Last Saturday I attended an all-day workshop on publishing put on by Sisters in Crime (SinC). The panels discussed Small Press (Indie), Traditional (Legacy), and Self-Publishing. Authors explained the benefits and down-sides of each.
Indie publishers have the advantage of a quicker turn-around time and most don't require agents. However, the author has to take care of tasks like promotion and cover art.
Legacy publishers take care of publicity, editing, cover art, and bookstore distribution. Their downside includes the necessity of an agent, early deadlines, lack of flexibility, and the amount of time it takes to produce the book.
That leaves self-publishing. Many authors claim to have made a lot of money with self-publishing. If you look at the claims, you'll find that most come from previously established authors who already have a following.
For those of us who are unknown, the story will be quite different. Before any author takes the risky step of self-publishing his book, he has to establish a platform. A platform is an online identity, created by Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) and a blog.
People will buy something written by a familiar name, once. If they like it, you're in luck. This brings me to an important part of self-publishing, the editing. Before you send anything out onto the web with your name attached to it, hire a competent editor to go through it. Don't cry about the cost. Do it! Reader's are not used to literature that has spelling or grammatical errors. One or two in 75,000 words can be overlooked, but no more.
We new authors are still learning, and we need someone to point out problems before the public sees them. Editors do that. Once your name is associated with sub-par work, you've blown it. You won't get another chance. There are too many books out there.
Be prepared to take care of all those little details normally handled by the publisher. Things like cover art, promotion, technical aspects of formatting for different platforms, ISBN numbers, etc. Learn about quotas, royalties and keeping tabs on your sales. You're now in the business of publishing.
You can hire people to take care of any or all of the publishing responsibilities, but it will be costly.
The bottom line? Look at the publishing choices and make an informed decision, one for which you are willing to do the work and then enjoy your new published state.
For more information on the workshop, see my blog this Friday, 4/4, at MostlyMysteryBlog.