Publishing a Story or Book? Here are the Top Platforms--- Take a Look! 📖

Greetings, fellow reader. Or would you be more comfortable being addressed as a writer? Nevertheless, the world of self-publishing awaits your creative fingertips, buzzing with energy and humming with opportunities. However, it is advisory that you find the most suitable environment first.

Just like any marketing skill, understanding the target audience is the key 🔑 for identifying the perfect marina of success to lay down the anchors of your ship of effort. No, not the relationship “ship”; the medieval era wooden vessels that float on water —in the metaphorical sense, here.

Anyways, here are some of the top platforms that would be of interest to you. Before diving headfirst into the pool, it is advisory to have a thorough tour of the platforms:

Wattpad (👑the OG)

The Canadian platform that existed since 2006! Speaking from my own desk of anecdotes, I can vouch for Wattpad as one of the most promising places for both reading and writing stories. Although I myself began publishing there a decade after it was first launched, so far Wattpad has been my best friend in gaining feedback and traction from readers.

In fact, among all the other websites and apps that shall be discussed in this article, Wattpad would remain standing as one of my steadfast sources of online readers (I literally swear by it!) and meeting new bookworm friends.

In a quick definition, Wattpad is the “social media platform for writers”.

😀 Pros:

  1. Friendly Community — everyone is welcome, as long as you are not too toxic. Besides that, I have met several amazing people through Wattpad, whom I still hold dearly.
  2. Rich Media Supportive — using the Wattpad text editor is easier than a word processor like Microsoft Word! Alongside the regular text formatting, i.e. bold, italics, and pictures, you can add in YouTube videos! This means Wattpad can be appropriate for publishing photo albums or even compilations of videos centered around a specific genre or topic! Literally any kind of publication is possible on Wattpad, from poetry to novels to gamebooks.
  3. Autosaves — you can relax while typing in your stories since Wattpad provides a ‘revision history’ of all your changes performed on each chapter (called ‘part’).
  4. Rankings — the algorithm of Wattpad automatically ranks your works across multiple genres and hashtags. I myself can proudly acclaim being the author of books that have reached #1 in IELTS and #1 in Web Design!
  5. Messaging — you can easily contact other authors and readers via Wattpad’s own messaging system.
  6. Awards — Wattpad hosts multiple contests and offers awards for selected finalists and winners, such as the famous Wattys held each year.
  7. Publishing Opportunities — for certain authors, Wattpad shall take full responsibility of bringing your books to the printing press! This means your books will be globally distributed and available in libraries and bookstores around the world, at no additional cost from your behalf.
  8. Adaptations — sometimes, if your work receives enough recognition, an organization might step in to turn it into a film or TV adaptation! Many Netflix series have been based off original stories from Wattpad.
  9. Monetization — lastly, you can convert your free-to-read stories into ‘paid stories’ that generate about 2 to 3 figures ($100-$1000) each month, depending on the number of readers.

☹️ Cons:

  1. Female First — the general demographics of Wattpad’s community is composed of female-identifying readers. As such, they would be mostly interested in content related to the genres and themes concerning Romance, Fanfiction, Fantasy, and LGBTQ. (Not a profitable place for action novelists like myself!) Don’t be too disappointed, though; other genres are welcome but they would not receive as many views or votes as the mainstream trends.
  2. Glitch & Gone — one of the defects of Wattpad’s text editor is its unreliability. Although the likelihood of errors has plummeted by an order of magnitude from 2018 to 2023, there are still a few chances of your changes not being properly saved, or worse, losing the entire chapter.
  3. Declining Userbase — as the world becomes more prone to busier lifestyles, fewer people have enough time and energy to spend on reading books. From my own statistical research, I have discovered that the reader retention becomes very difficult if your stories are not ‘addictive’ enough to satisfy the readers’ expectations.

