With the rise of digital publishing, self-publishing and e-publishing are increasing, and it's changing the reading world. For me, as a reader, the change has been a positive one. As a writer, not so much.
When I first started completing and submitting novels (6 1/2 years ago), I got tons of requests. My request rate was around 60-70% (from agents -- but I also had about a 50% request rate from editors, though I rarely subbed to them). I got revision requests from both agents and editors...but nothing came of it.
Today, my request rate is 0%. Isn't it ironic that as my writing improves (which it definitely has over the past six-seven years), it's gotten harder to get any attention for it? I suspect some of that has to do with the increase in digital publishing. Now that anyone can put their books out there (through self-pubbing and e-pubbing), editors and agents are having to narrow down their choices even more. If you don't happen to write something which falls into the ever-shrinking fields of mainstream interest, you're pretty much out of luck.
There are those who claim that it has to do with talent, and that all good books will get picked up and published. I would definitely disagree -- not only on my own behalf (as it's hard for me to be objective about my own ability -- yes, it's gotten stronger, but was it that great to begin with? I don't know), but because of the many stories I've read by those who are not traditionally published.
And that's where the benefit to readers comes in. Some of those stories which touch me the deepest and stay with me the longest are not traditionally published. Many aren't 'published' at all -- they're e-books which are free to those who subscribe the the writers' groups. Also, with digital e-galleys, I've discovered tons of indie publishers' books which are excellent.
So where does the validation come for the writer? I hope that the writers of my favorite e-books know how much their books mean to their faithful readers (because it's a Yahoo group with message boards, I suspect they do). If I had a following like that, I think I'd be thrilled that I was writing something which blessed readers. :)
But for those who look into publishing, there seems to be something of a division which still exists between traditionally published folk and self-published folk. Those who are traditionally published feel like they've had to work harder and demolish more obstacles -- and, imo, in many ways, they have. They've had to get past the gate-keepers, and there's no doubt that doing so is more challenging than ever. However, if someone can produce (because writing and publishing a book is definitely a production) a book themselves, that's also challenging.
With either writer, though, validation really needs to come from within. Yes, we write so others can read...but if the sales aren't great (for either traditionally or self-pubbed), does that mean the writer shouldn't feel accomplished? And writers have no control over sales (or numbers of readership).
For those of us who still have no readership (outside crit groups and/or family), where do we find the validation to continue? For me, it definitely comes from within. I may never publish a book (especially at the rate I'm going). No matter how good I might become as a writer, I still have no control over agents, editors, or readers. At this point, I have no plans to self-publish...but you never know. Regardless of my own future, I write because I enjoy the challenge of putting a well-worked tale on paper.
What say you?