Once upon a time many writers didn't see this as a legitimate question. Authors would try as hard as they could to traditionally publish their work and only when they failed would they consider self-publishing. But that was then and this is now and the times they are a changing.
Today, not an insignificant number of authors choose self-publishing in one form or another as their preferred method of publishing. The rise of e-books and easy to use self publishing platforms like Amazon's KDP and Createspace (along with others like Smashwords) are allowing writers to put out a highly professional product without having to go through a traditional publishing company. Many authors love the ability to control their cover, the overall writing product itself, and their careers. With self-publishing, an author can release books whenever and however they want. Self-publishing writers are only constrained by their own ability to write well and write fast.
And write fast some of them do. Recently, two self publishing authors in particular have made news for their incredible productivity. Back in May of 2013, Novelist Elle Casey did a post about how she is able to write so many books (18) in just a short time (15 months). Russel Blake has recently been featured in a number of articles, including this one from the Wall Street Journal in which he also discusses how fast writing has helped his career.
A great way to learn more about self publishing is to follow popular blogs where self publishing writers gather. The largest single forum is probably the Kindle Boards Writers Cafe. Go there and look around at different posts and threads to learn more about what self publishers are up to. Or go check out self publishing super star authors JA Konrath or Hugh Howey. Both Konrath and Howey are articulate champions of self publishing and following their posts and the discussion in the comments below the posts is a great way to learn more about the rise of self-publishing.
As someone who has been following the self-publishing story for a couple of years, there is one area in particular that's most interesting to me and probably to other followers of this blog. Is self-publishing a viable option for Middle Grade authors? We see writers of genre fiction, especially those writing Romance, Sci Fci, Fantasy, and Thrillers have great success in self publishing. But we rarely, if ever, hear of Chidlrens Fiction authors having great success self publishing.
The key seems to be that kids don't make the buying decisions in their home and the primary way self-publishers reach their audience is through the internet, not through bookstores and libraries. Even kids who read e-books on Kindles or e-readers usually aren't the ones making the buying decisions. While its easy for an adult power reader to buy books online, its not easy for kids to do this. Ultimately, kids continue to learn about new books from their friends, from their teachers, and from their librarians.
And so far, no self-published title in Childrens Fiction has broken through as a big hit. There is no self publishing superstar in the world of Children's Fiction.
For now, most writers of Middle Grade fiction are going to continue to pursue Traditional Publishing. The world hasn't yet changed so much that middle grade authors are making great incomes from self-publishing alone. But the world is also changing very fast. Who knows what will happen in the next year or two. All it takes is one incredibly popular title or incredibly popular author and the tide may shift for Middle Grade authors.
My goal? To do both. I will pursue traditional publishing for some of my books and when I have a project that just seems to be a better fit for self-publishing, I won't hesitate to do it. My ultimate goal isn't to be a traditionally published author or a self published author. My goal is to be an author - an author who makes a living from writing books. If having a foot in both worlds of publishing is ultimately the best and most efficient way for me to achieve this goal, then that's exactly what I will do.