I have a novel that is nearing the end of it’s querying life. It’s not a bad novel—it’s been extensively beta-read (i.e. >30 people, most of whom don’t know me well, many of whom are published themselves), and I’ve learned things in the query and rejection process that I can change to make it better, but like it or not, it’s nearly at the end of the road.
I would normally stick it in the drawer, BUT I read (and researched) a lot in the genre, and I think it’s in an area that’s on the upswing. If I put it aside and work hard / get lucky enough to get an agent on the next book, it will be awhile before I could potentially sell it again, and it might be like trying to sell vampires or dystopian the past few years. So I would like to be traditionally published, but I also may be passing up an opportunity. Is there ever a time to try a different route, or am I just dooming all future work if it doesn’t sell?
Self-publishing does not doom you.
BAD self-publishing gives you baggage.
GOOD self-publishing gives you luggage; a spiffy luggage cart, a uniformed porter, and Gucci valises for your unmentionables (errant adverbs, homonyms, stray "thats" and all those apostrophes you'll need for the its and its twins.)
When I say good self publishing I mean you hire a book designer for the interior and the front and back cover of the book. You make sure the size of the type doesn't scream amateur hour (that's one of the ways you can often identify self-pubbed books--out of proportion type.)
You make sure the book is laid out correctly. (The copyright is on a left side page, the table of contents on a right side page.)
You make sure you print ARCs and send those out for review.
You treat this like a business. You plan to devote a certain number of hours a day to your small enterprise.
You learn from other people's mistakes (a google search is the starting point here.)
And then you undertake a very very difficult job: you sell your book.
If you self publish you are essentially telling your sturdy little novel that you will devote time and attention and resources to getting her into the hands of readers. Your novel can do the rest on her own, but she can't sell herself.
And if you sell well, you'll have luggage, not baggage.
And if you just throw your novel against the wall and say "it's up on Amazon, buy it" well, your novel will weep bitter tears and so will you.
You must be brutally honest with yourself here. Are you fully prepared to be in sales for a year or more? If the mere thought drives you to drink, please please please do not self-publish. What's hot and not changes over the seasons and years. Your novel will not wither and die if she isn't published.