Tough question! But here's the first thing you need to ask yourself:
How much of a hurry are you in to see your book in print?
A. All the time in the world.
Really? Then you have time to try the traditional publishing route. That means trying to find agents who are taking new clients; pitching your book to maybe thirty or forty agents; waiting for an acceptance; waiting for your agent to pitch the book to publishers; sorting out the details of a contract; making all the changes the publisher demands; waiting until your book can fit into their publishing queue.
Years? Probably so. And you’ll be keeping your fingers crossed that agent or publisher or editor does not go out of business, transfer to another company, or die. Does that happen? Oh yes. When I was trying to find a publisher for “A Scratch with the Rebels,” my first editor took a better job with a different kind of publisher, the second got herself into a fight with the managing editor and had all her projects cancelled, and the third was forced by his university to take mandatory retirement before the book’s contract had been signed.
Still, if you can afford to wait -- you're young, healthy, happy with your life, and gainfully employed outside of the publishing business -- then it's probably worth your while to give the --> agent --> big-time publisher route a shot. if you win the lottery, you'll get an advance, and the publisher will take over all those tacky details of editing, designing, and marketing your work.
Is there any reason not to go that route if it becomes possible? Well, you'll loses control of your book. The publisher will probably change the title and make major demands for other changes so the book will appeal to a particular market niche. How big a control freak are you? Can you turn your "baby" over to someone else and get on with your life? Then go for it.
B. How about next month?
You’re kidding, right?
C. I need it within the next couple of years.
Good. Then you can devote those next two or three years to learning what all goes into self-publishing. You can do this, but it will take both hard work and a fair amount of money. You'll have to build your own team of sub-contractors (like cover and lay-out designers, copy-editors, publicity hounds, marketing experts, digital formatters, lawyers, accountants, and several other specialists ) to perform all the tasks a traditional publisher would have taken off your hands.
If this is what you need, you've come to the right place. You can do it. Your book can hit the market within the next year or so, and we'll show you how.
Tomorrow's question: What is your goal for this book?