This particular question is for people who are looking to publish books for back of the room sales, but it actually has a wider application. If you want to be a writer in today's market, you have to look at whether it is advantageous to self-publish. If you do self-publish what are the venues available to you.
Most writers aren’t candidates for big publishers. They may be candidates for small niche publishers but, in the day of self-publishing, getting published by other people isn’t all that necessary, since the authors are going to have to do the bulk of self-promotion anyway. I repeat that - you are going to have to do your own self-promotion.
Big name publishers, like Doubleday or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which all used to be separate companies, are becoming fewer and fewer. Yes, they give advances, which you pay back out of the sale of your book, but you have to pay back in full if it turns out they don’t like your final product. Yes, they sometimes put money into a national tour, and they take care of all the little problems like lay out and copy editing. But, there’s just one major problem – if your book isn’t a hit in a few weeks, it goes off the shelves, out of the book stores, gets remaindered and you get to buy whatever copies are left. Also, with the advent of the big discounts at the super stores which are in competition to see who can sell the most by lowering the price of your book, you get less profit from your books.
Finally, there’s the issue of who gets the profits. If you get 5% of the sale of your book with a big publisher you’re lucky – and that’s not entirely unfair. They take the risk, make the advance, have the book edited, copy edited, printed, distributed and, if they do happen to publicize it, keep the huge staff to do that on their payroll. They have big buildings for which they pay maintenance and taxes, big staffs, international representation and a lot of overhead. So you take your couple of bucks profit and keep your day job.
Since you’re going to have to store a bunch of your books anyway for back of the room sales you might as well do it yourself and keep the profit. Profits for self-published books are 85% as against 5%. Books that have been published by big publishers usually don’t usually have a long life – although that’s somewhat less true with the advent of www.Amazon.com. Heads up, my experience with Amazon has been dreadful. I know dozens of people personally who have bought my books from Amazon and I haven't realized a penny from that company. If you are using your book in your seminars and workshops for back of the room sales, you need to have copies for the duration of your career (which you buy at half price from the big publishers as long as they’re in print and then you self-publish). Unless you have a big name and a large following, it’s probably best to self-publish from the outset.
With the advent of the Internet and the e-book the whole scene is changing. More than 50% of all books sold by Amazon are now sold on Kindle (where I have my books and still haven't received a penny). There are companies that convert your books to eBooks - I've just loaded my books onto Smashwords and my account is still so young there I don't know if they pay better than Amazon but they certainly communicate better than Amazon. Every time a transaction happens around a book of mine I am notified by Smashwords. I never get a word from Amazon. In addition, several of my books are co-authored and Amazon refuses to list sales by individual book sold so I don't know how to split profits if I ever see any.
What Smashwords does is convert your book to all the different formats that are used by all the different epub opportunities - Nook, Kindle, I-pad and so forth. They also sell your book on Smashwords. And, as I have mentioned, they communicate with you. I don't yet know if they pay.
You can use a publisher (see my list in my book "How To Write A Book That Positions You As an Expert In your Field") available on Kindle, on my website www.joanmeijer.com - Soon to be available on Smashwords. You can use CafePress.com or Lulu.com - to print on demand one at a time books so that people can order on line. But if you use them, you can't really sell hard cover or even paperback on Amazon or the other on-line bookstores because the books are too expensive for them to make a profit. I have used CafePress and never made a nickel - same problem with Amazon they don't communicate anything with the authors. You gather I'm not happy with these companies.
NOTE: Even if you are going to submit your project to a publisher, it’s a good idea to have a copy editor look it over before you send it in. Editors don’t like misspellings, awkward English and typos. You're going to need a copy editor if you self-publish. If you go with companies that do on-demand you are going to have to pay for your own copy editor or their copy editor. Copy editing is one of their profit centers. I have a good copy editor listed in "How To Write A Book That Positions You As An Expert In Your Field."