A friend of mine, who is married to a bestselling author, chatted with me about this very question. We even shared a panel where we had differing views of opinion, and he honestly thought I was angry. No, not hardly. I thought his view to be myopic, but I certainly wasn't angry about his opinion. Everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs.
So, with that entrance, I figured I'd give you mine. Surprised?
One very well-known author has recommended that people simply self-publish their work. While I am not against self-publishing, per se, I wonder about the quality of the work if his readership decides to take him up on it. An author who has sold a remarkable number of books as this author has can "go it alone." He's got the connections, fan-base, and the professionalism to come up with a quality product.
Most authors, sadly, don't. Even if they do, they need a professional book cover, editing, proofreading, and the like. This isn't just a slap-dash thing. It costs money and time. A friend of mine said, "yeah, I could publish this myself, but I figure it'll cost me more than a thousand dollars to do it right."
When you get accepted by a publisher, you have someone who vetted your work, meaning, the person read it and thought it was good enough for the publishing company's lineup. You have someone creating a (hopefully) professional book cover. And you have someone who edited and proofed the manuscript.
With self-publishing, you have a chance to make a lot of money, or look like a fool. You can let the market decide that your book is worthwhile or not. But you may have only one chance at it.
I don't accept everyone's books for that reason. I will tell people point-blank that they're not up to my standards. It doesn't mean that they are bad authors, but somewhere along the way, they need to clean up their books, learn the basics of the craft, and work towards writing a good book.
What about the agent route of having the agent help you DIY publish? Quite frankly, I find that a serious conflict of interest. I mean, the original role of agents was to find you a publisher. Now, they've become a book packager. That is a perilous road to travel fraught with ugly contracts that give your agent partial rights, or worse -- take all your rights.
I don't work with agents in my capacity as publisher for those reasons. I also offer the best percentage possible at 50% net profits (given the work we're doing, that's infinitely fair).
So, there you go, my take on the publisher/agent/DIY discussion. If you decide to DIY, be aware that you've got work ahead of you plus costs to produce a professional product; otherwise, look for a publisher with a good reputation.