As a lot of people have pointed out, in the last two years an entire new world has evolved in publishing: Self-publishing authors on Kindle and Nook. So I'm going to take that as a given for the moment. I'm not going to discuss whether it's good or bad. What I do want to do is take a couple of steps back from where I am now and discuss the process that my co-author, C. R. Daems, and I went through to get Wings of Evil ready and on sale.
So what do I think you need to do to have a chance to be successful publishing your own novel? What did we do to try to reach that goal?
The first thing, and I hope this is a given, is pay a lot of attention to advice from people like Joe Konrath, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Dean Wesley Smith. Joe and Kris particularly led the way in this revolution. They have great advice on their blogs. They are in my blog roll to the right side of my blog. I should also give a special word of thanks to Victorine Lieske who has been more than generous with her advice.
But once you've done your research, what then. You have that novel in hand. The first thing to do, (do I need to tell you this?) is edit that sucker until it shines and get some beta readers to give you feedback on it. Pay attention to the feedback. This is no time to be defensive. No, you don't have to take all the advice, but even the advice you don't totally agree with may have kernels of wisdom.
Then you need a good cover and blurb. The problem for writers is that these are really separate skill sets. Few of us have graphics skills and writing blurbs is very different than writing novels. For this, I went to a support system. I'm an active member of both Critique Circle and the Kindleboards. And let me tell you, people there have opinions and they will tell you those opinions. Everyone hated my first try (well, not mine in the case of the cover--I do NOT do graphics) at a cover and blurb. But I learned why. I was told what to look for in a cover. I tweaked. I reposted. I got more feedback.
Did I ever get something that everyone loved? No. But I got something that a lot of people did like or love. I decided that was as good as it was likely to get, so I went with it. One advantage of self-publishing is that after a while if I get negative feedback from readers or if I don't get sales, I can change them.
I would strongly advise something like this for anyone who is going to put their novel up for sale. Don't depend solely on your own opinion, just as you don't with your novel. You need other people's eyes and opinions, or most of us do anyway.
Then there is the whole formatting nightmare. It is IMPORTANT for your novel to be well formatted when people buy it. I didn't do my own formatting. It happens that my co-author, C. R. Daems, is a total guru about things computer. He did it. (He is a wonderful person. I don't discuss him much but I owe him more than I can begin to tell you. He is patience personified)
Then and only then after what probably took months, you can open accounts with Amazon and B&N, where they want everything short of your great-grandmother's maiden name to open an account, and upload your novel, cover and blurb. It took us from 24 to 48 hours to have them go live on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.
Then--well, getting sales is a whole different post. Maybe a lot of them.