How to Self-Publish a Book for Free

For seasones or aspiring authors looking to publish your work without spending a fortune, this guide is for you. In this article, we will explore the various options for publishing a book for free. We will delve into the differences between publishing a print book versus an ebook and provide a comprehensive walkthrough of the steps involved in self-publishing your work on a budget. Whether you have a compelling manuscript or a book idea worth pursuing, this guide will equip you with the tools and knowledge to publish your work for free.

Get inspiration from Successful Self-published Children’s Books.

Alternatively, if you are interested in self-publishing but aren’t ready to fully commit to the workload, try the Hybrid Publishers For Children’s Books route.

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

When it comes to publishing a book, authors have two options: traditional publishing or self-publishing. Traditional publishing involves submitting a manuscript to a publishing house, which then handles the editing, design, printing, and distribution of the book. In contrast, self-publishing allows authors to have complete control over the publishing process, from editing to distribution.

While traditional publishing can offer prestige and wider distribution, it often comes with significant upfront costs and a longer timeline for publication. Self-publishing, on the other hand, allows authors to publish their book quickly and at a lower cost, but may require more effort to market and distribute the book.

To learn more about the costs and benefits of traditional publishing and self-publishing, check out The Cost of Publishing A Children’s Book.

soft primary boy reading with dolls bookshelf

Print Books vs. Ebooks

When it comes to self-publishing, authors have two main options: print books and ebooks. Each format has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Print Books

Publishing a print book is more expensive than publishing an ebook because it involves the cost of physical production. However, print books can be a great option for authors who want to sell their books at events or in physical stores.


Ebooks, on the other hand, can be published for free or at a very low cost. They are also more accessible to readers because they can be purchased and downloaded instantly. However, some readers still prefer print books, so authors may miss out on potential sales if they only publish in ebook format.

This comparison chart can be helpful in determining the best self-publishing site for your needs.

CriteriaeBooksPrint Books
Ease of distributionEasyDifficult
Reading experienceDigital, adjustable font size and backgroundPhysical, tactile experience
Production timeShort, immediateLong, production and shipping time
AvailabilityUnlimited, can be downloaded anytime, anywhereLimited, dependent on inventory and shipping
Marketing opportunitiesOnline marketing, social mediaBook tours, signings, in-store displays
Potential earningsHigh royalties, lower cost of productionLower royalties, higher cost of production
Environmental impactLow, no paper or ink usageHigh, paper and ink usage

Note: The cost for eBooks may include fees for conversion or distribution, while the cost for print books may vary depending on the number of copies printed and shipping costs.

Publishing Ebooks

For authors who choose to publish ebooks, there are several options available.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Amazon KDP is a popular self-publishing platform that allows authors to upload their ebooks for free. Authors can earn up to 70% in royalties on their ebook sales.


Smashwords is another popular platform for publishing ebooks. It offers free tools for formatting and distributing ebooks, and authors can earn up to 80% in royalties on their sales.

Ebook Aggregators

Ebook aggregators, such as Draft2Digital and BookBaby, allow authors to distribute their ebooks to multiple retailers with a single upload. While these services charge a fee, they can save authors time and effort in the long run.

Social Publishing

Social publishing platforms, such as Wattpad and Medium, allow authors to share their work with a large audience for free. While these platforms may not generate income directly, they can help authors build a following and gain exposure for their work.

Amazon Kindle Direct PublishingFreeWidely used platform with a large audience, easy to useLimited distribution options, royalties may vary
SmashwordsFreeWide distribution options, easy to useLimited formatting options, may require additional editing
Draft2DigitalFreeWide distribution options, user-friendly interfaceLimited formatting options, royalties may vary
BookBabyVariesProfessional design and formatting services available, extensive distribution optionsHigher costs compared to some other platforms
WattpadFreeLarge community of readers and writers, easy to useLimited distribution options, may require additional marketing
MediumFreeLarge platform with built-in audience, easy to useLimited formatting options, royalties may vary

Publishing Print Books

For authors who choose to publish print books, there are several options available as well.

Print on Demand (POD)

Print on demand services, such as Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, allow authors to print books as they are ordered. This eliminates the need for authors to order a large number of books upfront, which can be expensive.

Paperback Self-Publishing

Authors can also choose to self-publish print books through services such as Lulu or Blurb. These services offer tools for formatting and printing books, but authors will need to handle distribution themselves.

Below is a comparison chart for publishing print books. It’s important to note that costs can vary depending on factors such as book length, printing options, and marketing packages.

Publishing SiteCostProsCons
Amazon Kindle Direct PublishingFreeWide distribution network, easy to useLimited formatting options
Barnes & Noble PressFreeReach a large audience, easy to useLimited marketing resources
IngramSpark$49 setup fee, $25/title for ebook and printOffers print on demand and ebook distribution, wide distribution networkNot as user-friendly as other platforms
LuluFree to publish, printing costs varyOffers a wide range of book formats and printing optionsLimited distribution network
BlurbFree to publish, printing costs varyHigh-quality printing and paper options, easy to useLimited marketing resources

How to Self-Publish a Book for Free

Self-publishing a book for free may sound too good to be true, but it is possible with the right tools and resources. Here are some practical steps to self-publish your book without breaking the bank:

Choose Your Format

Depending on your choice of print book or ebook, you will be designing your content based on these parameters.

Learn how to set up your Children’s Book Layout.

Write and Edit Your Manuscript

Before publishing, make sure your book manuscript is well-written and edited. You may want to hire an editor or enlist the help of beta readers to ensure your book is polished and error-free.

Create a Cover 

A professional-looking cover can help your book stand out in a crowded market. You can hire a freelance designer or use a free design tool like Canva to create your own cover.

Read this guide on how to find a children’s book illustrator.

Format Your Book 

Formatting your book for publication can be a daunting task, but there are free tools available that can help. Amazon’s Kindle Create and Draft2Digital’s free ebook templates are two options to consider.

Check out this article on how to format a children’s book.

Choose a Self-Publishing Platform 

There are several self-publishing platforms that offer free publishing options, including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital. Each platform has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research and choose the best fit for your book.

Publish and Promote Your Book 

Once your book is published, it’s up to you to promote it and get it in the hands of readers. Utilize social media, book promotion sites, and other marketing tactics to spread the word about your book and generate sales.

Check out how to promote a self-published book.

By following these steps and utilizing the resources available to you, it is possible to self-publish a book for free and bring your writing to a wider audience.

Self-publishing a book for free is possible, but it requires some research and effort on the part of the author. 

Learn more on how to cut the costs of publishing in How AI Can Help Publish Your Children’s Books on a Budget. And try Midjourney for creating your next illustrations.

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