@alobionsday: Could JK Rowling have had her success by self-publishing
Case #1: Terry McMillan is a successful fiction author that largely caters to African-American woman. She is a huge success. When she first published (with a major publisher) who book went nowhere. So she started writing to every college and offering to speak and give out books for free.
Bit by bit bookstores started to order her books. Word was getting out. Not because of the publisher, who had already given up on her, but because of her own persistence.
Case #2: John Grisham. His first book was not, actually, “The Firm”. It was a “Time To Kill” (I have to state the order because “The Firm” was his first successful book.
“A Time To Kill” was rejected by everyone. Then a small publisher took it, it sold about 1000 copies (Grisham was in the Mississippi State Legislature and couldn’t even get his voters to buy it) and then the book disappeared. He was going to quit writing but he had a passion about it. Despite the criticism that he is “pop literature” I happen to think he is a very good writer.
And he got better, and was persistent, and wrote his second book, “The Firm”. I know some people who manage his money. Everytime he publishes a book now my friends get another $20 million to manage. Good for John Grisham!
Case #3: Eckhart Tolle self-published “The Power of Now” I think in the late 90s. Got nowhere with it. Went door to door selling it. Then, again, bit by bit, word of mouth got out. More people started buying. I heard about it around 2001. Eventually Oprah heard about it. BAM! The rest is history.
Case #4: This is not a case but a whole category. Thousands of books are published by publishers every year. They could care less about the success or failure of any one individual book. The average first novel (published by a major publisher) sells 1000 copies or less (I forget if it’s 500 or 1000). Publishing with a publisher gets you nothing.
The sincere voices rise to the top. The crap gets flushed into the sewer. Self-published or not.
And, of course, here’s my “How To” on Self-Publishing your own book and why I think it’s useful and important to do it that way. There’s a bunch of links in there and they are all critical in explaining why.