I received an acceptance from from a publisher for the first novel I ever wrote (Magic Creek). Oh, man, I was ecstatic! I wanted to be a published author more than anything in the world! There was only one condition: I had to change the ending. Two of the main characters were a wife and her abusive, controlling doctor husband. In the end of the book, she remained with him. The publisher said that was not acceptable. She simply had to leave.
And I was more than willing. I would have done anything short of selling my soul to the devil to get a book contract. Integrity to my muse? Forget that!
So, I tried and tried....and tried. But Tory would not go. I must have re-written the ending 20 times. Those edits always turned out clunky and graceless. There was no flow. You could almost feel Tory's rebellion and resistance coming out on the pages. At the last, the book knew better than I did what it wanted to happen and so I gave up and let it have its way.
I've written 14 more novels since then and I doubt if I could have sold any of them to a traditional publisher. They fit in no known genre and conform to no known guidelines. The plotting is quirky. The male protagonists are more anti-hero than hero. The scenes of sex and violence are graphic. The subject matter often deals with taboos, such as incest. In short, there are multiples reasons for a publisher to reject them.
Thank heavens, I discovered e-publishing. It is perfect for idiosyncratic authors such as myself. No one can tell you how your book should end. No one can tell you that your character needs to be softened up a bit to be more likeable.
E-publishing is easy and its quick. I hire my formatting done (I think the last book cost $50). I also pay for the cover. I'm no good at the graphic or technical end of publishing. Once those two things are done, you go to Smashwords (Smashwords sells to multiple venues such as Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and others) and/or Amazon, fill in the information about your book, download the manuscript and the cover and voila, you're done. The whole process takes about half-an-hour.
You have to do your own marketing but from what I've read, if you're an unknown, you have to do a lot of that yourself now anyway. Publishing houses don't spend a ton of money on book tours and advertising in the New York Times for new authors, unless a manuscript has really impressed them.
So, you'll need to have a Facebook author's page and a Google+ account. You'll need to join GoodReads and any other book sites you can find. You'll need to jump on to Twitter. You need to consider writing a regular blog. All so you can promote your books. If you can do it (it's something I'm terrible at), you need to ask your friends to write reviews and share your posts with their friends and "follow" you on your various sites.
None of that is hard but it can be time-consuming.
I won't lie, I'd still love to publish a hardcover novel but I don't think it will ever happen. I don't think my writing will ever lend itself to a mass market audience. In the meantime, my books are out there and people read them and like them (sometimes they hate them too). And I have the freedom to go wherever my characters take me without an editor second-guessing them or me. And I'm satisfied with that.