Publishing is getting easier and easier. Writers everywhere are discovering that the interface between them and their readers is now more direct. It is possible to build a readership without the traditional expedients of agent or publisher.
For these easily-managed books, an author can resort to putting out self-published editions that do surprisingly well for some. Using CreateSpace, which is the self-publishing arm run by Amazon.com, is one option. Having tried it myself for a small volume, I can say that the experience is not unpleasant.
I took a novella, which I had already made available as an eBook, and added four bonus short stories which were compatible in theme, tenor and narrative style. I then spent a lot of time formatting the text and illustrations on MSWord. (I use the 2010 version). Using the page size I chose on CreateSpace, I worked to get each page as close to perfect as I could. I read advice about fonts, margins, using pictures and pagination on various sites I googled. There is a lot of information available, and most of it is useful. I then converted the pages into PDF format using the 'Save As' facility in Word. It worked! Proofing the PDF is essential: I had to do the conversion process three times before I was happy with the result.
I then let everything rest for a day, for two reasons. One was a raging head cold. The other was the necessity of viewing the manuscript and the cover with a fresh eye. Needless to say, I discovered half a dozen errors I could not have picked with streaming eyes, between sneezes. A pair of tired eyes 'used' to a manuscript will see what they want to see, not what's actually there.
I spent an enormous amount of time reading the benefits and disadvantages of self-publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace. It is not for every author, neither is it for every book. Decisions must be made about pricing, distribution and management of sales - not to mention royalties and taxes - that could be different for each individual book. So what seemed beneficial for me, and the title I was working with at the time, might not apply to my next book, or to another writer with a similar book. Each title must be considered carefully.
That is part of the advice I have that comes from my experience. Authors need to examine the benefits and options available, and apply them to each single and individual title. There are disadvantages tied in with every single choice one makes. Sometimes they are negligible, sometimes considerable. Caution, and reading fine print, are recommended. Just because I chose CreateSpace this time, for this title, does not mean I can do it again without thinking, for another book.
An author needs to ask: What do I want for this book? Who do I think will read it? Is it a book I want to make money from, or is it a potboiler? Does this kind of distribution fit my needs, and access my audience, wherever I think it is? Is tax an issue?