Not quite. They have their place. It’s just that their place is far more limited today for authors than it used to be. Although a lot of publishers have pared down, gone out of business, or consolidated in an effort to fight their loss to the self-publishing book market, some publishers have been publishing books for a century or more. They know what they’re doing better than anybody.
For you, however, as a new author, it’s extremely difficult to get in the door of one of the big publishers no matter how good of an idea or story you have. It’s possible; it’s just not probable.
If anything, getting published the traditional way is even more difficult today than it was when the big publishers controlled the markets and distribution. You might think they’d be more willing to take on new authors to not let those new authors keep all the sales revenue by publishing their own books. The problem is that big publishers are working on much leaner margins than they use to because of the competition. They’re more hesitant to accept new titles. That means, it’s harder than ever to get published by them.
But there is a way to get noticed by them! Publish your own book. Promote your own book. (Remember, you’d have to promote your own book if they publish it first because you have no track record in book sales. They won’t drop a dime on advertising new authors who have no track record.) Provide value to your readers, serve your readers, make your book the best possible title on whatever you write about. Get sales, work that book, buy pay-per-click advertising on Amazon if you have to. If you work it, and your book really begins to take off, guess who’s going to form a line at your front door? (Well, your virtual front door, they’ll be contacting you through Amazon nonstop!) Those big publishing houses will pester you to publish your book!
Does Viking Publishing want to publish a book by a first-time author who’s never written a book before? No. Does Viking Publishing want to publish a book that a first-time author self-published and sold 100,000 copies of that self-published book? Oh, yes. Viking and the others really want that book!
As you see, today self-publishing is the best avenue to get your book published, sold, and ultimately, hopefully, picked up by a big-name publisher who will take your proven book and leverage the sales with lots of promotion and almost always a generous advance on your future royalties with them.
Pro Tip: If you sell 100,000 copies of your own self-published book, you may very well want to ignore those big publishers knocking at your door! Almost always, you’ll make more keeping things just the way they are.