What does self-publishing really mean?
On the most basic level, it means that in addition to writing, you take care of all the things that a publishing house (Random House, Bantam, Wiley, etc.) would. That doesn't mean you literally do everything personally -- you don't see too many writers running a printing press, for example. It means you bring in all the necessary help to create a book, and you finance the entire project (either with your own money, or with borrowed money).
In other words, self-publishing means you run and finance a small business dedicated to producing and selling a single product: your book (or books, once you get going). In most cases, the business's goal is to make a profit over time -- to create a product that sells well enough to cover the expense of creating it, and then some.
This business venture breaks down into three broad stages:
- Actually writing, editing and illustrating the book
- Prepping the book for printing, and getting it printed
- Selling the book
Each one of these stages involves many individual steps and decisions, as we'll see.