngramSpark do allow authors to publish hardback books but this feature seems to come with decreased support for e-books, which have a fee for conversion from Word/PDF to epub. Most authors I know who use IngramSpark still publish their e-books with KDP or another service.

Pros

A focus on print books that includes meta-data and pricing information that makes bookstores and libraries more accessible.

Cons

Books are more complicated to setup than KDP and e-book support is costly and poor.

2.

Pros

A sleek interface that is very intuitive and a large range of print book options, including hardback. Different authors can receive royalties for different books from the same account.

Cons

Despite claiming a large online bookstore, they seem to have become almost forgotten in the self-publishing world.

Lulu is the original print-on-demand self-publishing company and is still going strong. They claim the largest independent online bookstore and feature a wide range of print options as well as good e-book support and wide global distribution.

Their setup system is quite easy to navigate and, like IngramSpark, they also have Hardcover options as well as several types of bindings.

Lulu also has a unique feature that allows the royalties from each published book to go to a different author. This is incredibly helpful if you decide to help a friend publish their book through your account. Oh, and they distribute widely to online markets (including Amazon) as well as allowing access to libraries, schools, and their own online bookstore.

3.

Draft2Digital is a relative new-comer to the self-publishing marketplace. Although they’ve only been around a few years, they’ve already carved out a strong niche and appear to be very serious about supporting independent authors and growing their network of partners.

From the beginning, their specialties were e-book and audiobooks. Their e-book converter is simple and intuitive and contains formatting themes for different genres. For audiobooks, they’ve partnered with Findaway Voices, who will waive their standard service fee if you are a Draft2Digital author.

Draft2Digital has recently added print books to their options, allowing them to provide the full package and compete with the larger platforms. They distribute to a large range of online markets inclulding the usual suspects (Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes&Noble) as well as some dedicated audiobook distributors and large European retailers.

The biggest downside to Draft2Digital is simply that they’re new and aren’t well known. But if they keep developing as they have been, that will change quickly.

Pros

Easy to use, a good e-book converter, strong interest in self-publishing authors (regular live webinars), continually growing, improving and developing new services.

Cons

Still small compared to the major players in the market. New to print books (as of June 2020).

4.

Pros

The author keeps all royalties, good e-book converter, a growing author community and royalty splitting (as well as a host of other book management tools).

Cons

A monthly subscription plus paid add-on services.

PublishDrive is another new self-publishing platform looking to take some of the customers from Amazon KDP. They allow publishing of e-books, print and audiobooks but they really pride themselves on their author book management tools, analytics, and promotion options.

Furthermore, PublishDrive is the only self-publishing platform to offer royalty splitting for multi-author books. However it is a paid extra.

One of their big draws is wide distribution to markets including Google Play and China.

While PublishDrive has a host of advanced management tools for self-publishing authors, their subscription model (monthly account fee) and depth of tools suggest this platform best serves authors with a large backlist, or small presses who represent a few dozen authors.

 

5.

Rounding out our five Amazon KDP challengers is StreetLib, another newcomer. Like the other newcomers, StreetLib supports the sale of e-books, audiobooks (using Il Narratore Audiolibri), and print books, although no hardbacks. Their e-book creator is unique in that you can either upload your file or paste text directly into an online editor.

StreetLib is primarily a digital distributor and that shows in their pricing model. Both e-books and audio books are free to produce, with the company taking 10% and 20% respectively of the cover price. For print books, however, they charge an activation fee of 49 euro + 10% the cover cost.

Pros

E-book, audio and print book creation and sale. Unique e-book creator with online editor.

Cons

Expensive for print.

Which is Right for You?

Feature Ingram Spark Lulu Draft2Digital PublishDrive StreetLib

Cost to Author

setup fee per
book uploaded
free up front
free up front
monthly subscription
plans
free for digital
+ setup fee for
print books

Author Royalties

40%
80%
90% (ebook)
100%
90% (ebook)
80% (audio)

Financial Info
Required

Bank Account,
Tax Form if not US/UK/AU
Tax Form
Tax Form
Tax Form
Tax Form

E-Book

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Paperback

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Hardback

Yes
Yes
X
X
X

Audiobook

X
X
Yes
Yes
Yes

E-Book
Convertor

for a fee and
to epub only
free to mobi,
epub, pdf
free to mobi,
epub, pdf
free to mobi,
epub, pdf
free, only
to epub

Multi-Author
Royalties

X
different author/book
X
royalty splitting,
for a fee
X

Wide Distribution
(Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes&Noble)

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Final Words

With so many new players to the game, and some very experienced veterans staying strong, it will be interesting to see which thrive and how they each develop their particular niche. Amazon KDP is quite far ahead at this point, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for newcomers. 

And remember, a smart self-publishing author will know that publishing with multiple platforms not only gives you wider distribution but also less chance of falling victim to a harsh algorithm that undoes all your hardwork overnight.

If you are starting out in self-publishing or are moving from Amazon, here’s a helpful table of what you need to know about each platform we’ve discussed above. And if you’d like to continue the conversation, please come by our FaceBook page, the Utility Fog Forum.

Do You Want an Alternative to Amazon KDP? Here’s Our Top Five.
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