In December of 2014, I self-published two of my novels. The first was the historical fiction “Zenobia”. The second was a young adult novel, “Miranda’s Magic”. Self-publishing can be very long and difficult process, but it was worthwhile for me. I get up to 75% of the profits, instead of the 10% “traditional” publishers offer.
What will make or break your book is content, which, after your writing ability, means editing. Content editing is the big picture: plot, characters, and to some extent style. Technical editing is grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. You can pay professional editors to do this work or you can join other writers in critique groups, either in person or online. Do not rely on amateurs. I don’t care how fantastic your story or your characters are; if the book is poorly edited, readers will put it down within minutes.
Because I have been a professional editor and an English teacher, I was confident enough of my knowledge to rely on critique groups. However, I still did not try to do it all on my own. Editing is your biggest challenge.
You should make your book available in print as well as e-book, which requires a spine and back cover as well as a cover design. Unless you are a graphic artist, pay a professional to get this done. Much more important to me is the interior design; i.e., how the interior pages looks. Definitely hire a professional to do this.
Technically, your book is copyrighted when you publish it, but It’s probably worth your while to get an official copyright from the US government. Regardless, you need to purchase ISBN listings from Bowker.com for each book you publish, a separate number for both e-book and print.
You should distribute your books through every channel possible. While Amazon.com (CreateSpace) is the 800-pound gorilla, you should absolutely distribute your e-book through Smashwords. There are many other venues you should look at as well.
This is too big of the subject to even discuss here. Regardless of how you publish, you had better be willing to devote a lot of time and energy or your book will not sell. In addition to a web/blog site, you need to establish a presence on Goodreads, Redit, Facebook, and other social media. It’s a lot of time and effort, and it’s up to you to make it pay. It’s too soon for me to know how well my books are selling, but I’m working at it.