There's no doubt about it. If you talk to anyone in the publishing industry, nearly everyone would say this is a great time to be an author. With open venues via amazon, apple, kobo and barnes and noble, anyone can publish a book.
But with opportunities come hard choices.
Traditional publishing houses are now actively seeking authors, opening their hallowed halls to unagented manuscripts. And where just a few years ago, ebooks were looked upon as a fad, they're now being embraced with ebook first options. For the first time in quite a while (if ever), this ebook option is allowing editors and publishing houses to take a chance on books they might not have been able to justify before. But... The advances aren't there for ebooks, neither are the traditional houses offering bigger royalties to the author. However, there is clout behind being published by one of the big six.
Small presses can vary widely. Some will publish only an ebook; others will offer Print On Demand (POD) books via such outlets as Lightning Source and Createspace. Many will offer large ebook royalties (up to 50%) but small presses are popping up like mushrooms after a hard rain. The author must, must, must do their own due diligence very carefully.
Just like self-publishing is the third most popular way to go and like the small presses, companies are appearing faster than small presses. Some charge exorbitant fees, others are not so bad, and lots of folks I know are being their own general contractor as it were and finding experts to help or doing it all them selves. And self-publishing is all about doing it yourself. Succeed or fail, there's no one but the person in the mirror to blame.
So what's an author to do?
Ask yourself some very hard questions and answer truthfully. Here are some to get you started:
What are you willing to do?
What can you do? Are you willing to research what you don't know?
How big is your online presence? What are you willing to do to increase it?
How much time are you willing to spend on the business side of publication?
How good are you at time management, writing vs promotion?
Is having a big six publisher back your writing part of your dream?
Can you write while editing, promoting, and building your brand?
There are a ton more, many of which will be tailor made to your situation and that only you can answer. I know I've found my answer in the hybrid model. I have small presses publishing my works as well as going on my own. To me, having a publisher back my writing gives me legitimacy to readers and helps me to do what I feel compelled to do: write and not focus on the business side so much.
It works for me, and I hope you can find a system that works for you too. Happy writing.