I thought I'd explore self-publishing a bit, for those interested in it. It is a much bigger topic than traditional publishing. With traditional publishing all you need to do is write well and snag an agent. Many of the contracts don't allow competition, so you don't even have to figure out marketing.
I divide self-publishing into two areas. One is where the writer pays a company to publish their works. The fee can be from $500 and up, up a lot. We use slang and call these POD companies. For the most part, they have replaced what was called vanity publishing. Vanity publishing is now considered a derogatory term.
The term POD refers to Print On Demand which is actually the print method, the technology used, and not technically the correct way to refer to these company, but we do it as industry slang. (Be prepared to be corrected by purists.) Some companies call themselves author assisted publishing, but since POD is easier to write, that term gets used in a broad fashion.
Basically the writer pays the set-up fee and sends their ms in a digital file. The company puts it into book format, which is different from ms format. Usually cover art is included. The ISBN belongs to the publisher (of course). Most of the time, the interior or text belongs to the writer - but in America, you have to file for the copyright registration. (With traditional publishing, the publisher holds the copyright for the duration of the contract to the extent the rights have been given. I'll do a post on rights in a few weeks - remind me if I don't remember.)
These companies then sell packages of add-on services that vary in quality from one POD company to the next. The only way to know anything about the quality is to ask around on forums because most of their websites say pretty much the same thing. I recommend buying a book from their online store before you shell out lots of money. That way you can at least examine the workmanship.
Still, there is no way to know for sure the quality of their editorial staff because you won't know whether the writer bought that package or not for the book you bought - or if you'd get the same editor. The lack of editing is what gave what I call indie writers a bad name. It is one place people cut corners by not buying the package or hiring their own proof reader (line editor). It is the exact place not to cut.
That is one reason that libraries and bookstores usually do NOT shelf indie books. They can't possibly vet every book and it just makes sense to avoid the mess all together. So if you have a really good quality indie book, it gets painted with the same brush as the really bad ones.
The cover price is set by the number of pages in the book. With some companies there is a provision to set the price higher, which is usually done on non-fiction more often than fiction. You really need to research the market before increasing the cover price.
The writer usually can purchase books at a discount (plus shipping). The world wide distribution mentioned on these company's websites is to make the books available on book retailer's websites. There isn't any active marketing to distributed the books.
They sell marketing packages which can include everything, but the kitchen sink. One example is to include listing with Baker and Taylor. B&T supplies books to libraries and some retailers. Refer to above about what I said about libraries. Don't think your self-published book is going to get the same treatment as one by one of the six (or is it now five?) major New York City publishers and their many, many imprints. The packages usually include such things as post cards, book marks, posters, and the kitchen sink. Most people I know haven't used the materials because they come with the publisher's advert on them.
There are sites where the writer can upload their ms for free and print out their book. The best known of these is Lulu.com. The free 'package' didn't used to include an ISBN. Nor was the book made available anywhere, but Lulu. That works great for people who will take the time to learn a bit about book formatting - for example, most people don't think about the fact that the copyright page is on the left side. The more you pay attention to details, the better results you get. The workmanship on their books is pretty good and their packaging for shipping always amazes me. Read their website for updated info. I haven't read it for over a year. They send out update notices, I just don't remember what all they are. Besides, you'll learn more if I don't spoon feed you.
Another of these free companies is Amazon's CreateSpace. With Amazon there is also the availability of Kendle. But the books are not available anywhere else, other than the writer's website.
All the POD companies pay royalties like the traditional publishers. The percent varies so look at several and do the math if you are interested in this form of publishing.
Some traditional publishers use POD technology printing (they don't use the 'POD companies' to do it). In my mind, it is perfect to print short runs of galleys. Galley books are not the same as a proof book - remind me, that is another post too.
There are actually (in my mind) legitimate reasons to go this route with a book. One of the biggest is when a ms doesn't fit the model for a traditional publisher. For example, books like mine don't have a huge audience; or a town may print a book suitable for local gift shops, but it isn't a major tourist destination that a large publisher would have a market for; a company might sell a book on their website that complements their product line, but is not their main product - again, a niche market - but they need total control over the content.
I know a fairly well known US writer who went this route when the rights to her book reverted to her. There was still a small demand for the book, the marketing had been done by the big traditional publisher and with other books coming from that publisher and her latest picked up for a Lifetime Movie, she wanted to have her out-of-print book available again without learning all the ins and outs of self-publishing.
Sure there are some 'losers' who couldn't write their own name, much less a novel, who use POD for their works. But it is important not to be an elitists and look down on every book published in a non-traditional means.
Please ask questions in the comment section. This is a huge topic and the post was getting a bit long to cover everything. I'll write on the second self-publishing area tomorrow.