O.K. You've sent your valuable mss around all the reputable AAS agents and been rejected. There are now several routes you can try: literary competitions, the vanity press, POD or self-publishing.
As an unpublished first-time author of fiction, you can do an internet search of literary competitions. Problems: some, like the current Amazon 09 competition, restrict residents of some countries, e.g. France! (I don't know why). The second is whether you are eligible if you have published other works in the self-publishing field. The rules are often ambiguous. The prize for the winner, though, is great: a contract by an established publisher.
The next thing you might want to consider is the vanity press. I wouldn't! The vanity press publishes books at the author's expense. Just remember: if someone wants money from you up-front - whether to read your mss or to publish it - they ain't legit! Unlike legitimate publishers, the vanity press makes its money from you, the author, rather than the paying public. So, what's the difference between that and self-publishing?
Self-publishing is the publishing of books by the author, rather than by established, third-party publishers. The key distinguishing characteristic of self-publishing is the absence of a traditional publisher. Instead the creator or creators fulfill this role, taking editorial control of the content, arranging for printing, marketing the material, and often distributing it, either directly to consumers or to retailers. All rights remain with the author, the completed books are the writer's property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales. Remember: there are many reasons why authors choose the self-publishing route. If you choose carefully, the process is free for all on-line sales, legitimate and offers an option for your customers to either buy on-line from your chosen self-publishing company or to order from Amazon and walk-in bookstores directly. To make you feel better, here are some best-selling authors who started off by self-publishing: William Blake, Virginia Woolf, William Morris, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw....to name but a few.
So, if they did it, so can you.
Next week, I'll show you the mechanics of how to actually self-publish your mss with a reputable self-publishing company. Don't miss it.