A week ago, I decided to self-publish four novels. Having made that momentous decision, I was swiftly overwhelmed by a numbing set of possibilities and steps to be taken. Where to start? If you're looking to publish yourself what should you do first? During the next week, I'll go through these steps in individual detail, but here's what you need to think about.
1) Examine your work. What do you want to publish? You may be a published author who has a backlist that's gone out of print. You may have a novel that you've been shopping around with limited or no success. You may have a novel you've just finished, or one that's still in the writing stages. Be honest with yourself about what you've got and the amount of work it's going to take to get to the publishing stage.
2) Analyze your expectations to choose a publishing model. You need to know what you want, what you expect, and what you'll be satisfied with. Jane Friedman has a very concise and helpful guide to The 4 Key Categories of Self Publishing. Do you just want an ebook? Will you not be happy without a paperback? How much DIY do you want to put into producing the cover and book?
3) Analyze your resources. You may want to do as much DIY as possible, which may entail an investment in software or even training. You may know people who are artists, proofreaders, copy editors, designers. You need to find who in your circle you can beg services from, barter services with, or hire to do the things you can't or don't want to do.
4) Look at your marketing presence. You need at minimum an author's website, but it's also a great idea to have a blog, a Facebook page, and a presence on Twitter. Join discussion forums and email groups. When you have something interesting to say, comment on other people's blogs. You need to become known, you need to have a network, and you need to start right this minute, months before you actually make your book available.
5) Have a plan. Set a goal, or a series of goals. Maybe it's a week to get a blog up. Maybe it's a month to have your novel proofread. Maybe it's 3 months or 6 months or 8 months to your virtual book launch. But once you've got a list of the steps you have to take, slice that mound of stuff into reasonable pieces and set out to tackle it step-by-step.
You've got to start somewhere.