Getting a book published can be difficult. It took years before J.K. Rowling found a publisher for her Harry Potter books. And many other authors have told stories of wallpapering rooms with their rejection slips. Down in Bakersfield the Writers of Kern writing group regularly starts meeting by asking who's been rejected since the last meeting. And I'm a member of “The Failure Club” on Facebook. This isn't to rub noses in our failures but to celebrate our attempts.
But when it comes to books some folks just don't feel like the time required for the “traditional” route is worth it. So a lot of people are going the do-it-yourself route. “Self publishing” developed a bad reputation, but recently that has been diminishing. It is possible to put together a book for free and only pay for a copy or two to check out the results. (These are called the “proof” copies.) These books are produced by printers, not publishers, and it is possible to do it all online.
I have been investigating and two popular ones are createspace and lulu. The services are about the same and the more word you do, editing, design, etc. the less you have to pay. One advantage to createspace is that it is a part of Amazon and creating your book with them gets it automatically listed on Amazon.
So I'm likely to be putting together a book or two this year and have been looking in to doing as much as I can myself. Not just to save money, but to learn some things too. There is a lot to learn about book design. The interior of a book is laid out and designed, fonts are chosen, decisions about things like tables of contents have to be made. And publication quality layouts are different than simply doing word processing.
But all of that is fairly straightforward. Where I've ended up spending more of my time is on what needs to be done to design the cover of a book. Now we're generally told not to judge a book by its cover, but in reality that is the first impression your book will make. So you need a cover that will attract attention. And it needs to be good attention. Software for putting together the graphics for a cover is completely different than the software needed for the interior.
Images are needed for the cover and measurements have to be accurate. Depending on how many pages you have the cover may also include a design for the spine of the book. And the back cover is important since that is where a potential reader looks when they make a decision to buy the book. And the back will likely be where the bar code for the book will be placed. Which may not be important to a writer, but now you're a publisher.