Is it bad? Is it good? Should you do it?
(Oh, c'mon.... You know you want to do it!) I'm sure you've heard it too.
I'm not going to talk about self-publishing. As much as I want to douse water on those who use it as their own private word-waste dumping ground. I don't think it should be used that way. (No, I don't want to buy your unedited 580-page YA novel about a unicorn princess who falls in love with an alien space fungus and shuttles to Venus to participate in the Peckish Games for .99 on amazon.)
I'm going to talk about how wonderful, and awful, and beautiful pursuing traditional publishing is.
This is the story of a dream. My dream.
When I was in junior high, I realized I liked to write. I liked to write so much that I thought one day I would write a book. No, better yet, a series of books! I would write them, illustrate them, and then I would get them published and share my world with as many readers as my books could reach.
I'm still following that dream, and still trying to publish my first novel in that series. I've learned a lot in a short time. I've learned that everything moves slowly, and the only things you can control are your own skill and your own choices. You hone your skill, and you choose carefully when you query, how you query, and who you query. (First, you have to learn what makes a 'good' query.)
Among my musts isn't "you must self-publish when you get angry, frustrated, depressed, or desperate", because that isn't the right reason to self-publish. (And that would only add to the festering cesspit of word-waste out there in ebookland.) You might be getting rejections from agents because your work isn't ready yet. You might be getting them because you queried the wrong agent and need to keep trying. You might be getting them because the market isn't ready for your book and you have to wait awhile. (And if the market still isn't ready for your book after you've waited awhile, you might want to consider self-publishing.)
You should never assume there's a huge conspiracy against you, that the agents and editors are all evil, and that you will show everyone once and for all what your grandmother has known for years - how talented and amazing you are! In your FACE, Gatekeepers!
Agents know marketing, they know if they can sell a book or not. And I, for one, trust their judgement on that. If they've been in the business long enough, they know the big ones and small ones in publishing, and they've seen a ton of stories similar to yours over the years. If yours is the one to catch their eye, consider yourself on the right track. Even if they reject you. That's right. I said it. Rejection isn't the end. It's only the beginning. It means you're trying, and that you are getting attention. It means your work made it in front of an agent (who sees a LOT of writing) and was considered. Next time, it might be an offer of representation.
Traditional publication isn't about the Cinderella moments, since those don't happen to everyone, and probably won't happen for you. It's about the perseverance. It's about not letting yourself stay down in the doldrums of rejection, not letting yourself take it personally, not letting yourself doubt. It's about not letting yourself and your book down. You know that when it's over, it'll be worth it.
Go, trad pub!