Disclaimer: The following example is a paraphrase of the events, so to speak. It's just a general idea of how things happened and how they work and not meant to be exact fact.
Way back in the way back, God had relationships with men on an individual basis. There was God and Adam, God and Methuselah, God and Noah. Then there was God and Abraham, and God and Jacob, and God and Moses. By the time we get to God and Moses, the Hebrews were getting a bit tired of the whole "indie God" scene and wanted a more traditional pub...um, I mean, god, so, to deal with the issue, God gave them some basic guidelines to live by. There weren't too many, because God didn't want to bog everyone down with a bunch of rules, and, really, those rules boiled down to two things: 1. Love God and 2. Be excellent to each other.
But you know people, and they couldn't deal with things being so straightforward, so the agents, I mean priests, got together and made lots of rules. Lots and lots of rules. LOTS and LOTS of rules. So many rules, we've lost track of them all. And you couldn't just join the "Hebrew club" anymore, either. There were lots and lots of rules and tests and all sorts of things you had to do to get on the inside with God. According to the Pharisees, at any rate.
After a while, God got tired of all of that, so He sent his Son down to deal with the people. His son, Jesus, said, "Dudes, no more rules. Just love God and be excellent to each other." Of course, we all know how that turned out. But the apostles understood the message and started spreading the love. Except, almost right away, people started making new rules or re-imposing the old ones and, eventually, along came the Romans and made it all Catholic and stuff, and, pretty soon, there were even more rules than before and, again, no one could just decide to follow God; they all had to jump through special hoops and get rid of all their adverbs and stuff before they were let into the "Catholic club."
After another while, this other dude, Martin Luther, came along and said, "Dudes! Jesus came to get rid of all of these rules. And, oh yeah, the agents, too. We don't need those guys!" Things didn't go well for Martin, either, but a bunch of new small publishers sprang up that, initially, did away with agents (I mean priests), but it wasn't long before they put new agents in place and made all sorts of new rules (like you can't go to Heaven unless you speak in tongues, and dancing will send you straight to Hell).
I'm sure you get the idea.
So let's look at something else.
Way back in the not quite as way back there was a dude that wrote a book. He paid to have some copies printed, then he tried to sell them. Other guys did the same thing. That worked out for some of those guys and not for some of the others. Some guys had more money than others, so they could print more books, and things tended to work out better for them than for the guys that couldn't afford to print very many. There was no such thing as "best seller" back in those days, but some of those books are still around.
Eventually, some poor author (because almost all of them were poor (are poor)) had the bright idea to hire a printer to be his publisher. Since he couldn't pay the guy that owned the printing press in advance, he offered to pay the printer, now his publisher, from the profits from the book. The printer saw the opportunity to make more money than if the writer just paid for the number of copies he could afford and, thus, was born the modern traditional publishing model.
However, I want to point out that when all of this started, the author was in charge. The author communicated directly with his readers, often selling his books to them by hand or taking them to small stores to sell (because there were not, yet, bookstores). The printer/publisher worked for the author, not the other way around. As the idea of being paid from the book profits took hold, the whole process became an invest for the printer/publishers, but, at first, the author was still in control. But the balance of power shifted to the money guys as more and more authors sought out the same publishers. And then came rules. And agents. And more rules. Until the author was at the bottom. No longer communicating directly with... anyone. Except the agentpriest.
And all the people began to worship the traditional publishing house and abide by its rules and jump through its hoops to get inside. Agents really are the priests of the traditional publishers, testing people to see if they're worthy, but, just like it was with the Pharisees (charging for sacrifices and requiring that people only use special "temple money") and the Catholics (selling Indulgences to have your sins forgiven) and the televangelists, it's all about the money.
And, now, we have self-publishing, which is kind of like the Protestant Reformation. And, just like the Catholic church condemned Luther, we have the big traditional publishing houses condemning Amazon and other self publishing outlets and calling people that do self-publish all kinds of bad things.
And we have people clinging to the old model. To the church of Traditional Publishing.
And I have to wonder about what sorts of rules we're going to develop for self-publishing and what kinds of hoops we'll eventually have to jump through for that. Because, well, we humans seem to love our rules and our hierarchies. I guess, that way, we know who's "winning." Charlie Sheen, right? Or is he still winning? I don't know.
I'm not much of one for outdated traditions. Or any traditions that aren't relevant. All of this post has been to say that we ought to really look at what the people "in charge" are telling us and figure what part of it is useful. Because, as far as I can tell, unless you are just in desperate need for the validation that comes from being traditionally published, those guys aren't doing anyone any good. Not anymore. And, hey, really, if you are looking for that pat on the back, I'm sure there are better places to get it.