Rather than pin their hopes on a major publisher, writers might consider another option: small presses. As their name suggests, small presses do not have large budgets, extensive staffs, or a global outreach like their big-name counterparts. Rather than release thousands of books every year, a small press may turn out fewer than a hundred. On the other hand, they offer at least three advantages that large publishers don't.
1. Small publishers don't expect a writer to have an agent. He or she can deal directly with the company's staff.
2. A writer will receive more individual attention from the publisher's staff (editor, cover artist, even the CEO), giving the writer a stronger voice in managing his or her book.
3. A writer's submission has a better chance of being reviewed and accepted since it is competing with fewer other submissions.
Be aware that not all small presses are competent or ethical. Online guides like Preditors&Editors can help writers identify those that are unreliable. Moreover, some small presses only want writings of a particular genre or with a certain political/cultural viewpoint. But when writers do find a good fit with a small press, the door of opportunity can swing wide open. Poets&Writers has a comprehensive listing of small presses at http://www.pw.org/small_presses.
-Clay Cormany, Member of Writers' Ink