Like most people in this business, my first goal as an aspiring novelist is to find an agent and eventually a publishing contract. I've always felt if I couldn't find someone who wanted to publish my books, I'm either not selling them well or not trying hard enough. Of course, the other possibility, that it's simply not a good book haunts me, but I'm a long, long way from giving up on this approach. I didn't do all that homework for nothing.
Self-publishing has never been part of the equation. To my way of thinking it was is reserved for poets, short story writers, local storytellers who just want to market to other locals, and non-fiction work that will only appeal to a small group of people.
But it seems to be gaining some respect in the marketplace as a valid method of selling a book on a wider basis. People I respect and like are advocating it and I've had some friends who've had a measure of success with it. In fact, one author I've referred to on here before, Simon Haynes originally self-published the first Hal the Spacejock novel before he found a publishing house who would represent him. However Simon doesn't necessarily recommend self publishing as an avenue to selling books.
Interestingly, Amazon.com seems to have caught this change in attitude and has very wisely spread its umbrella to encompass the author who wants to self publish. CreateSpace is Amazon's answer to Lulu and other businesse like them. The appeal looks to be that your books will immediately be available to the online marketplace, you're in total control of the art work, and there's no middle man to pay. Of course, this leaves virtually all the marketing to you, as well as finding hard copy markets for your work. Very few bookstores will stock self-published work (unless you're known local talent), and there's a substantial risk of sending an imperfect copy out in to the world with your name on it.
I'm going to be watching this as it develops and see if there's enough money in it to make it worth it.