As a writer-in-progress, I find it helpful to network, in person and online, with other writers (published and unpublished). We've shared critiques, celebrated new sales, and given each other (well, they've given me) valuable information about the publishing industry.
One thing I've leared is that a big obstacle for new writers isn't getting published, it's getting sales numbers. Don't get me wrong, getting published is no easy task, but the more I see and hear, if you don't get in with one of the big publishers, you will find sales more difficult. Why? Price. Books published through smaller presses have a higher cost per unit than large publishers who can print and distribute in greater volume for a much lower per-unit cost. And that, of course, translates into lower prices to the consumer.
Let's face facts. All things being equal, would you pay $10 or more for one paperback when you can get another for about $8? How about $25+ for a hard cover when you can find another book in the same genre for about $20 or less?
Enter the great equalizer - E-books. Here is the one place where it seems like the little guy can beat the big presses on price. For example. I did a quick look at ebooks on Amazon and found books like John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale (a book definitely on my favorites list) for $7.99 Kindle and paperback. Another favorite, Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series - Book 6 is $7.99 paperback and $6.99 Kindle. However, I've talked to writers who went through small presses and are selling E-books for $4 or 5. Some even less, just to get their sales numbers up. They probably don't make much money at those prices, but it's a good strategy to start developing a fan base.
Some will probably say that just using Kindle comparisons is not giving the whole story. That's probably true, but from what I've seen most big presses aren't giving much discount, so it opens more doors for the little guys.
Interestingly today, I learned that Harper Collins has discontinued their e-book store. There seems to be no explanation why, but it definitely brings up questions about why. Personally, I don't take this as a negative sign on E-books. They're still growing in popularity and as more e-readers come out, more E-books will be sold.
Good luck and