Here's a bunch of random things that might be useful to you. In a (mostly failed) effort to be brief, I didn't include a ton of details under each section. Happy to answer more questions about anything on this list.
There might be more coming later, but this is what I could think of off the top of my head.
(Lydia) A very good blog on this topic is J.A. Konrath's, but he's quite biased in favor of self-publishing. A fantastic commentator to look up is Jane Friedman. And: Jane recently partnered with Manjula Martin to create an electronic magazine called "Scratch," which is about "the intersection of writing and money" and is awesome. http://scratchmag.net/
Why I Self-Published, and Why I Traditionally Published
My reasons don't apply to really anyone else, but I'll provide them here just so you understand why they don't.
Why I Self-Published Cracking the Coding Interview:
I self-published with Cracking the Coding Interview because it just happened that way. The very, very first thing I wrote was a short little PDF that I sold electronically. I didn't set out to write a book. It sold well though (just selling from CareerCup.com), so I kept expanding it.
After about a year of work, it was what someone could arguably call a book. At that point, I could have gotten a publishing deal with a major publisher (probably Wiley), but now it didn't make sense. Even with generous assumptions about how a publisher could get me publicity and bump up my sales, my profits far exceeded what I would be able to get through them.
Why I Traditionally Published The Google Resume:
You might wonder why, if I was doing so well with self-publishing on my first book, would I turn to a traditional publisher for book #2. In fact, I did that because I was selling well.
I learned what I know about self-publishing by basically stumbling around in the dark. Yes, there was advice online about self-publishing, but it was generally coming from the perspective of people who wrote a trashy fiction book that would sell a few dozen copies -- all electronically, and all to their family and friends. I couldn't get the advice I needed. [This is, by the way, why I wrote this guide.]
Book #1 was doing well-enough that it made sense to figure out how to make it even better. I wanted to figure out how "real" publishers handle publishing, so I published book #2 through Wiley.
Wiley actually approached me to ask me to write this book for them. All I had to do was agree, basically. The opportunity was right there. Why turn it down?
I figured that the publicity that Wiley could get me for Book #2 would probably help sales on Book #1. (In reality, the reverse was more true).
How Should You Publish?
That all depends. What are your goals?
"I just want to teach people."
Uh huh. Sure you do. I mean, I'm sure you believe that, but come on, think harder. If you want to teach people, don't write a book. Write a website. Write a blog. Make your content free.
"I want to sell a lot of copies and be famous."
Okay, let's not kid ourselves. Very, very few authors become famous -- even those who sell a lot of copies. However, if you're going for volume and fame, a traditional publisher is probably the way to go.
"I want credibility to help with an existing business."
If you want credibility, a traditional publisher will be better for you. Anyone can self-publish; few people can get a publishing deal.
"I want to make money / turn this into a business."
This is why you self-publish: for money. To be perfectly clear: most self-published authors will not make any money. In fact, they'll probably lose money.
Alexandre CIt's possible to write a book while incurring very little cost (say, under a $100), and if you are willing to start out with the assumption that you are writing for free and for the fun of it, then any revenue from self-publishing will be a welcome reward. My costs were so low that I recouped everything after selling 4 or 5 books. Lulu.com gave me an ISBN (not a true ISBN per se, but every bookstore that sells my book was happy with it).
Gayle MHowever, if you want to have any shot at making a living from this, self-publishing is really the way to go. The royalties on a traditionally published book (typically 7.5% off the list price) are so low that it's almost impossible to make money with traditionally published books. Even a book that hits the NY Times Best Sellers list only nets the author a few hundred thousand. (Obviously, that's not a bad income at all. However, a few hundred thousand dollars for authors who hit basically the pinnacle of success isn't very good either.)
A pretty standard deal is 15% royalties, but that's off what the publisher sees, not the list price. The publisher usually sells a book to bookstores at a 50% discount. So, really, your royalties are more like 7.5%. You'll be making about $1 off of the sale of a $15 book.
(Lydia) Actually, the standard deals I've seen are more like 5%-10%. :) But it depends on what you mean by standard.... It really is all about your bargaining power. If you have unique expertise or you are an established author, then your royalty rates from a traditional publisher will be higher.
CreateSpace offers a royalty of 60% of the list price [NOT THE SALE PRICE], minus the cost of printing. For a 300 page 6x9 book, printing will cost you about $4.50. For a 500 page 6x9 book, that's about $7.
This means that if you price your 300-page book at $15, you'll make $4.50 per sale. If you price it at $25, you'll make $10. At $40, you'll make $19.50.
NOTE: Your royalties are calculated from the list price, not the sale price. So, if you price your 500-page book at $40, you'll make about $17 per sale. If Amazon decides to discount your book to $23, you're still making $17 per sale. Amazon sales come out of their pocket, not yours. They are, obviously, a very good thing for you.
Kindle royalties are either great or terrible, depending on your perspective.
70% if your book is less than $10. So a $9.99 book nets you about $7.
35% if your book is over $10. So, if your book is $15, you'll make $5.25 per sale.
These may seem good, but they're a crappy deal for pricier books, like technical and reference books (which have high royalties for paperbacks due to their higher list price).
(Lydia) Note that Kindle Royalties are also 35% if your books are priced lower than $2.99.
Additionally, there are many countries where Kindle royalties are 35% by default, but they go up to 70% if you join KDP Select. (KDP Select is a program Amazon runs that tries to incentivize indie authors to give Amazon exclusivity over their titles. If you join KDP Select, then you get a couple of neat features, and you get higher royalties in some places, but you also lock yourself into giving Amazon the exclusive right to distribute your book for at least 3 months. If you aren't planning to self-publish elsewhere, then this is a great deal! If you are, then you should think about it carefully.)
Note also that Amazon reserves the right to change your price. This means they will lower your price if they think your book will be more successful at a lower price. Your royalties will be calculated at the lower price.
Royalties vary on other platforms. Smashwords is a good place to look if you want to reach a bunch of platforms at once, because buyers can get the book on Smashwords itself and Smashwords also syndicates to many other platforms (such as the Barnes & Noble Nook). Base royalties on Smashwords are 85% for buyers who buy directly through Smashwords, and they are lower for book purchases coming from other platforms.
For most writers, most sales come through Amazon Kindle. But that's not true for everyone, and sometimes other platforms will run promotions or interesting programs in an attempt to attract talented writers.
(Lydia) With respect, I strongly disagree that doing it "right" demands $1000-2000. You can do it for a lot less if you're willing to do more of the nitty-gritty yourself. However, the process can become extremely time-consuming and probably will not be attractive to most people, especially if they have a professional job that pays decent money. However, if you're someone who's interested in the business and makes very little money (like a full-time writer at the beginning of their career) then it may be in your interest to learn how to do some of the things that would cost that money (like ebook formatting).
To clarify my experience here, I was a full-time writer for several years. I made over $5000 on my self-publishing royalties last year, and most of those books had been published before 2013 (i.e., I did very little marketing and promotion of those books in 2013). This may not strike some professionals as significant money :), but it made a difference to me last year. I made a bit more money in 2012, when I was still writing full-time, and it was a REALLY big deal to me back then.
When I was a full-time writer, I did all the formatting on my books myself. I crowdsourced editing from my fan base. I paid for cover design on most of my books, but that was the only thing I paid for. One of my fans offered to do my covers for free, but I decided not to take him up on it.
You can also investigate services like Booktrope to see if someone is willing to help you with these services in exchange for a percentage of the royalties, rather than a flat rate.
Gayle MYou won't just be submitting a manuscript to a publisher and then wiping your hands clean of it. You are producing a product -- your book -- and running a business around it. Are you prepared for that?