I started writing and submitting in the late 1980s. Publishing was a different beast in those days. Everything was done via snail-mail. You typed a manuscript -- very few of us had computers -- and you mailed it off. Then you waited.
You might wait two weeks or a year. Eventually, you'd get a 'rejection slip' or, if you were lucky, an acceptance. Rejections slips might be a brief 'thanks but no thanks' or a check-off box on a list (too slow, not our genre, are you kidding, etc.') or, rarely, a personal letter from the editor detailing the reasons for rejection.
And those were your options. If I recall, there were maybe three big vanity presses up and running. You could pay them, sure, but you'd wind up with a garage full of books that no book store would touch.
That much hasn't changed.
Fast forward to today. Everything is submitted via email. More importantly, Kindle Direct Publishing means *anyone* can put a book in front of the general public.
Is Kindle Direct Publishing a bad thing?
Heck no. I've put my own short stories into anthologies and published them via KDP. Self published, that is. And proud of it.
Why? Because each of these stories, at some point, was deemed salable by an editor. Okay, it's been so long since they were published the rights reverted back to me. So I decided why not put them on KDP?
If people read them, and like them, they might buy my trad-pubbed novels. They get a good book, my publisher gets a sale, I take my wife out to eat -- everyone wins!
So I have a two-pronged sales approach. First, I offer my short stories, most of them print published in the 1990s, via KDP. If people like those, I hope they'll buy my trad-pubbed novels.
Are they buying my trad-pubbed novels?
Yes. They are. I'm not a number one best-seller -- yet -- but I'm making progress. I have a YA series. The Mug and Meralda books)and an adult (the Markhat Files) series, and I'm doing just fine. One is self-pubbed. The other is trad-pubbed).
If I had a point at all, it is this: First, write a lot. One book isn't enough. Everybody has one book.
Very few have five.
Even fewer have ten.
Write. When you finish that first book, start another. Finished with that fourth book?
Start another one. Nope, don't talk, start that next book!
Start it, and finish it, and then get the next one out.