I'm not ready YET to give up having my novel published in the traditional manner, i.e., by an established publisher/press. But the probability of that happening is, I think, diminishing. My rejections have now come full circle. Initially, the plot was considered "unlikely," but the writing was good. Now the plot is good, but "we're not fond of the narrative voice."
It has always been difficult for a new writer to get an agent and/or publisher interested in taking them on, and for good reason -- it's a financial risk. Now, with the publishing business struggling as print media compete with all the other stimuli impinging on people's consciousness (usually as they try to drive), making a profit on book sales is even more chancy. Publishers are reading the tea leaves (apparently one of the few things they're reading), in the form of studies like that of the National Endowment for the Arts (2007), which reported that levels of reading among young people have plummeted over the last two decades. Alarmingly, Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 state that they almost never read for pleasure (except for the texts sent to their smart phones).
The other development that is giving publishers pause, is the growing popularity of e-books. Faced with the prospect of having to formulate a new business model -- one that requires publishers to ask what they can do for authors, instead of vice-versa -- publishers have run right out and claimed e-book rights for the works of authors they have published. E-book rights weren't mentioned in the agonizingly complex, convoluted, and copious contracts that authors were forced to sign, but not to worry, they were "understood."
What publishers should consider is that writers really don't need them any more, especially given the increasing burden for marketing that cash-strapped publishers have pushed to their authors. Hey, if I'm going to market my book, I can damn well self-publish it, too.
Publishers will continue to promote the myth that only traditionally published (read "published by us") authors are real authors, but the truth, as we've always known, but fail sometimes to acknowledge, is that real authors are people whose books are read.
My plan is to have my book read on the Kindle. I got one for Christmas and I love it! Amazon has a process for allowing authors to self-publish their work on the Kindle. It's called the Digital Text Platform, and it sounds awesome.
I'll keep you posted as I go down this path. Literally.