Here is where I published the trade paperback of my book. I noticed that BookSurge is now part of CreateSpace; BookSurge did the actual printing for CreateSpace, and the quality is excellent!
Don't jump into the self-publishing pool before you have had a swim in rejection slips with traditional publishers! I believe it is much better to submit your stuff to large and small publishers that pay you. Do your research. Know the difference between publishing with Random House, Simon and Schuster, etc and publishing on your own with CreateSpace, Lulu, or AuthorHouse. Also, know the difference between a Vanity Publisher and self-publishing using a print service under CreateSpace or Lulu.
The big and small publishers who pay you to write, this is what I call traditional publishing, or commercial publishing as a site I saw recently said is correct. Self-publishing your book or story or photo essay using CreateSpace or another POD [print on demand] service for the printer takes a lot of work, but you sell your book and get profits for it, as a small home business. Vanity publishing is where you pay a lot of money to get your book polished and printed, but this is looked down upon because you are not getting paid, at least not for a long while. I say, get enough training to do all of this yourself, and self-publish rather than paying anyone to polish or review your book. If it is a good book, you can market it and sell maybe, hundreds of copies. With more investment in marketing and advertising, you can sell a lot more. Like any small business, your profit comes after your investments, so you may not see any money for quite a while that's not payback for donations, advertising, etc.
Any of the three publishing options are going to take persistence and hard work. Beware of vanity publishers who want to do all the work for you, for fees. Their distribution services are limited to your little place in huge catalogs that don't really boost your chances. Marketing and promotion will sell your book, if it is a good product to begin with.
In my book, forgive the pun, sending manuscripts off to people who might pay you for your effort is exciting, and a learning process. Your work may fit the model that all bestsellers seem to have; my aunt reads a lot of them and tells me they have a taste of sameness about them. But, this is the first way I believe all aspiring writers must go. Swim in the rejection pool a while, and watch for any comments which are not form letter territory.
If you have done this for a while, and tried to find similar works that compare to yours without finding any, you may be a candidate for self-publishing. But, I want to get paid for my hours at the PC typing away. So, I don't want to pay for any services the self-publisher might provide. I made a name for my self-publishing house, DanniStories, and I have a lot of material to market. I'm good at grammar and spelling, so I don't need their editing services; I do my own, and any mistakes in my manuscripts are my fault. I designed my own cover, so I didn't need one designed for me.
I love libraries, and either try to get them to buy my book, or I donate a copy and deem it advertising costs. I sold several copies of my book by having them on hand and showing them to friends.
Remember, word of mouth sells books [see advice by a staff member of Barnes and Noble]. If you create your own publishing house, you have to be able to wear many hats. You are your own editor, art department, marketer, promoter. You do your own advertising campaigns. You invest time in social networks, but you don't spend all day yakking about your book and how good it is. Instead, you put links out there that are useful to whomever your audience is. You comment on blogs and forums, without saying a word about you. Instead, you put a link to your website [did I say you are also Webmaster and manager of your web site?] and let the curious visit. You have to invest in copies of your book to lug around, but your website should have links to where your customer will buy your book online. You have to travel a bit to show your book to libraries and independent bookstores. Offer to do signings or presentations on your subject. Marketing and promotion is a full-time job! For those in poor health [like me], you can learn to do a presentation online. Do YouTube videos. Link to them from your Website. Let libraries know your vids are available, and offer to do a chat for their patrons. Don't be afraid to call people and show your book by appointment. I hear some new authors have to do their own marketing and promotion anyway, so why not do it for full profit? Once you sell enough books, you can buy your own ISBN's [at $125 apiece] and put your brand on it. For beginners, I suggest taking the free ISBN. Offer your book in hardcover by using Lulu http://www.lulu.com, which also offers a variety of sizes and bindings for publishing. I use both, and I like the quality of the printing. CreateSpace has the advantage of putting you on amazon.com, which can help publicize you; a lot of people shop on Amazon, and if they know of your book there, they might be more likely to get it there rather than your stores on CreateSpace or Lulu. If you want to offer ebooks, try Amazon Kindle. Anyone can contribute books and sell them on Amazon. I have 54 items on Kindle. It is easy to format your book the way they want it, in an HTML file.
