Among the many decisions you will need to make before self-publishing your book is the format or formats in which you wish to make your book available to buyers. Here are a few thoughts for you to consider when making that choice.
Certainly the least expensive -- and least prestigious -- publishing option is going the electronic route. If you are willing to put in the time, you can actually publish your book at no cost at all! Wow! That sounds attractive. And in some ways, it is.
You can get your book "out there" to the buying public in many formats -- Kindle, ePub, PDF, html, plain text, you name it -- all without any-up front cost at all. You can work with printers (or some call themselves ePublishers) like Smashwords.com, Amazon Digital Services, LuLu, and many others. Google will be launching Google Editions this fall for digital books. And Barnes & Noble has its own digital site in the works.
When you ePublish, you don't even need to have a cover . . . though I would highly recommend you put together the best front cover for your book that you can. Online buyers are just as swayed by appearances as brick and mortar buyers are.
All you need to do is follow the publishing instructions on one or all of the above sites (or many others) and *snap*, your book is published and available for sale. You will collect a percentage of all sales receipts. The percentage will vary from site to site. But given that the books you sell actually cost you nothing, any percentage might be attractive.
One downside of digital publishing is that not every potential buyer likes to read books in digital formats. The magnitude of this potential "negative" is determined mostly by your target audience. If you plan to sell $.99 paranormal romances, eBooks may be your very best option. On the other hand, if you have written a Mystery, your target audience is typically age 40 and over. A substantial proportion of your audience may not want to buy an eReader of any type and may not even like to surf the web. ePublishing won't help you out with that target demographic.
Trade Paperback (Perfect Bound)
If you have decided that you need your book to be available in some sort of paper format, the Perfect Bound Trade Paperback is the most common choice. The standard sizes for non-picture books are either 8.5" x 5.5" or 9" x 6." You can go non-standard; but it will limit the number of stores willing to carry your book.
There are a number of decent printers out there who can produce high-quality trade paperbacks at reasonable costs. The cost will vary based mainly on the number of pages in your finished book.
You can go POD (print on demand) or order an offset print run of a specific number of books. POD printing helps curb your upfront costs. But buying in bulk (more than 1,000 copies) from an offset printer can save you on the per-book cost. The decision really rests mainly on your confidence level that your book will sell out those initial copies you purchased for inventory.
Another thing that many POD printers will do for you is to handle distribution of your book. In other words, you don't have to have it sent to your home and then re-send it to the buyer. The POD printer will connect up with Amazon or someone else, and then print and distribute your book as demand dictates.
One downside of POD printing is that the books are usually non-returnable by the bookstores who might want to sell them. Those stores are used to being able to return any books they can't sell. And the wholesale percentage discount to the retailers may be lower than that for batch-printed books (maybe 25% vs 40%).
If you do decide to print your book on paper, I highly recommend that you also make it available in digital format. Some readers actually prefer digital -- even in a middle age demographic.
I certainly can't cover everything related to this topic in one post. But I hope I have given you something to think about with the above info.
Cheers! And thanks for checking in.