With self-publishing so easy that now even a lazy hack like me can do it, a lot of the old arguments for seeking the traditional route have moved to the wayside. Why should authors send off their efforts, or at least send queries about the possibility of sending off their efforts, when they can hit "Presto Change-O Publish-O" on their keyboards and immediately join the ranks of Stephen King and Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark?
You can self-publish, get the same playing field at Amazon and B&N as most publishers get (one Web page per book), and then do your own promotion, which most authors end up doing anyway. You get more of the money in most cases. Plus, if you're truly timid, you don't have to face rejection. At least until somebody accidentally buys your poorly edited jumble of alphabet and demands a refund. Alternately, if you're assuming you're too (fill in the blank--"extreme, controversial, daring, literate, good-looking, intelligent, Billy Bob Thorntonish") for the mainstream publishing industry, then go ahead and lulu createspace kindle your way to fame and fortune and giving your momma something to brag about during bridge.
The reality is, getting accepted by a major agent or editor is darned hard, takes lots of work, and requires much luck. You have to be not only good but better than the thousands of other merely "good" writers. You have to not only land on the right desk, you have to do it at the right time with the right project. And even if you beat the odds and get accepted, then the real battle begins. Because thousands of writers are pushing from behind, and thousands of great writers ahead of you are pushing you off the shelves. Given all that, it makes perfect sense to slap up an e-book, or cram fodder through a print-on-demand press.
But you know what? The hard way's still worth it. It's a dream that's almost impossible to reach. In other words, the kind of dream worth having. But what do I know? I only have about 700 rejection slips and eight books out there killing trees. It's worth it.