There are three options to consider if you choose the self-publishing route: traditional self-publishing, print-on-demand, and ebooks.
This means your book will be printed using an offset printing press, which gives a high quality output. It's recommended for books that require top quality reproduction of photos, whether color or black and white, such as fine art books or professional photography books. It is also recommended for quantities of 500 or more (although a few offset printers now offer short runs of 200 books, at a pretty good price), whatever the type of book. In quantities of 500 or more, the cost per book is lower than that for a print-on-demand book. In traditional self-publishing, the cost per book (to you, the author) varies with the number of pages; quality of paper and binding; the number of illustrations; the quantity of books printed (the more books printed at one time, the lower the cost per book);and your warehousing and distribution arrangements. Net returns on books sold is 100% to you, (after your costs for printing, binding, warehousing and distribution, of course).
Print-on-demand, which is digital printing, is now being done through a number of middle-man companies. Most of these have had many complaints registered for poor or fraudulent service. Some of these so-called POD publishers like iUniverse and xLibris outsource their design functions to Asia. You will have zero to little control over the design of your book if you use either of these two companies, despite company PR. The outsourced departments are extremely sub-professional and almost guaranteed to disappoint. However, there are POD printers who can take your print-ready book files and give you a nicely produced book, for less money up-front than you'd have to pay an offset printer. Print-on-demand can be used to produce quality soft-cover and hardcover books, printed on a per-order basis, whether one book at a time or many. The internal illustrations or photos, if you have them, will need to be black and white, and will be "digital," that is, illustrations are not as high a resolution as you get with offset printing. But for text, one can't really tell the difference.Covers can be full color (and designed to your specifications by your designer).
• Upfront printing costs are considerably less.
• First-time authors have minimal risk: print as few or as many copies of your book as you want; test market the book;
if desirable, incorporate feedback for a second edition.
• Author has complete control over the content, appearance, distribution and marketing of the book.
• Net profit to the author per book sold (after you've made back your initial investment) is much higher than that for
traditional publishing. With traditional publishing, 95% of books don't pay back their advance. Forget about receiving
royalties as soon as you've accrued in sales. These days, very few books pay back their advance, according
to Publishers Weekly. So what you get up front is usually all you ever see.
• With independent publishing, you, the author, retain all rights to your book, including the right to publish a second
edition with another publishing house or in other formats (film, DVD, etc.).
• First-time authors can use their independently published book to gain leverage with traditional publishers: if you
have good sales on your self-published edition, you are in a stronger position to sell your book to a traditional
publisher for a second edition.
• Distribution can be done by a fulfillment house and/or by yourself, whether POD or offset printing is used. A
fulfillment house can take orders and payment from customers and ship books to them. (They usually take about 35%
of the list price for their services.) Anyone can buy your book from the website of some of the best fulfillment houses,
or through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, etc. Or, if you have your own website, you can link from your website
directly to the fulfillment house, with a "buy the book" button or hyperlink.
• With traditional publishing, your book has only four months on the shelf of bookstores to prove itself. If your book
doesn't sell in the first four months of bookstore life, it gets remaindered, and disappears from bookstore shelves. You
have to hit the ground running, with publicity, to have any chance of your book making it.
• Traditional publishing is very slow. Unless you have a hot scandal tell-all, your book is going to spend two to three
years wending its way to the bookstores. You need to be sure your topic will keep, and that you will still be interested
in publicizing it three years from now.