This is a question many people are asking themselves these days. Self-publishing houses like Lulu.com offer writers more options than ever before. When I finished my book, Walk In Your Own Footsteps, I pondered this question almost obsessively. I wanted the best for my book, but I also wanted to maintain control of my project and I didn't want to wait the months most publishers require to get it into people's hands. I also was told that no publisher would want me if I'd self-published.
So, I'll share how this has gone so far for me and let you know when new stuff happens with the book. First off, I spoke to my favorite niche publisher in my genre and was told that they are not against publishing books that have been already been self-published. In today's market, marketing a book falls in large part on the writer. Therefore, if you have the gumption to get the book out there with no backing, you're showing the publisher that you're willing to work hard to promote your book. Also, any connections I make while promoting my book on my own, will only help if I decide to go with a mainstream publisher later. I've been on 3 radio shows which I found through Help A Reporter Out. If you're promoting anything, I think being on this mailing list can be very helpful! I was also on a local public access television show. My mother took my book to a craft show and met the producer there. That interview experience was awesome! When I tell people that I self-published because I had a vision for my book and didn't want to hand it over for a publishing house's input, people really understand that. I've had no discrimination because I'm self published. I wrote a book and am sharing it with the world. That's the bottom line.
Okay, that all being said, I have submitted my book to a mainstream publishing house that I feel would help me get my book into more hands. I still don't want to change the cover, or the primary content/style of my book. So, if they want me I'll have to work very closely with them to make sure my book remains the book I was inspired to write. I'm looking to partner with someone who will help me and I'll help them. I'm not showing up, hat in hand, hoping for a leg up. That's an important step for me.
It is also vitally important that you know your genre. I understand that romance books only stay on the shelves for a few weeks, even when published with a big house. So, getting your book out there first, might not be a good idea for a romance writer. Each genre will have it's own considerations.
Admittedly, there is no big advance when you self-publish, but much more of the proceeds of your hard work go into your pocket. As with anything else in life, weighing the pros and cons is a little tough because they don't necessarily weigh equally.
If you've gone through the effort to create a book, and want to share it with the world, I feel that self-publishing is a valid path to achieving your goal. The most important part is that you feel you've made the right choice for you and your work. Weighing your options, taking input from people who know, then following your own instincts is probably the best way to know. Because, ultimately, it's up to you... the writer... to choose your best publishing path.