Marion Gropen is one of the pros on the Yahoo Self-Publishing group that consistently has good, down to earth, tested advice. Check out her blog at http://www.gropenassoc.com/blog/
An article that caught my eye today was What is a Publisher? She tells us what wise authors need if we plan to self-publish:
A block of ISBNs (10 for about $200 from Bowker-the more you buy, the cheaper by the each)
Book design skills
Editing, copyediting, and proofreading
Marketing skills and strategies for appropriate audiences
Distribution channels for appropriate markets
Industry and market expertise
If you want to be a publisher, you need to have these skills or be able to contract for them. Marion is also associated with Wexford Press ( a printing company) that can be your source for some of these these skills.
A traditional publisher pays you for the rights to spend their capital on producing your book, selling it for you, and distributing it for you . If you are the publisher, then obviously, you are spending your own capital. Before you put a lot of your own capital with the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into your manuscript, do some research. Remember that the more of your time and effort you spend to produce your book and sell it, the less time you have for writing the next one. Make sure that you understand what a contracted service will do for your money and what is still up to you to accomplish.
If you are considering self publishing, do consider joining the free Self-Publishing yahoo group where you can ask questions and get the benefit of others’ experiences, good and bad.