The odds are not stacked in your favour. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Everything is against you.
There are so many blockades on the path to your dreams, and people on the outside looking in simply do not see them. I have had so many conversations with new writers (or, at least, new to trying to get published writers) who are despondent or indignant about the fact that they haven't been snapped up by a publisher yet. Part of it, for one person, is perhaps an overestimation of both their abilities and just how "easy" it's supposed to be. They've bought into the weird propaganda that writing and getting published is easy. That anyone can do it. That it's a simple way to make bank.
While I would never discourage anyone from chasing their dreams, I feel obligated to smack people with a dose of reality. Or several. Publishing is not a game of skill. Certainly, skill in the craft will get you further (though sometimes not. We've all read those books which makes up stop and wonder just how the exactly that drivel got published, but that's another story). But that's barely even half the battle. You have to get your work out there.
How you get out there is really up to you. You can face the trials and uncertainty of submitting to the large gatekeepers; the big six (or is it five now? Four?), and the well-known magazines for you short stories. But everyone is trying to get in. Your work is up against a plethora of writers and their works, and a significant portion of those writers will be better than you, or have a fresher idea, or have some indescribable pull that will mean your work gets passed in favour of theirs. This road leads to a lot of rejection and disappointment.
Until it doesn't. And you score that coveted contract.
You could go the small press route, but that has a number of risks on top of the competition, and therefore possibility of rejection. Many small presses do not last long. They either overreach or can't sell, and the press collapses. Often they're poorly run, and you end up in a fight to get the rights to your own damned work after this happens. To be clear, that's not every small press. I've been fortunate with Renaissance, for example. I love working with them, too. Then there is the issue of getting the public to pay attention to you. Small presses generally do not have the budget, the expertise or the staff to market your book like crazy. They won't be taking out ads on your behalf. They will have a smaller list of resources, like bloggers willing to accept books for review. Fewer award programmes will be willing to consider your books (even in awards that claim otherwise. I've heard stories, people. Stories). Certainly, snobbish book reviewers of larger magazines and papers will be less interested in looking at your stuff.
This gets worse if you self-publish. Sure, you won't face the rocky seas of submission and rejection, but you will have to spend an exhausting amount of time creating book covers, doing the editing, interior formatting, the registering of ISBNs, the selling and distributing. If you are not savvy enough (waves furiously), then you will have to hire someone or a few people to do that for you. All that time and expense spent on things other than writing. And then, it's even harder to get noticed, reviewed, or considered for awards.
If that's not bad enough, no matter which route you take, there is absolutely no guarantee that your work will take with readers. It is entirely possible that your book, despite all the hurdles it has jumped thus far, will fall at the last one. No one reads your book. If you're with a publisher, they will likely drop you, and you're back at square one. If you're self-published, your dreams of being recognised will fall and shatter.
I'm not saying don't do it. At all. What I am saying, is you need to work. Work on your craft, yes. But also work hard to be seen. Don't give up. Don't get bitter. Writing is not an easy thing to do, and doing it does not mean that all your hard work will be so much as glanced at by lady luck. All that work, and it may never get seen.
That is the reality.
Not an especially thrilling one is it? If this had you depressed, then consider this: for all the challenges, hurdles and blockades put in your path as you fight for your dream, imagine how so very sweet it will taste when your finally achieve it.
If you want to win at the publishing game, you just have to keep at it. But be aware, there is a chance you might never win.
Do it anyway.
Right, that's all I wanted to say. I'm off to edit a video, and get started on the next set of beta readings I have promised. Then... Well, then, I get to start writing again.