Lulu (🤑 the Money Factory)

Originating from the United States as early as 2002, Lulu Press can be an early easy lab for publishing your stories, poetry, articles, etc. in the form of printed books — paperbacks or hardbacks.

And if you already have an ecommerce website set up with WooCommerce, you can integrate your book selling projects under your own control! Even without your own website, Lulu offers services for self-publishing your novels, compilations, photo albums, etc. into physical copies!

Lulu is mainly used for print-on-demand (POD) publishing, where authors upload manuscripts (document files containing the book’s text and content)

😀 Pros:

  1. Completely Free — unlike traditional publishers where you have to pay an initial fee for printing the first edition copies, Lulu simply takes its cut from the cost price of each book sold. That means you are able to set your own prices while getting a preview of the net revenue you shall receive from each sale.
  2. Various Sizes — you can publish books with any dimensions, e.g. A4, A5, Letter, etc. without much difficulty since the platform automatically measures
  3. Cover Designer — Lulu has multiple auto-generated cover templates that are produced by picking out the information from the book’s metadata, as well as an integration with Canva (recommended!). Or if you want to deal with the designing on a third-party software like Adobe Photoshop, you can even download a template that contains all the margins according to your book’s sizing and thickness.
  4. Cost Calculator — easily confirm the printing costs for your book, depending on the paper quality, ink type (black, color), binding type, etc. from Lulu’s website here. Don’t worry! You are not going to pay for the printing costs; rather, those costs shall be deducted from the selling price of your books.
  5. Automated Selling — if you have a PayPal account, entering your associated email address for the ‘Sales and Payments’ section makes you eligible for easily transferring your income to your bank account. Payouts are performed at the end of every month. Even if you do not place any efforts in ‘getting the word out’ about your books… even without ANY form of external marketing or advertising, somehow 2 books have been purchased by random strangers on Lulu so far, accumulating a profit of about 17.83 USD for me at zero cost! So you can imagine that if you actually get customers from your marketing campaigns, things can get really fantastic with a steady stream of income from only an initial effort.

☹️ Cons:

  1. Page Limits — Lulu currently only publishes books whose length is between 2 to 800 pages long. If you’re willing to publish a 1000-page academic textbook or a single volume novel as thick as Lord of the Rings, then you have no choice but to split them into smaller volumes instead.
  2. Fixed Paper Dimensions — once you have created a ‘project’ for a book, you cannot change its dimensions. For example, if you uploaded an A4-size PDF, you cannot switch to an A5-sized book. You must create a new ‘project’ entirely. This was a harsh lesson I learnt when I first published my first novel on Lulu. The manuscript was formatted as an A4-size PDF. Thus, the final product ended up looking like this instead of a regular-sized ‘novel’ (which I fixed later on) that looks like this.
  3. Printing Costs— the minimum cost price of a book is 2.55 USD for an A5-size 32-page book (excluding front and back covers). If your book is being used for global distribution, then the minimum price of the book shall be 2 times the minimum printing price (=5.10 USD). This indicates that your books must be priced above 5.10 USD if you want them appearing in libraries and bookstores, or at least 2.55 USD if you are going to manage the sales and distribution on your own. Thinking in terms of international book prices, a 100 page book would cost about 20.00 USD which is a relatively affordable price for readers in first-world nations such as Canada. However, for less developed countries like Bangladesh, most books cost less than 10.00 USD so there would be a significant lack of buyers in these regions.

WebNovel (📖 the Reader Storm)

If you care less about publishing books on print or selling them at all, and if you care more about just writing stories and making them available to people around the world, the Chinese platform WebNovel stands out as a greater opportunity!

Although largely based in China, readers and writers from around the world are accepted equally onto this platform which — as its name suggests — is home to online novels and series stories. This means, WebNovel is not the ideal place for publishing books; it is only for stories, either complete or ongoing.

