I spent my last blog here talking about self-publishing, but really only talked about e-books. To me, they're simple compared to paperbacks. I've done a few, but felt like I was starting over from scratch every time. Therefore, when I did the next in my Imogene Duckworthy series this month, I took careful notes. Then, since I wanted the somewhere I could find them for next time, I added them to my booklet, THE ROAD TO SELF-PUBLISHING.
Now that I'm using a cover designer, it's not hard to do the cover at all. I just email Karen Phillips, give her the back cover copy, and ask her to do it. Then she tells me she needs the page count, which I've forgotten, and I go format the dang thing so I'll know the page count. The page count is needed so she'll know how thick the book is, how big to make the spine and how big to make the print it.
I use Createspace. That's the only company I have experience with, so it's the only I can speak about. The most important thing to remember is time! It takes way longer than you ever think it will. You should start this process at least a month before you want the book to be available--two months if you can manage that.
When I did the cover myself, for my short story collection, I realized too late that I should have done the paperback cover first. If I had done that, it would be simple to take an e-book cover from that. Creating the paperback cover from the e-book cover proved beyond me and I had to start over. The titles for the two versions don't match on that book, but the background photo is the same. When you do covers using Createspace templates, there is one that allows you to load an already created file, but I always forget which one it is.
Moving on from the cover (at which I was no help, I realize), the formatting is done using their internal templates. I use the "guided" process, but if you're a whiz, you may be able to bypass that.
The page size default is 6x9, but I use 5x8 since that seems a little large to me. You may have to play around with the margin settings, but here's what I've used: top and bottom .25, left and right .5 and a gutter of .75. My gutter size may be on the large side, but if it's too small, you won't pass through the processing step and will be outside the margins they allow.
When you've loaded your whole product, it will take a couple days for approval. This is just the beginning.
You should now order proof copies. I order the max, 5, and send those to reviewers. In a little over a week, you'll receive the proof copies. Now you can see if you've made major errors. If you have, you must correct your files and load them up again, taking 2 days for approval and over a week for proof copies again. I urge you NOT to skip these steps.
When you like what you've received in the mail, you can order actual copies to sell. This, of course, will take another week or so.
All the mailings can be expedited, but it costs quite a bit, so start early and give yourself plenty of time.
If you'd like to see the detailed instructions, they're in the 99 cent booklet mentioned above. Links to it are at the bottom left of my homepage, http://kayegeorge.com/