I asked myself that very question in 2008 when I published my first book. I had sent out query letters to publishing houses, etc. for about two years and it was all very disappointing, so I started to look into the world of self-publishing.
At my age I wasn’t going to wait around to see if and when a regular publishing house would pick up my manuscript. I wanted it to happen in my lifetime and that looked pretty unlikely as the big guys are very reluctant to take on a new, unknown author. At this point, I decided I had enough rejection letters and I started to research all the self-publishing companies that were springing up. The more I read, the more I was convinced that this is the way of the future and it would also give me more control over my work.
With self-publishing, you set the price for your book, but it should be in range with other books of the same genre and length. On royalties, the company should pay you on a fixed-cost basis. When you sign up with them you should know what this is upfront, usually according to the page count of your book, plus a small percentage to the publisher. The difference between that and the price you have set for your book is your profit. Bear in mind that if any bookstores buy your book, it will have to be sold to those places at a trade discount, so your profit will be less.
Royalty payments may be paid monthly, or quarterly, and sometimes go by royalty amount accumulated, so check that information with each publisher you may be considering.
Some of these publishers also have a book cover service, so you don’t necessarily have to know or have access to Photoshop or a friend who can do your book cover for you. Some of the publishers can charge a considerable amount for the book cover design service and with some it is just a matter of doing it yourself with templates and photos provided. In this latter case, you can also use your own photos and change color schemes to give your book a professional and unique look. Remember, book covers are the first thing a reader will see so it is important to have a good cover.
I decided to go this route after looking at all the pros and cons of the POD’s (print-on-demand) publishers that were available at the time. I decided on Createspace and have been happy with my decision, having published three novels with them so far. The work is quality and they have reasonable prices. I always retained the rights to your book and was only required to purchase the proof copy of my book and nothing else ever, if I didn’t want to, unless I make changes to my original copy and resubmit a new upgraded edition of the book. In this case, the purchase of a proof copy would again be required. This proof copy is for you to look over and give your okay. Until you do so, nothing will go live and your book will remain in limbo.
Createspace also will put your book on Amazon in the US and several other countries, but it is up to you to put it on Barnes and Nobel and other bookseller sites. Of course the self-publishing market is always changing so this may change in the future.
Once your book is up on Amazon, you can also use their kindle creator and covert your book to kindle ereader format. This is quick and easy. To make it available for other ereaders, you’d have research this and do each one separately. I have heard good and bad things about Smashwords, who will convert your book to various ebook formats, so you could check them out also and use your own judgement. Here is that link: http://www.smashwords.com/
Instead of making this post any longer and giving a brief overview of the companies that are out there for self-publishing your work, I will give links to these places so, if you choose, you can check out more of the details.
Not all self-publishing companies are alike. They all differ in how their services work and are priced. There are also different publishing packages you can choose from with each, so if you go this way, it pays to do your homework first. Once you get to this stage, it could cost you as little as a few dollars for your proof copy to as much as a few thousand if you want everything done for you (cover, formatting, proofing and editing, etc).
Self-publishing companies in the US:
Author House - http://www.authorhouse.com/
Lulu - http://www.lulu.com/
Infinity - http://www.infinitypublishing.com/
iUniverse - http://www.iuniverse.com/
Outskirts Press - http://www.outskirtspress.com/
Publish America - http://www.publishamerica.com/
Tate Publishing - http://www.tatepublishing.com/
Trafford Publishing - http://www.trafford.com/
Wheatmark Book Publishers - http://www.wheatmark.com/
Xlibris - http://www2.xlibris.com/
Xulon Press - http://www.xulonpress.com/
Dog Ear - http://dogearpublishing.net/
Lightning Source - http://www1.lightningsource.com/
Here are some companies in the UK:
Authors Online - http://www.authorsonline.co.uk/
Writers World - http://www.writersworld.co.uk/
YPS Publishing - http://www.yps-publishing.co.uk/
Author House - http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/
Xlibris - http://www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk/
Self-publishing companies in Australia:
Australian Self-publishing Group - http://australianselfpublishinggroup.com/
Love of Books - http://www.loveofbooks.com.au/
BookPal - http://www.bookpal.com.au/
Xlibris - http://www.xlibris.com.au/
Publish Me - http://www.publish-me.com.au/
Of course I’m sure I missed some of them because there are many to choose from now, but this is enough to get you started.
A word of caution about avoiding scams before you learn the ropes of self-publishing.
Rule # 1 Always upload your own PDF files. You may use any of the sources listed above as your publisher and they may be doing some of the work for you, like formatting and editing your files, but ALWAYS upload the finished files to YOUR account. The publisher you choose should provide you with your account and dashboard where all this will take place.
Rule # 2 Pay attention to how much a copy of your book is costing you. It should be so much a page (usually a cent or two) plus the royalty fee the publisher wants per book, which is clearly stated on the page before you sign up. If you are getting charged more than that for author copies, QUESTION it. That should not happen with a legitimate company.
Rule # 3 The publishing company you have chosen should do all the work for you concerning shipping your book and fulfilling orders and also posting to Amazon, or in their catalog or website. Createspace and Lightning Source both do this. If you have to do any of this, BEWARE.
Rule # 4 If you hire the publisher to do the cover, formatting for book printing, and/or conversion to ebook format, there should be a ONE TIME fee for this work. When your book is complete you should receive all the files, so that you can upload all the finished files yourself. Usually this requires you to upload separate PDF files for the cover and the interior of your book. As mentioned earlier, you will already have an account set up where you can do this for the print version of your books. This also means you will have to set up accounts for yourself for Kindle, Pubit, Smashwords, Apple, etc for uploading your own files for ebooks once the conversions are ready. (KDP is for kindle ebooks – Apple is for mobi ebooks – Pubit is for the nook ebooks, epub is for about everyone else’s files.
The thing to always remember is that if anyone is taking your money for any work on your book, whether it be the cover, interior design, ebook conversion or any other publishing service, they should NEVER load the finished files into THEIR account. If you use anyone like that, it has SCAM written all over it.