Articles like this one bring to sharp detail the sheer amount of work that must be done to move a manuscript from an idea to a selling book. If you are going the traditional publication route, there is a whole lot of work that you have to put in when it comes to getting the publisher's notice. With traditional publication, there are a lot of 'services' that are managed by the publisher. Things like designing a cover, selecting a good typefont for the contents of the book, and finding a good editor are generally what the publisher takes care of. I'm sure there are a lot more details to that form of publication that I am just not aware of. Still, looking at it, it is pretty clear that you are not sitting on your laurels dreaming of the next book while you smoke cigars and drink umbrella drinks at some island retreat.
Self publication is a huge amount of work as well. You have to take care of all those details yourself and fund them from the outset. Starting out in self publication is rough work. While it is tempting to think that the traditionally published author has an easier time of it, it really is just a different form of work. Unlike traditional publication, the self published author has a great deal more creative control over the final product that hits the shelves. You surrender a goodly portion of that control to the publishing house when you are traditionally published. For some people, the idea of determining what paper stock is best and how big the typefont should be is daunting enough to send them running for cover. And that is ok. Not everybody wants to handle that stuff.
In either case, you still have to go out there and work hard to market your book. You still have to the leg work of meeting the public, be it via the internet (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or the old fashioned book signing at the bookstore down the road. You still have to make a point of doing the interviews and (if you're lucky) panel discussions at conventions. The idea that the publishing house will take care of it all and you just have to show up is a myth that, in my opinion, does a huge disservice to the work the authors who go through that route do independent of the publisher. The stereotype of the self published author begging family to buy books and putting out work that is mediocre at best is just as damaging.
Publication is serious business. While it can be undertaken lightly, it does not get as positive results as the person who approaches it with due respect. Honestly, it is also pretty scary stuff too. There is the fear of rejection that runs rampant through either process that can really cut you down. There is the anxiety as to if your work is good enough to make sales just to break even, regardless of any dreams of profit. And that dizzying sense of free fall when you put your work out on the market is a real rough patch of ground to go over too. It is hard work. It is scary work.
But for how hard and scary publication is, it is also truly rewarding. There is no feeling like the one of holding your proof copy in hand, seeing that your manuscript has made it into print. The thrill of having successfully birthed a creative endeavor is ecstatic. The excitement of making your first sale is equally wonderful. Some people have compared the process to having a child. Honestly, having birthed two children, I think that is a brutally accurate description. Your heart is in your throat half the time. You work long hours, many of which are painfully tedious and you may find yourself questioning just what you got yourself into. You have times where you honestly question if you are competent enough to see that manuscript to completion.
It is grueling work. Some of it is terribly painful and some of it is breathtakingly wonderful. At the end of the day, no matter how much work goes into the process, you still have the accomplishment of completing a book. And that right there is just as much of a miracle as a newborn child.