Hi, everyone who's reading this. :)
I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while, but I just built up the motivation to request a blog yesterday. It's my intention to write here about self-publishing, because I know there are a lot of people on the site here who write on a regular basis and who have other, more extensive writing projects. It's generally seen as difficult to publish books, and I think going through traditional publishers it is. The number of authors self-publishing has grown hugely to the extent that the whole industry is changing in an ongoing way. A lot of people have come to realise that they don't need agents or traditional publishers to put their books out there and build up a name for themselves, but there are hurdles to self publishing as well. It can be very hard to market your books and while companies offer various distribution channels, they're generally going to not put your books in real bookstores the way that traditional publishers will. A lot of people buy their books online now, but generally people aren't going to find a book unless they know to look for it.
I think what holds a lot of people back from publishing is the expectation that what they want to publish should be utterly perfect. It honestly doesn't need to be, though it's best for it to be as good as possible. What you need to be careful about (I would say first and foremost) is that you don't violate any copyrights or others' intellectual property. If you have a look at Smashwords, you'll see that people can publish (and do publish) anything. Books that aren't edited, on every subject under the sun where they've just written some text and put it out there. If you write a novel (or even if it's much shorter than that), it gives you something to work with, edit and prepare if you want to publish it. You don't need anyone else's ideals of perfection to write something and publish it yourself. You only need your own (and to have it approved by the company printing the book/Amazon). It puts the decision of when to publish and what to publish in your own hands. You don't need to wait for a publisher to decide your work is 'good enough' or will make enough money for them. However, if you want to sell it well then it has to be something that people will buy and they need to learn about it. This may not even be your goal for publishing - generating large sales wasn't my goal when I published poetry. I did it because I wanted to.
Once you know the 'terrain', it makes it easier to figure out how to go about things, and that's what I want to write about here. I've only used a few different sites (Createspace, Amazon and Smashwords), but I mean to write here about my experiences with them, how you go about publishing your books with them, and what kind of formatting information you need/where to find it. The hurdles I've encountered are with accounting (more complicated tax), needing to register as self-employed in Ireland, legal deposit books (when you publish a book in paperback, in some countries the publisher is legally required to submit copies to libraries. If you're self-publishing, that may be yourself), and finding ways to publicise my own books/pen names. What I've found is it helps to learn to do the things you need yourself, from creating covers (I'm going to go into how to go about it for Createspace/Amazon/Smashwords with content you can legally use), editing (if you can do it yourself for example, you'll save money) and creating your own web sites (which you can do for free, for example with a free Wordpress blog).
It's quite an indepth subject but I also feel like once you know how it works, there isn't all that much to it. What you should know upfront is that (in many cases), when you self-publish you're not going to have a lot of success overnight. It's something that you may work at with little sign of reward, but it something that can be built up over time and it can be extremely fun as well. :)