Last month, I released two books through Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle platforms. It was my first attempt at this, so perhaps my novice experience will help you make decisions about whether to use these channels for releasing your own work.
The first book was actually that of a friend, Beverly J. Worth of Warsaw, IN. Beverly has a tax preparation service for ministers and has published Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers every year since 1973. At first, the book was published by Baker Book House. The tradition was continued by Appalachian Distributors and Evangel Publishing House. In recent years, Beverly has self-published the book.
When I met with her in February to begin work on my own tax return, I saw dozens of book cartons stacked in her office hallway. This was her inventory of the 2016 Income Tax Guide. When someone ordered a copy through her website or 800 number, she or a secretary would process the credit card, then pick, pack, and ship the book. When she needed copies for one of her tax seminar, a helper would pack the necessary copies and ship them to the distant venue--or she would lug a carton onto the plane as checked baggage.
So I told her about Amazon's CreateSpace service (http://www.createspace.com). As I understood it, this program would allow an author to upload her book as a word-processing or design file. CreateSpace then converts it into a printing file, which they use to manufacture copies of the book on demand (even if only one copy is needed). The title is available for sale through Amazon or other retailers, and the author receives a nice percentage of the selling price. By the way, I explained this was all hearsay, because I'd not yet finished preparing my first CreateSpace book.
"Why don't you delay yours a few days and help me put the Tax Guide into the program?" she asked. So we began our first test run.
Beverly gave me the Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files that her local printer used to produce all those cartons of books in her hallway. I set up an account for her at CreateSpace (there's no cost to get started) and followed their online instructions to modify Beverly's file for their use. I have intermediate skills for using the computer, and I found the process incredibly simple to follow. After uploading the file, I ordered a proof copy for Beverly's review. She received it within a few days, found a few adjustments she'd like to make, and I revised the file. To this point, our only out-of-pocket expense was the cost of printing and shipping the proof (less than ten dollars).
When the proof was satisfactory, I pressed a button to release the book. Within six hours, it appeared on Amazon.com and orders began coming in. I'm writing this a week after Beverly's book went "live," and I see that she has sold 8 copies through Amazon, earning nearly a hundred dollars. Because of the Tax Guide's long-standing reputation, people come looking for it, so Beverly can continue preparing tax returns and stop handling book orders. And she'll collect a royalty check every two weeks. Nice!
A lesser-known author with a lesser-known book has to be more proactive in marketing it. An author may also want to self-publish a book through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, which was ill-suited for Beverly's book. That's where the story of my book begins--next time.