So I’ve been thinking about it and, after going through it I’ll say independently publishing isn’t as easy as I thought, but it’s not as hard as some make it out to be.
Getting widespread eBook distribution: This by far is the most obnoxious. There’re services out there for getting yourself submitted automatically after you upload a single file to them. Many (most?) charge a prohibitive fee. The one that’s free is Smashwords with their demented file submission system. A very simple book, I’ll admit, is likely fine except the sheer annoyance of things like their dictating the exacts of what your title page must say and how.
Alternatively you get an ISBN (many require this, though nothing can seem to give a very clear reason why, and YES I know what an ISBN does and is and, put it this way, Stolen Time: Kindle Edition has no such creature. Again, enter prohibitive pricing … if you have the sad misfortune, ad I do, of having been born an American citizen and subject to us$125 for a single ISBN from the official source or about us$55 if you don’t mind “Private Publisher” or similar for the publisher tag. All of this violates the cardinal rule that money should always flow TOWARD the author, not the other way around. Still, at the moment none of this is really pertinent, as imoressive as iBooks is (my favourite eBook retailer and reader), or as popualr as Barnes & Noble are the fact remains that over 50% of eBook sales are Amazon. KDP is free. So, it’s a lovely place to start while you eye around to figure what to do about getting into other venues.
Print publishing: Gods help me what a nightmare. Frankly, I think this might be something to, largely, avoid. It’s cost prohibitive in a few ways. Honestly, look at the cost of paper books versus their quality of late even from the big boys, and remember that the author’s cut is approximately 0.5 – 1.0 US Postage Stamps. Print may not survive the present economy. Sad, in some ways; inevitable, arguably; a sign of true technological evolution and progress, maybe, and not yet true in any case so there could be a chance if printers and big publishers adapt quickly enough to new ideas and techs.
In any case I’d say CreateSpace is a pretty decent stop if you think print is important. Fair rates, easy to use, a good (if not awe inspiring) cover builder, auto inclusion in Amazon, and free. For us$25 you can expand and be available to libraries, other book sellers, and so on. For a paltry rate. More that trad publishing, to be sure, but for example, a $14 book might only pull 35¢ a copy. This comes from it being processed via a 3rd party, Lightning Source.
LSi brings me to my next thing. Self setup in a Print on Demand service. Lulu, is another big one of these. Lulu has a poor rep for quality and poor distribution, it also isn’t cheap. Compared to Lsi though … well, Lightning Sources PROs are great: phenomenal quality standards, very good options for cover type and similar, exceptional distribution by being a subsidiary of Ingram … now the CONS: well, con, singular. ‘Tain’t cheap. No brother. Annual cost to be in their service, and even as short as it is, Stolen Time would be pretty costly per book except in some of the paperback choices. Not to mention, ISBN.
This said, I won’t advise avoid a print edition. I found CreateSpace admirable in its ease of use and stability, and one more format is more potential sales, but it (like KDP) only makes a great stepping off point. Certainly if/when you can afford the upfront costs and sales of your CreateSpace and KDP product (or iBooks, or …) give you a feeling you could turn profit or break even, then make the jump. Grab an ISBN kiss your sanity goodbye (if it doesn’t have an insanely easy cover builder like CreateSpace does), and get those hardbacks and whatever else out there to the masses. Before that, recommend sitting back to chill while you wait to see if use of the likes of LSi might cost more than your popularity can support.
Still, all of this sounds better than hunting for a good agent, then finding the publisher least likely to try to rob you and might support the book and marketing!