I know of two ways to self-publish and I've done them both ways. One way is to use a publishing services. There are many publishing services out there and some are not perfect to say the least. Some offer packages of different levels of services to pick from, others give you a set fee and they do all the work. They can cost from $500 to 1500 and even higher to get your books in print. Most of them will take your files and design your book or you can upload your files and work out the design yourself. I know authors who have had good luck with some of these services and it seems simple enough if you have the money. I was not one of the lucky ones going this way and decided I have to learn what there was to know to have my books printed.
So the second way I know of is to learn about getting a book made from beginning to end. This is sometimes called, independent publishing. Doing it this way, you have to hire the printer and hire the book design and hire pros for anything else you find you can't do yourself including the marketing and more. But there is satisfaction that comes from doing it all yourself.
For independent publishing you will need to find information about every step you'll have to take. If your books need illustrations and you are not an artist, you should start right here. Ywill need to find an illustrator and pay them for the pictures, or split the money made on each book you make with them. Though, you can consider the two of you share the whole cost of producing the book together. Also, you could buy stock photos for your book. (You can research stock photos to find out more about it.)
If you do consider going the independent publishing route, you will need to find out about:
Computer software or book design.
Starting your publishing business. (Not all printers will work with anyone who isn't a publishing company.)
Coming up with a budget.
Coming up with the money.
Buy your own ISBN numbers.
Decide if you will do POD, (Print On Demand,) or do offset printing.
With POD you pay for set up, other fees and all I have listed here if you can't do it yourself, and for as many books as you want to order down to one copy at a time.
Find a printer. (For picturebooks that may be overseas for 4-color printing and lower cost though you will have to order maybe one or two thousand copies and find a warehouser or a place you can store the books away from too much heat and humidity. There are also POD printers in the USA that do 4-color printing AND the cost is low.)
Book consultants and packagers.
If not using POD, warehousing and fulfillment services for your books.
Returned books. (You will need to know about this early on.)
Marketing help and/or plan.
Website and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
AND much, much more!
The publishing business is not an easy one. I advise you to do your own research. The internet can help you find the information you will need. There are sites for just about everything on publishing. Research people who can do the jobs you can't do yourself and READ everything you can on publishing.
Some Books to Read:
PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOK PUBLISHING by Morris Rosenthal. I can't say enough about this book. He covers the latest information about POD, the publishing business, and marketing your books while saying it in everyday language. His detailed information on Search Engine Optimization was a great help.
THE PUBLISHING GAME, PUBLISH a Book in 30 Days by Fern Reiss. Though I don't think any one should undertake publishing a book in 30 days, this book has a good plan to follow. It goes through what to do and when to do it. You will define you goal, write the cover copy, understand book pricing, learn about software, book layout, and galleys. It has a list of PRINTERS, learn about listing your book with bookstores, and know how to ship books, (and YES) returns.
The Self-Publishing Manual, How to Write, Print and Sell your Own Books by Dan Poynter. This is a reference book for authors self-publishing with nothing left out and resources for everything.
http://www.fonerbooks.com/selfpublishing/ Morris Rosenthal's site.
http://www.gropenassoc.com/index.htm This is a Reference Desk with everything at a click. Marketing/price setting/ design info/ editing/finance/ management/ technical info in publishing and links to everything self-publishers need.
www.publishinggame.com Fern Reiss' site, like her book, keeps writers and publishers informed and up to date.
http://wexfordpress.com/index.html John Cullenton's site offers do-it-yourself find out about indexing, book coaching, shepards, packagers, book design, and typesetting. See his lists of specialists.
http://www.newselfpublishing.com Aaron Shepard's site. This site has tips for young and older authors. Aaron Shepard's Bulletin is helpful with info on self-publishing, software for creating your books, printers info. I read his newsletter each month.
Copyright attorney, Lloyd L. Rich's site http://www.publaw.com/
Copyright information. www.copyright.gov