Now that you've decided to go down the self-publishing path and you're busy working on your manuscripts, you've got to choose your publishing platforms. There are two components that will figure into your choice: your expectations and your abilities.
Do you want a paperback or are you just looking for ebook distribution? This is a big question for a lot of people, because of the ingrained attitude that you're not actually published until you have a book in your hands. Thanks to print-on-demand technology, it's not an either/or proposition. If you really want to publish in paperback, you can do so at very little cost. On the downside, POD publishing takes either a lot of work your part or an outlay to have someone experienced do what you can't. On the upside, it opens up another distribution channel. And even if you don't sell a ton of paperbacks, you have a real, physical book that you can hold in your hands, set on your shelf, and send out as Christmas presents.
I'll refer again to a great article by Jane Friedman, 4 Key Categories of Self Publishing. In it she lists the major players and what they can offer you in the way of distribution channels, production, and design.
Once you've decided whether you're doing ebooks, printed books, or both, you need to look at your abilities to decide what you're going to be able to do or what you want to learn to do. You'll need a cover (a front cover for ebooks and a full cover for printed books) and a manuscript in the correct format for each platform you want to distribute on.
After looking at all the options, we're planning on using Amazon's CreateSpace for paperback editions, Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks for the Kindle, and Smashwords for distribution to the iBookstore, the Nook, and other smaller formats.
I chose CreateSpace because I feel comfortable with the interface and I like the ala carte options. I plan on going DIY for the cover and interior design and the typesetting, but I know that if I run into a major roadblock there are other options open to me. In CreateSpace, if you can manage all the design yourself, the final cost for setting up your POD paperback is the $15 you pay for a proof copy. (For $39 and $5 a year per title, you can also choose the Pro Plan, which reduces your production costs, increases your royalty share, and opens up further distribution channels.) Lulu is another perfectly viable option that offers similar packages, so do your homework and find out which option you feel is the best fit for you.
While Smashwords' site says that it will eventually distribute to Amazon, for right now it doesn't, so we're going to be doing ebooks through Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. If you meet Smashwords formatting standards for their Premium Catalog, you'll be able to distribute your books to the Nook and iBookstore platforms, among others.
So we've chosen out distribution channels. The next step is to look at our resources and abilities to determine how much we can DIY and what services we may need to outsource.