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What is the process of publishing and self publishing?

I've heard it's extraordinarily hard to get published. What's the process like? Also, how would you go about self publishing?

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The difference is who gives the money for the expenses for printing and advertisement. If you have it you can self publish too. But a publishing company employs a professional crew which can get you to a wider audience much more easily but as you said it is difficult to get published. You usually drop your work to the publishing company they evaluate it, then they make you work with some editor(s) so you can polish up your work. Of course they have to notice you and that is unfortunately more about making contacts than being good, especially if they are paying for it.
To get there you can self-publish one or two books to show yourself. Internet of course is a great environment as you know and you can publish with no cost. My advice is don't think about getting wider audience or selling too much or making money for your first few works. You never know, but still don't think about it. You need to find out if people like your work and which people.
Just make a search on the internet for "publish book", there are many web sites that would help you. Also you can use art communities like deviantart.com too.

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Ah, I see. I'm not looking to sell my works or get a lot of people to read them, it's just a personal goal. I think self publishing would be best. Thanks!
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Look at the information Kindle/Amazon has on self-publishing.
I have a couple friends who have done that.

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Publishing with a regular publisher tends to be harder because you have to have an agent and you have to get accepted and very few are. But they pay you and promote and sell you.
Self publishing is much easier because you do it on your own, usually by POD or publish on demand. But you put the money in and you have to promote and sell yourself and your own product.
There are between type publishers too. Small press types. Some still POD but may help with promotion and sales.
A small few big publishers, like Harlequin, dont require agents but very few.
My suggestion is look into electronic self-publishing thru someone like Amazon. You charge less but may sell much more if you catch on. Write a short work to sell free or for a dollar to get your name in there then sell a longer work for more.

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There is a company called Publish America that will publish your book at no cost to you but it is entirely up to you to promote the book in any way you can and then they pay you royalties on your sales and offer you discounted additional copies if you want to donate some to a library or give them to friends to spread the word.

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