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This is a reply to a specific email question I got, but I thought I reproduce it here for general consuption.

 

The whole question of capital investment makes POD the only sane way to go...especially at first... if you want print books.  Which I'd suggest you do.  You also want ebooks to go with them, offer your book in several formats, find out where the action is.

I'll suggest two courses of action.
Plan A
1.  Start accounts on Lulu.com,  CreateSpace and LIghtningSource.  It's free, and you learn a lot just by being there.  Get your MS as clean as possible.  Use a good font like Garamond or Accord or Goudy, not TNR   Justify the type  12 pt single space.  Set your page to 6x9 (or whatever size you want your book) not 8 1/2 x 11.  Set margins of .4 or /5 all around.  Go through, pick up widows, orphans, etc.  Have a title page with copyright data on back, start book (maybe even all chapters on right hand page)   Have two sections, one for MS and a previous one with no page number for your title, info page and TOC is you have one.
Now print it as a PDF.  Or use OpenOffice in the first place and export as PDF. 
Upload to your book at Lulu.  If you have a cover, fine, if not use one of theirs.  Push the button.  Keep it private, not published. Order a copy and trip out on it, then start editing it, You can carry it around with you.  I go through in black pen, then blue, then red.  Make corrections on your MS, new PDF.
How much did the book cost?  And shipping?  Can you live with that?   Do you like what they do with ebooks?
2.  Do it with CreateSpace.  You want to have your cover together by now and it's a little trickier, but not rocket science.  Go ahead and spring for the $10 ISBN -- think HARD about the "publisher name" because it might be something you stick with for a long time.  See what it costs you with their calculator.   If you start publishing, the $50 "pro pack" is worth it if you sell more than like 10 copies, and can be added later.   This is a viable publishing posture right there, far as I'm concerned.  You should be getting books for around $4 on pro plan,  six without.  You can do the whole amazon, sales channel thing, or you can just sell off a website.   Use a PayPal button, order to their addresses from CreateSpace or get a dozen or half dozen books and mail them yourself.  See if you can get some reviews.  etc.
3. Start working on LSI account.  If you want to start up there, it'll run you about $200, almost half of that for your ISBN from Bowkers.  But at that point you'll be set up as a pro publisher with rock-bottom unit price available, on amazon and every other online store, available for order from bookstores everywhere.
This may seem complicated, but it's giving you a ramp-up of learning curve and hands-on experience.  You could skip Lulu if you wanted to, but it's an easy way to get a proof copy and you won't lock into a ISBN or cover, can be editing while developing cover, etc.

Plan B
Go straight to LSI.  You're working, you can swing $200.  You'll pay it back with like 20 sales of your own, 30 or so of amazon.   And you'll be in the publishing business.  You will also be positioned to start publishing other people.  Especially if you have gotten the skills to turn out really good copies on LSI.  You night be good at it.  But ten ISBN's for $250 and start cranking out books, paying royalties.  Could be a second career.  Or, of course, not.
And LSI will switch you over to more profitable offset if you start making those kind of numbers.  (Meaning--you risk capital...so far all of this is pay as you go)

You can create ebooks on CreateSpace, or just go to SmashWords, or learn how to do them yourself.  Once you have a clean MS, it's not that hard.  All conversions and such an be learned from http://www.mobileread.com/

Talking ZERO costs to produce and ship.   You could take on other writers as ebooks first, go to POD if it's warranted.

I'm sure that's enough to think about for now.  FIrst thing you should do, in my book, is start accounts on Lulu and Createspace and start getting your hands on.

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