There are many reasons to self-publish your written work. At one time, self-publishing was considered “vanity press” and elicited little respect. That attitude has changed as many successful writers have self-published and many self-published books have become best-sellers.
There are many types of self-publishing. If you do it completely on your own, you will need an ISBN number and bar code. There are many places on-line where you can download the forms for those. You also must have your book registered in the book indexes. One place to do this is Ingram Books. Once you are listed in the indexes, you will automatically be on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble and the other on-line stores, and brick and mortar stores will be able to order your book.
Many people want to self-publish as a platform for being picked up by a major publisher. This is quite possible, Legally Blonde was such a book. To do this, you must get good sales and good reviews. If you can show good sales, they will at least talk to you.
If you go with one of the Print-On-Demand houses, such as AuthorHouse (there are many others) they will take care of the ISBN, bar code, printing (usually through Lightning Source – a print-on-demand printer) and listing in Ingram so all the indexes know your book is there. Again, if you can generate a lot of sales, and good reviews, you can then approach a major publishing house.
If you don not use a print-in-demand house, you must consider the logistics of warehousing your printed books and delivering them to the end buyer. This can be expensive and cumbersome.
Whether you are self-publishing, doing Print-On-Demand or being picked up by a major publisher, actually, the publicity and promotion of your book is your responsibility, so it is a very good idea to learn how to get copies to reviewers, etc. On-line social media is also a good way to promote a book, but you should not rely on that exclusively, as it has its limits.
Some things to consider when you self-publish:
What kind of paper will the book be published on? It should be acid free or your books will disintegrate fairly quickly. (If you use Lightning Source, they use acid free paper.)
What kind of binding will the book have? Some use inferior glue, etc. and the books will fall apart. (Again, if you use Lightning Source, they have superior quality binding.)
If you use a Print-On-Demand house, do they provide the ISBN number, which is the number used to sell the book? If not, it can be a cumbersome and expensive process to get one and you will need it to sell the book in book stores.
Do they list your title at all the on-line book stores and in brick and mortar indexes? (Many POD houses use Ingram Book Group as part of the service.)
These are just a few of the things to consider when deciding to self-publish your book. It can be a very rewarding process, however.