Anyone can self-publish.
But not everyone can self-publish WELL.
Seriously, anyone can throw some words together, slap a picture on the front, and upload it to Amazon for practically nothing. But we should aim higher than that.
I spent a couple of years getting absolutely nowhere with the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, the agents. Dozens and dozens of form rejections, and even more just flat out ignoring me. After lots of soul-searching and research, I realized I probably never would get anywhere. I have my opinions on why that’s true, but that’s a whole other story.
And so I made the decision to self-publish. However, I wanted quality. I wanted my books to fit on my bookshelf among all the other authors and look like they belonged. I wanted them to look and read professional. This leads to the three big expenses that self-publishing authors have to cover. (If you publish traditionally, you generally won’t have to worry about these.)
Hiring an editor is a personal decision, one that can take your book to the next level, but also be somewhat expensive (especially if you write long books). There are different types of editors, as well, which would be a different topic. I chose to hire a developmental editor, Mica Kole, for my first book, which helped me nail down some weaknesses in the original draft.
Books are judged by the covers. Always. Self-publishing authors can choose just about any price range they desire for cover design. You can design your own, or hire a very cheap artist or a very expensive artist. For the Heart of Fire series, I used 99designs.com to connect with an artist in Indonesia who created my covers. For the Dragontech Lore series, I talked to an artist I already knew, Austin DeGroot, and worked out a deal between us for those cover designs.
ISBN numbers are required for publication. Once again, choices exist for this problem. If you choose to print and sell your book exclusively with Amazon, they will give you an ISBN number for free, but that’s very limiting. To purchase your own ISBNs, you have to buy them from Bowker Identifier Services. A single ISBN costs $125, but you can buy ten for $295 (or 100 for $575). That’s important because you need a different ISBN for each version of your book (paperback, hardback, or ebook).
After that, you have two decisions to make about actual publication. First: who will print physical copies of your book. Second: who will distribute the electronic version of your book.
For physical printing, I used both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark. Here’s the reasoning: IngramSpark will distribute to everywhere, including Amazon, so some people only print via them. However, since that is mostly print-on-demand, Amazon will list the book as “available in 2-3 weeks.” By printing it with Amazon also, you get Amazon’s fast delivery. Printing via Amazon KDP is free. Printing via IngramSpark will cost around $50, I believe. As a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, I can get a substantial discount on that.
For ebook publication, once again you can choose to go exclusively with Amazon, or with everyone (“going wide”). With this choice, there is a very good reason to stick with Amazon, and that reason is Kindle Unlimited. Readers who subscribe to this service from Amazon are able to read any ebooks they want. It’s sort of a fee-based library service. Amazon then pays authors based on how many pages are actually read. For many authors, the profit from this arrangement far outweighs the need to be available on other markets (Apple, Kobo, etc.). This is the system I’ve decided to use for now, and I’ve definitely seen advantages to it. Depending on genre, however, some other types of books may not do as well on Kindle Unlimited, making it less appealing.
Once all of these decisions have been made, and everything is set up through the publication choices, the next step is marketing. And that’s a huge factor that I’m still slowly learning about.