Wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but mistakenly posted it in the wrong blog. Silly me.
So I've been having a bit of a read about publishing this afternoon. The title of this post pretty much sums up the ordeals of trying to get a book in print.
The impression I get is that (unless you go the self-publishing route) there're only a couple of ways you will get a publisher to take notice of you.
1. Connections. This will involve your dad being head of the publishing company.
2. Money. I guess really this comes into the category of self-publishing. If you print enough copies of your book yourself and then distribute them everywhere, then eventually a publisher might take notice of you. You also have to spend every waking hour going out and promoting your book like mad. This is pretty much what happened with Eragon.
Literary agents are essential in order to submit manuscripts to a publisher and, from what I've read, it's also incredibly difficult to get a decent agent to take notice of you (typically they receive 1000 letters of inquiry a month).
Which leaves self-publishing. This is easy enough to accomplish. You can go to Lulu and get your book printed easily enough. It can take some work doing all the formatting and designing a cover, but is definitely doable and will get your book on Amazon.
But will it sell?
How many self-published books have you ever read?
It is possible, with work, to get a fairly good number of people downloading your book via kindle, or whatever. You're not going to earn much money for it, however. Things are possibly even worse for physical book sales as the cost of getting stuff printed 'on demand' is high. Would you buy an expensive book from an unknown author, or a cheaper book from a respectable publisher written by someone you've heard of?
I know it's always been hard for a writer to Make It, but these days publishers basically aren't willing to risk investing in new authors at all. I guess the most you can hope for is to view writing as something you might be able to make a small amount of money from as a hobby. Careers are out.