When I started down this road of writer, it was with a blind-fold that I began my journey. I'd written stories in the past, even writing three issues of a comic book back in the late 1980s, but this time, it all felt different. I'd just finished a short story, and was told by my friends and family that it was good, so I thought, why not write a full novel? Thus it began.
My initial research into what it takes to get published was very disheartening, to say the least. I learned I had to send out manuscripts to dozens and dozens of agents, making sure to have enticing cover letters and obeying all the rules that each agent required, and then sit back and hope that out of all that, at least one might be interested enough to respond. It sounded like a lot of headache and disappointment, and it is, but that's how publishing works, or so they said.
Having been a software developer and long time Internet programmer, I know there were self-publishing options, and researched those as well. I wanted to write because I found I loved doing it. I had no expectations of becoming famous or even well-known. I just wanted to tell stories. So, I took the path of an independent, self-published author. I became an Indie.
Over the past few years, I learned many things. I learned to avoid the vanity press publishers. I learned that self-publishing had become a very easy thing to do, with Amazon KDP, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and many others out there. Yet, even with those services being free, I learned that producing a book, even on your own, is not free.
The costs involved are many and varied, but some are absolutely essential if you want to produce a real, high quality book. Here are the things that I found are necessary, and today I use every single one of these services, for every book I produce on my own.
1) Professional Editing - This is an absolute must, even if you are an editor yourself. It's imperative that qualified eyes, other than your own, read and critique your manuscript.
2) Cover Design - Another service that's truly essential. Despite how well I can make my own covers, a good, talented designer will make all the difference in the world by making your books appealing. People may not judge a book by its cover, but it's the cover that draws them in. A good cover is a must!
3) Formatting - Your manuscript must be properly formatted for the different venues you may publish through. Every one of my books has 3 different versions. One for Amazon (formatted for optimal Kindle display), one for Smashwords (for optimal ePub and PDF display), and finally one for CreateSpace (for optimal print display as a paperback). Each of these requires differences in formatting to make it look just right. It's not a one-size-fits-all world when it comes to book formatting.
4) Promotion - Perhaps the most vital aspect, if you want to actually make sales with your book, is promotion. While you can promote through social media at no real cost, it requires you build up a huge network. Ultimately, you're going to need to spend money on advertising. Some may need to actually hire someone to do the promotion, such as a VA (virtual assistant) or PA (promotion assistant). All of this will cost.
On average, for me, I spend anywhere from $400 on up on publishing a single book (I know many other authors that spend a lot more). That includes costs for editing, cover design, and promotion. I've learned to do the formatting myself, bit no one is going to be able to do it all. So if you plan to enter this realm of Indie Authors, be prepared. Self-published doesn't mean free.