Like any industry, the writing world is dynamic and full of competition. You can't just open up Word and write any ole tall tale and think it will be published. You need to know your audience, your genre, your story orientation, is your story first person or third, how you will market the book and yourself, what your platform will be and how you will get your foot in the door as new author. This is just to get an agent to pay attention to you. Writing a book for everyone of all ages won't fly. You can't just say you will write your book and throw your headshot on a poster and people will flock to your novel so you become an "overnight" smashing success like The Hunger Games. Notice the quotes? There's no such thing as an overnight success. I digress.
Up comes the age old question of "how do you get experience if no one will take a chance on you to give you experience?" You can write articles and try to get published in magazines. You can pay money to enter writing competitions and hopefully win, or at least get feedback. Or you can keep writing and writing and writing and submitting to agents endlessly until someone likes your style and decides to give you a chance. Also you can write a blog and build your following, attend conferences and workshops, get other authors to endorse you, or commit a huge crime that gets national coverage. (Just kidding.)
So why go to all the trouble to find an agent and then a publisher? Why not self-publish? While the process works for some and some fabulous writers have self-published, most publishers view self-publishing as a shortcut. It would be similar to someone singing locally and putting their music on Youtube versus getting a record deal with a label. Is the publisher really the end all of writing? I know I am somewhat old fashion in this regard and many people disagree with me, but a publishing house putting their name next to yours means that they think your writing is high quality enough to endorse. With that said, some people do get great followings by self-publishing, but with self-publishing you are never guaranteed great writing. Self-publishing has undermined the authority of established publishers. (Three cheers for the underdog!) But regardless of self or traditional publishing, the truly classic pieces of literature will remain no matter what turns the publishing industry takes. I see both sides.
In all the craziness, it's been a lot of fun. I have read 4 books that have destroyed my ability to mindlessly enjoy a book that is poorly written. For you potential writers out there, start with Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. That will knock your socks off and get you to revise your book or your blog or just your emails. If you read to relax at night and just like the story, I highly recommend not reading that book.
As an aside, I have had a nibble from an agent. One step closer. I would love your feedback if you've made it this far through the post without crying in boredom. How would you build a following?