Traditional [fiction] publishing, that is.
Save for vanity publishing (something to avoid like picnic potato salad lying under a blazing summer sun all afternoon), at one time, the traditional publishing route was the only [viable] one to take. It was tough—like hiking up Kilimanjaro when you’re a drive-to-the-corner kind of person.
Fortunately, the world of e-books arrived. There’s a plethora (gotta love that word) of e-book publishers out there; Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP, Nook Press, and Kobo are to name a few. You can format your work yourself, design the cover, and pretty much hold carte blanche, unlike in the traditional world where the publisher has creative control (never mind financial when you sign a binding contract).
Forgetting that [most] firms prefer to have agented writers contact them for potential representation—and that getting an agent is as difficult as getting a publisher—the odds of getting published are not in our favor. Ever hear of the “slush pile”?
According to statistics, in 2013 only 50,000 novels were published; given the number written and submitted, the chances of being one of the “lucky ones” is slim. As for agents, they tend to reject 99% of the projects received. Not particularly encouraging, is it? Rejection just plain sucks.
On a positive note, there’s tons of advice out there for both traditional and “e”, so read, read, read. Determine what’s best for you. You might even give the traditional route a try first—to get a feel for it and learn from the experience.
E-books didn’t exist when I first started writing (I’m aging myself, alas). For years, I tried acquiring an agent and publisher (whichever came first)—to no avail. But I kept writing and gaining knowledge (and experience). In retrospect, I see why I never got far: I had good ideas, but they weren’t executed well. The great news? I’ve improved—considerably so (pat on back to moi).
But this isn’t about me. It’s about persevering, no matter which publishing route you take. If you have a passion for writing, have at it! Don’t second-guess yourself and don’t give up or in to fears and frustrations.