I published on Amazon, and everything herein will refer to that process. I do plan to release my book at Barnes and Noble, but since I haven't done that yet, I won't speak to it.
1) Write your book. However short or long it is, just do it. Get it done. Set aside 10 minutes a day, or work furiously into the night, as is your preference. The following steps should all come after you're finished writing. Cost: Time.
2) Get your ISBN. Protect your intellectual material by buying ISBN numbers. At Bowker Link, a pack of 10 is not much more than buying 2-3 if I recall. The site sucks a little bit, but the cost isn't terrible. You will have to type it into your first pages and the back cover yourself as Amazon doesn't do it for you. So remember to go back and do so before you upload. You can upload your e-copy to their site for extra protection. Enter the ISBN on Amazon's walk through as you publish, so it will be searchable by number, too. There will be a space for it. Cost: $250 for 10 - remember that your digital and paper copies need separate numbers.
3) Be a legal beagle with your images. If you want to use images, make sure they're royalty-free. You can get a free random image each week at Big Stock, and you can buy them here as well, pretty cheap. Just make sure you always choose the biggest size so the print quality is good. I learned that the hard way also and had to purchase a few images twice, so I had the bigger size available. You can also use photos you have taken, which are your property, but if they are of a face, you may need another legal route that shows they gave permission to be printed. Cost: Up to $3 an image.
4) Edit and format. I've read that you should use a serif font (like Times Roman) for your text as it helps the eye glide across the text, but a sans serif font (like Arial) for your chapter heading, sub-headings, and photo captions to make them stand out. Choose only 2 fonts for your book, and don't use Comic Sans for anything, ever, ya novice. Also, don't use underlining as it may not translate well in printing. You can still use bold and italics as necessary, as well as caps when warranted. Learn to spell properly, use grammar properly, and/or be prepared to pay an editor to fix your book for you so it sounds educated and readable. For example: The Hunger Games, which has a great story, is written horribly and consists almost entirely of sentence fragments. People who do know how to write well will think you are an idiot if you write like this and may (as I did) feel the need to get the audio book instead.
For some tips on formatting your book before you attempt to upload it, try this eBook by Jake Taylor, which you can get for Kindle, in fact, it runs on free promotions now and again, so you might get it for free, also. Cost: $3
If your use of language is not so great, and that's okay, pay an editor. You might even look for a retired editor or retired teacher or someone looking for part-time freelance work like that to save a few bucks. Remember all that stuff in school about how English was important and you said "When am I going to need that?" Well... Cost varies by editor. I would expect to pay between several hundred dollars and a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the state of your work, the length of the text, and whether or not you have it typed or handwritten.
Note: I've taken for granted that you have typed your book in word processing software to save you and your editor a ton of work.
5) Upload your material. Watch this free webinar by Denise Wakeman and Daniel Hall, and hit pause as often as you need to do stuff. It's a little convoluted. Having done it once the hard way, let me highly suggest that if you plan to release an eBook as well as a printed copy, that you do the printed first. I did it the other way around and it took a lot of extra time to format. If you do a print book, they will send you a digital e-formatted copy you can simply upload. Cost: 0
You will also be creating your cover at this time. Think of what the dust jacket will say about you, the author, as well as get the reader's attention. It should hint at the age-range of your target audience, who the book will appeal to, and why the reader needs this in his/her life. Remember to include the ISBN on the back cover. Keep your colors simple. Keep your fonts easy to read. Ensure that your photos are royalty free or are your property.
This stage also includes pricing. Price the book cheaper in digital format than in paper, as it's cheaper to produce that way. Choose a price that seems reasonable for similar books of that type and is not too low as to seem value-less, but not too high as to be cost-prohibitive. My first book is a small book and I priced it accordingly. My next book will have a completely different price as it's a different category, different length, and offers more substance. However, it will still be affordable to my target audience. Amazon will direct deposit your royalties periodically, and the results of your sales are recorded in a monthly spreadsheet for you. Keep copies of this for tax purposes as it is income.
6) Review. Check and double check and triple check to see if the pages line up right, that your margins are looking spiffy, that your every little thing looks just so. You're going to learn what a "bleed" is - the space between the edge of the page and the place where text starts, that could include glue for the binding, white space, and margins. Once you learn this stuff, it's easy and you won't forget it for next time. Amazon's program is very good, and once you upload, you only have to wait 2-24 hours before it's ready to view. Don't tell anyone it's up until after you've reviewed it, fixed it, and reviewed it again.You want customers (and family and friends) seeing the final version. Check it out on the computer, on your Kindle, change the size and such on your Kindle and see if it still translates, and order a paper copy, too. Plus, your parents are going to want one. Cost: Price of your book, minus royalties
7) Claim your space. Now that you have signed up, free, with Kindle Direct Publishing, claim your name on Author Central. Anyone can type in simple information (mine is: www.amazon.com/author/autumnhahn/) and get to your page, listing all of your publications. Amazon will automatically link your books for you to your Author Central page, which is handy. You'll want to add a professional photo here, or have a friend who is good with a camera take one that looks professional. You have a lot more space here than on the dust jacket to talk about your writing style, who you cater to, and that sort of thing. Cost: 0
8) Offer autographs. People love to feel special! Although they bought the Kindle version, they may still like a "signed copy" of your book. Use Authorgraph, a free service, to create a virtual signature, saved as a PDF for your readers. You'll get an email whenever someone requests an autograph and you can personalize each one, or keep a stock signature on file, changeable at your whim. Cost: 0
9) Make an audio book. Because some people really like to listen to their books, and this is a whole other demographic you can market to, as well as the visually impaired. Remember that you need a separate ISBN for this format. More information is here. I haven't done this yet, but I'm sure it's free, minus the use of an ISBN. Cost: 0
10) Enjoy! You wrote and published a book. You've gone from writer to author and it hardly cost you a thing. Enjoy that. Look how few people get to this step, but you did! And hey, link your book in the comments section below and tell everyone that you did it, and they can, too. That first royalty check (even if you're the only one that bought it) is so fun to receive. And when you look back at last year's taxes and see how much you made in book sales, it's amazing. Plus, that never stops being available. You've put something into the world that will be around as long as libraries, and every reader loves a library.
Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing in South Florida. She is also the author of Mini-Missions: Simply and Add Joy to Your Life in Less Than 30 Minutes and is working on 3 other books, 1 to be released this year on parenting techniques to keep your child from becoming a victim of trauma.