😀 Pros:

  1. Instant Engagement — as soon as your first chapter is launched publicly, the WebNovel algorithm pushes it out to thousands of active readers on the platform, gaining hundreds of views within the first hour.
  2. First Recognition — every new novel published gets a chance at being featured on the platform’s listing of new and upcoming stories, earning a possibility of your work going viral.
  3. Gamification — many features such as ranks, levels, achievement badges, make the user experience feel like a game.
  4. Contracts — after writing about 5000 words for a story, you can apply for contracts on WebNovel, which are the primary monetization streams. You summarize information about the story and (if they like it), it gets monetized!
  5. Contests — every few months, there are a number of competitions centralized around particular themes or ‘starting scenarios’. Finalists get financially and socially rewarded. Winners get their story featured in various public billboards, such as Times Square in New York, USA.

☹️ Cons:

  1. Reader Bias — there is a mixed userbase on WebNovel, with a large number of male readers and writers. As such, most novels are focused on the xianxia and wuxia genres, relating to the Chinese cultures and folklore. The age demographics might be an issue since the youthful readers are more eager to view stories that have sexually-suggestive content (e.g. an anime girl artwork) and demand very edgy storylines (e.g. OP MC = overpowered main character(s)).
  2. Limited Formatting — other than placing paragraphs and line breaks, there is no way to decorate or format text, not even the basic text alignment or bold options.
  3. Only English — stories written in languages other than English are immediately disqualified for Contracts as well as facing warnings for breaking the Terms of Service. This also happens if your novel cover contains non-English text or if they contain Chinese text.
  4. No Deletion — a very weird policy is that you cannot delete stories from WebNovel. You could try contacting your editor-in-charge or support helpdesks, but the only feasible solution is to erase all the text from every chapter, delete the book cover, delete the story info, and rename the story to something random and gibberish.

Blurb (📢 the Distro Mafia)

If you only want to build up an awareness about your publications, or if you wish to see your books showing up in libraries and bookstores very fast, Blurb can do that very well!

Another American publishing company that deals with the same industry as Lulu mentioned above.

😀 Pros:

  1. Greater Reach — if you are thinking in terms of distribution, Blurb sends out your work to various sellers and retailers worldwide, especially those based in Europe and North America.
  2. Cover Compatibility — while uploading a PDF, you choose for the very first page to be used as a front cover and the very last page as the back cover, respectively.
  3. Bespoke Software — Blurb has its own downloadable desktop client (called BookWright) for producing the entire publication efficiently.

☹️ Cons:

  1. Sensitive— your manuscript’s dimensions matter. Your image quality (if applicable) matters. If the errors are critical, you cannot progress further until you have fixed them. You also cannot place in “Published by Blurb” or “Blurb Press” anywhere within your publication.
  2. One Direction — unlike Lulu, you can only choose to either sell your books on Blurb or distribute them globally. Lulu allows both options to remain active.

RoyalRoad (️💪 the Flexing Arena)

If you are a daring storywriter or novelist, it is worth mentioning about RoyalRoad, a platform full of invested readers and critics. If your work is excellent, be prepared to gain some fans! If not, then the criticism and feedback should set you straight on the ‘road’ to success.

This platforms works on a similar basis as WebNovel, although you first pitch your first chapter of every story and await approval from the site administrators.

Google Play Books (🌟 the Standard)

Finally, every author of the digital age should have their own publisher account or be in touch with a publisher who actively uses Google Play to distribute or sell e-books.

Without a doubt, you can control pretty much everything about your works from the Google Play Console, including pricing, distribution, versioning, analytics, etc.

If prompted, you can receive a free ISBN from Lulu or Blurb above.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This article took me nearly five days to complete. Mainly because currently (as of the date of publication of this article) I am not going through the best of times. My mental warehouse is full of hazards and I spent too long trying to mitigate them whilst trying to finish this text.

I had to take lengthy breaks, usually typing and progressing for only 1–2 hours each day to get this article done. If you’re reading this, I am really satisfied that you could reap some benefits and inspiration from it.

Take care, and good luck on your writing endeavors!