So, you've written your book, you either had or acquired the skills to edit them and get your grammatical and spelling errors to your bare minimum. You're sure that you have a good product, and you're willing to fight for it. Now, you need to make it available in multiple formats. If you've already done a trade paperback, it's easy to go over to www.lulu.com and make it available as hardcover, and they have an option to also offer it in eBook form. Then, you can use www.smashwords.com to make it available in multiple eBook formats. Go to dtp.amazon.com and put it on Kindle. You can offer your eBook at a lesser price than your trade paperback. Many people buy an eBook, or download the sample chapter for free, to sample your book. Many who like it will buy the paperback or hardcover. Both CreateSpace and Lulu give you the ISBN under their names for free. Having copies in libraries gives your book needed exposure. People who read the new books at the library rarely buy them, but if they like them, they talk about them to other people who might buy. Library staff also are avid readers, and talk about what they read. They make suggestions to patrons. It's free advertising, or maybe, advertising at the cost of a copy of your book.
Think carefully before going the self-publishing route. You will sever all ties with commercial publishers, maybe forever. Rarely, a publisher will approach a self-publisher with an offer to buy it. They will get North American First Rights, and you get a lot more exposure than on your own. You still have the copyright on your book, and if it goes out of print, you can get your rights back and self-publish, if you can't get the publisher to keep printing it. But, most who self-publish have books which aren't mainstream, and are hard to interest a commercial publisher with it.
Self-publishing is your own publishing house, your own small business. Like any small business, profit may or may not appear. It takes a lot of work. You'll work harder for yourself than for any job. But, it's exciting to have complete control over your work.
I like CreateSpace first, and Lulu second. There are other POD's, but these seem to have the least complaints. If it's your business, you can print your book anyplace and it doesn't hurt anything to have multiple ISBN's for different editions of your book [read that, with CreateSpace ISBN for the trade paperback, Lulu ISBN for your hardcover, and maybe you put it out in different sizes, etc on Lulu, each with their own ISBN. This is normal. If you buy your own ISBN, you have to have a separate one for each format your book comes out in. But, for eBooks, there is no ISBN.
It is a good idea to register your works at www.copyright.com so you have the evidence to sue those who might steal your ideas. It's proof that the work is, indeed, yours. For $35, you can copyright all your unpublished works [their definition is anything not in print, so you can include any eBooks you have]. For published books, it's $35 apiece. You must submit 2 copies of your print book with them, whether you pay the fee or not. This is something the commercial publisher does for an author. As a self publisher, you need to do this. Don't pay the services to do this for you! It's easy to do this yourself. They will catalog it so libraries have something to go by in cataloging yours locally.
Also, on www.copyright.com, you can navigate to the Library of Congress Number page [LCN]. For free, you can obtain a Library of Congress Number and include it on your copyright page of your published book. This gives Library of Congress a heads up on your books yet to be published; just apply for the number several weeks before you publish. You can't get these for eBooks, but for print. Don't pay $50 to have POD's do it for you! By the Way, you can't get CIP [Cataloging-in-publication] like you see behind the title page on commercially published books. You have to publish around 50 books a year from your publishing house! My output will probably be every six months or so.
For making writer friends and honing your skills, try National Novel Writing Month in November. http://nanowrimo.org has a section just for young writers, and resources for teachers wanting to write a novel as a class. You write 50,000 words in a month, and it's great fun! I've met a lot of folks online who love to write.
For you wannabe script writers, in April there is ScriptFrenzy http://www.scriptfrenzy.org, where you write a 100-page script in a month. Great way to meet other script writers, and simply just learn how! You'll find helpful friends who post links for beginners. There are different types of scripts, so you can get a feel for which kind is right for your idea. I'm signed up because I want to learn how.
For video and music, I can't give advice, but you can do indie publishing with CreateSpace as easily as I can process a manuscript. I plan an audiobook: for that they give a link to another site.
Don't give up. Gather up your persistence and write! Produce! Keep on with your video and music!