These days, any Tom, John, Moe or Larry can self-publish a book. Realistically, you could write a few words on a piece of paper, staple them together and call yourself a self-publisher. But if you really want to compete with the slew of self-publishers that arrive on the scene every year, you have to go about everything in a very professional manner. Your book must be exceptionally written and edited. The quality of the print job has to be up to industry standards. And you have to announce your new self-publishing business to the world in a way that will really grab attention.
Register the business name for your self publishing company with the state by visiting their commerce website (see Resources below). The name should ideally describe what type of books you plan to publish. Apply for a business license to make your self publishing company officially recognized by the state.
Join small publishing networks such as the PMA (now the IBPA) and SpanNet to receive discounts on shipping and publishing products. Join self-publishing forums like the one at Writers Net (see Resources below) for support and ongoing information that will help your new self-publishing business succeed. Visit the Publishing Basics newsletter (see Resources below) to read articles related to self-publishing from other authors who have done it and get guidance about how to run your own new self-publishing company.
Have a professional editor look over your manuscript once more before sending it to print. Hire a skilled book designer to organize the finished manuscript into book form (preferably a PDF, as it is easiest for printers to work with) and design your cover (TIF files are preferred). Send the files to your chosen printer and start promoting the book to your family, friends, and colleagues as you wait for copies to arrive. Word of mouth sells books.
Submit a press release on PR Web notifying media contacts and the general public of your new publishing company and your new title. Add a very poignant angle to your press release that will grab the reader's attention. Mention that angle in your title or subtitle. Be sure to include complete contact information so that interested people can get in touch with you about purchasing your books or interviewing you for media.
Many book publishers choose to establish a main publishing company and then establish small imprints underneath it to release targeted books. For example, you might be registered as "Smith Publishing Company" but you can then start an imprint for cookbooks, another for children's books and a third for mystery novels. Some companies choose to go with a print on demand company such as Lulu to self-publish. This is a viable option but will usually require you to price your book high to make the same profit per book as you would make by self-publishing your book traditionally (finding your own book printing company and publicizing the book on your own).
Beware of vanity publishers who claim to help you self-publish your book. They usually overcharge you for printing your book, publish under their own name and take a portion of any profits when all they really do is send your book to a printer. Don't blindly allow your book to be sent to print without looking at a proof, which is an actual printed copy of how your text and cover will look on paper. Don't be pulled in by all of the advertisements trying to win your book publishing money. Take your time and look at plenty of options for printing, editing, cover design and other services before spending any of your initial investment cash. Ask existing self-publishers about their experience with specific companies and visit forums.