Self publishing is a broad topic. There are many ways to self publish, through: vanity presses, subsidy publishers, micro publishing, POD (print on demand) printing, also known as short run printing, and 'true' self publishing.
Vanity presses should typically be avoided; they market themselves as traditional or subsidy publishers, but charge high fees and do very little or no marketing/distribution for you. They don't make selections for the most part, and take whatever comes their way.
Subsidy publishers are not as selective as traditional publishers, but work in a similar manner in the form that they reject manuscripts often. However, they charge the author for binding and publishing; the upside is that they contribute to marketing and distribution, and publish under their name. Authors tend to have limited control over design and such, and receive royalties, while the publisher keeps an amount.
Micro publishing publishers in micro or niche markets, and tend - due to the risk of lack of appeal and low economic scale - to be published electronically.
POD, or print on demand printing, are such like Lulu and Blurb. These tend to be done for short run books. These are useful for small quantities of books, and are useful for samples or one-off books. The price is normally somewhat high and is not really for large amounts of printing. Many are based online; though some offer ISBN numbers for an extra price, and some can also be linked to sites like Amazon, it's generally not an encouraged form of self publishing, except for short run printing. A lot of the time, POD printers create side operations that run as subsidy or vanity publishers.
Then there is 'true' self publishing, in which the writer encounters and deals personally with the marketing, distribution, design and storage, and covers the entire cost. A writer might hire a designer for the cover, or simply do it themselves; as a result of all this, all profits made go straight to the writer. Steps for true self publishing are listed below.
Through a local printer
Through a Website
- Get a proof of your book before it goes to print. If you don't like how your book looks, you can make changes before you pay a lot of money for 1,000 flawed copies.
- Make sure that your book is proofread thoroughly. You don't want your book to get bad reviews because of typing errors and/or poor layout. It's worth the money to hire a professional editor to read your book. You don't want people knowing that your book is a self-published book.
- Add a great description to your book. That way, it will attract more customers. Use pithy descriptions to draw their interest.
- Publicity is really the key. There are plenty of wonderful books in the world that sold 351 copies because they weren't properly promoted. And there are many ghastly, poorly written books that sold 43,000 copies because they were properly promoted.
- Research shows that book-buying customers look at three things: The front cover, rear cover and table of contents. Spend the money to make these three places sing. Hire a graphic artist if necessary but think of this as the "kitchen and bath" sections of your book. Money spent in these areas will pay handsome dividends.
- List your books on Amazon.com. Give yourself plenty of time to write the "publisher's comments" and make sure it is precise, grammatically flawless and well written. This is what potential book buyers will use to make a decision about buying your book.
- Send two copies of the book to Amazon.com (following instructions at their site) so that the book can be scanned and made available on the "search inside this book" feature.
- Write thoughtfully worded, intelligent and interesting reviews of similar subject books at amazon.com, and create a signature and/or tagline such as, "Rosemary Thornton, author,The Houses That Sears Built." Such a tagline generates tremendous free publicity to your target market!
- Send free copies to anyone who may have an interest in this topic and ask that they write a review at amazon.com. Books with no reviews at amazon.com have a very, very low sales rank. Since potential buyers can't thumb through your book at amazon.com, they'll rely on other people's reviews.
- Start a website and link it to the Amazon bookstore. Sell your books through your website.
- You can also think of using services that offer POD fulfillment. These will make you pay a fee but eases the work for you. But keep in mind that POD (print on demand) is only for writers who are looking for a hobby, not a money-making career. Printing 1,000 copies of the average book costs about $3,500 to $5,000 or less than $5 per book. The cost to do this through POD would be about three times as much. Amazon (and most book buyers) will pay 50% of your cover price. It's hard to make money selling a $15 book for $10 (assuming a cover price of $19.95).
- Don't over-purchase books, especially when easily avoided and/or when demand is uncertain. Too much extra stock means that you've paid too much and are unlikely to gain much from it.
- Aggressively market your book through press releases, articles blogs, websites, and any other way that you can think of because marketing is the core activity that will ensure that people know and buy the book.
- Get your book into book fairs like BookExpo America and the London Book Fair which will give you access to the traditional publishing industry - several third parties offer this kind of book marketing for a nominal fee.