I think that self-publishing is something a writer can do in addition to the various types of more traditional publishing, like the Big Six large houses and small press houses, many of which are now digital. Maybe you've got the rights back on backlist titles and want to get them out there, or maybe you decided to experiment with something that might not be a good fit with a publishing house. Or maybe, like me, you just want to try it and see what it's like.
My main interest was in actually putting the book together so when I finished the first volume of my serial The Bradbury Institute I decided to put it up on Smashwords and Kindle. It's becoming increasingly popular for free serialized works to be self-published at low prices and I think it's a great way for a fan of the serial to have a copy on their ereader. I used the Smashwords style guide and had no problems with formatting. The most important thing I did, other than following the directions carefully, was to start out with a clean document. To do that you have to nuke your Word doc, meaning you use Select All to copy it, paste that into Notepad or something similar what will strip the formatting, then paste than clean version into a brand new document. Next you go back through it and add all your formatting - font, tabs, italics, the works. It's a bit tedious but not hard. Thanks to starting with a clean doc and following the directions, The Key of Darkness qualified for Smashword's premium catalog, which means it was distributed to Barnes and Noble and other outlets. To upload it to the Kindle store I followed their directions, which mostly meant using Mobipocket Creator, which was easy. The main thing with this is attention to detail - you can't skip steps and you don't want to do them out of order. If you can handle that, you can format your ebook.
Of course I did have another writer help me with editing. The only thing I would do differently is the cover, but I can't afford to hire a cover artist so that's not something I can do differently. I'm not expecting to make any money from this and I'm not sure how long I'll leave it up for sale, or if I'll offer the second volume for sale. I can't offer any thoughts on promotion because I haven't done any - between the holidays and some things going on in my personal life, I haven't had the time or the inclination. Promotion hasn't much worked for my books anyway, to be honest.
So all in all, I did enjoy the process of putting the file together but this is not something I would want to do for every book I write. I like having a publishing house behind me. There is no way I could afford to hire an editor or a cover artist and promotion and marketing is surely one of Dante's levels of Hell. But for making the volumes of my serial into ebooks, it's fun. Which is what I was going for, and that's really the first thing you want to ask yourself before you do something like this: why am I doing it and what do I hope to get out of it? I wanted to do this so that if any Bradbury readers wanted the stories on their ereaders they could get them, and I wanted to learn how to create an ebook. Mission accomplished!
If you'd like a free copy of The Key of Darkness, email me at sonya @ sonyaclark.net with "Free Bradbury" in the subject line, and let me know what format you'd like - epub, pdf, or kindle/mobi.