FAQ #2b. How do I self-publish my book?
I'd first like to point out that self-publishing is not vanity publishing, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Vanity publishing (sometimes called subsidy publishing) is when an author pays a vanity press to publish her book for her, to include not only printing, but frequently distribution, sales, and marketing if the contract calls for that. Self-publishing is when an author controls all aspects of the publishing process with the intent of taking overall responsibility for the success of the book, to include distribution, sales, marketing, and everything else. A self-publisher hires a printer to print the books, but once the books come off the press, the author/self-publisher takes over from there.
Self-publishing requires a huge amount of resources. It doesn't have to be expensive but it can be, especially if you don't plan carefully. In addition to money, successful self-publishing requires a great deal of time, energy, motivation, and knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industries. You'll need to have a complete understanding of all aspects of book publishing, including editorial, design, production, prepress, printing, distribution, sales, marketing, publicity, order fulfillment, accounting, sales tax, collection, inventory, copyrights, foreign rights, sales to foreign markets, and you get the idea.
I recommend that you read several books on self-publishing before you make the decision to go ahead and do it. (I generally don't recommend vanity publishing, unless all you want is a printed book to hold in your hands, and you don't mind if not one copy of the book ever gets sold to another living human being, which is frequently what happens with vanity publishing.) Two of the best books for self-publishers that I found helpful when I originally self-published Chat and Connect were:
"The Self-Publising Manual" by Dan Poynter (Para Publishing)
"1001 Ways to Market Your Books" by John Krememr (Ad-Lib Publications)
By the way, Kremer's book is incredibly useful to both traditionally published authors as well as self-published authors. I've relied on the excellent tips contained in this book for many years, from the time I first self-published to the time I saw my books conventionally published and distributed in bookstores. This book is a keeper.