Every part of the book publishing ecosystem adjusted its perspective to accommodate both traditional publishing and author-published works. It wasn’t long ago these two paths were treated as either/or decisions; but now they are both/and.
Many traditional publishers offer author-paid services, some agents have indie services for clients, and a large number of authors publish both traditional and indie. Publishers, agents, and authors have all considered how to embrace this brave not-so-new world of publishing.
Maybe the folks who did the religion Coexist bumper sticker should come up with a publishing version.
More and more, authors are pitching agents books that are already published through indie means. In most cases, they are disappointed by their results and thought they would try traditional routes with the same title.
Maybe this is oversimplifying the issue; but when a book is published indie, it is published. No going back. There are some cases when a book does very well indie published, and a traditional publisher offers to take it to a wider audience. But if a book is indie published and it does not sell well, it is best to let it be and focus on writing a new title.
An author-published book is a published book, with all the things that go along with being published. Reviews, rankings and sales data are now visible; and depending how they play out, it may be good news or bad. It has been test marketed.
This is the same as traditional publishing. Once a book is made available to purchase, the reviews, rankings, and sales data are watched like circling hawks; and, depending on the results, you and the publisher (and agent) may be encouraged or discouraged.
For sure, indie publishing gives an aspiring author a chance to prove themselves. No waiting for gatekeepers for the thumbs up or down. But if you are less than successful selling copies of your indie book, you now have a track record for all to see.
Combining indie and traditional publishing into one author’s career usually happens when an author has a measure of success with traditional publishing, then adds indie to allow for more control of their future writing and the option to write more or different than what might be published by a traditional publisher. Eventually, indie might replace traditional publishing for an author.
You can still be successful as an indie author if the traditional route stopped working well, but the reverse is not the case. If you aren’t successful in the indie route, traditional publishers are not really an option. Just stick with indie and see if you can make it work.
Many years ago, publishing was far more intuitive. Now, various information technologies track everything. Most traditional publishers would rather take a chance on an unproven author with a good platform and potential than an author who has proven to be less-than-successful on the indie path.
Finally, there will always be a big difference between an author trying to get a book published and an author with a long-term plan for content creation, seeking ways to maximize their gifts and work.
The two paths are distinct. It is best to first determine which way you seek, then make decisions on the direction best suited for you.