In the old days, people stuck it in the trunk and tried with the next one, and the one after that, etc. and so forth. The self-pubbing option is there, but you've been through it all with the other. Do you want to do that again?Querying bites the big one, no question about it.
I think you have yet to find the people that will want your book. I am in the same boat as you = with so many rejections piling up. I console myself with the conclusion that literary agents are looking for something very commercial and marketable, and when I present them with a book that is a little slower with a different emphasis, the agents conclude that they can't sell this to publishers.I am serious considering self publishing the novel because it deserves to be read!
Thanks for your input, guys. Ellis, I have had an overall positive experience with self-publishing another novel that I similarly couldn't sell...for two years, in that case, with two different agents. I am not as convinced as I once was that Get Agent --> Get Publisher --> Be Legitimate Writer is the only acceptable career path in the writing world. My humble self-published novel is rapidly finding more happy readers all the time and steadily increasing its earnings every month. No, it's not allowing me to quit my day job yet, but so many agent-represented, trade-published authors can't quit their day jobs, either. And damn, hearing from readers about how much they enjoyed my book, how they consider it to be one of the best of its kind they've ever read, is very rewarding, and what I ultimately want from my writing: for readers to love it.I don't think self-publishing is the absolute bar to legitimacy it was two or five years ago. I think it's quickly becoming just another proving ground. It's taken the slush pile off the desks of the publishers and made the general public the slush readers. The good stuff will eventually get the attention of readers and will slowly build rewards for the writer.I know writers who are making good money (some of them much more than I'm making at my day job) and who feel very fulfilled with the success of their self-published work. I don't see why we should look at the agent represented/trade published model as the "real" way to do it anymore. Self-publishing, if done well and carefully, has benefits trade publishing lacks: the ability to reach readers faster, the ability to keep a backlist in print and readily available to readers indefinitely. Once a writer has a good following, those two points are extremely valuable and have a direct effect on profitability. About the only thing I think trade publishing can still do for an author is distribution to brick-and-mortar stores. With ebooks taking an exponentially larger share of total book sales with each passing year, I wonder how much longer that will remain a major advantage. My guess is, not long. And my guess is, too, that a model for distribution of self-published work will soon crop up. Entrepreneurs aren't dumb.
Update! Two and a half months later, I am one of those authors making much more off her self-published book than she is making off her day job. I will be self-publishing it all from now on. Let the record show it, for posterity. Lone writer reading this post, if you are wondering whether you should give up the pointless chase for an agent and self-publish, I tell you now that you should. Stop waiting and do it.