I put up a post about a week ago on the merits or otherwise of vanity publishers such as AuthorHOUSE. We received an e-mail from a concerned self-publisher worried about getting his work into bookshops (although he seems to be doing fine already).
Here's part of my reply:
Sorry for taking so long to get back. You must have assumed that was symbolic of our responses to small publishers! Luckily, we are just very busy at the moment.
The truth is we are very open to any suggestions and will look at everything that is presented to us. However, we can usually tell within 5 seconds or half a page whether or not whatever it is has any merit. About 99% of stuff we see from the vanity press is total garbage written by people who haven't gone to any effort to really work out how they want their work to work. These types also seem to think they're in possession of some undiscovered genius. It's not called vanity publishing for nothing and these writers tend to be deluded narcissists.
However, I should really have titled the blog 'vanity publishing' instead of 'self publishing' as real self-publishing is a different kettle of fish altogether. If you have the genuine belief in your own work and you set up your own 'publishing house' and you research and find printers and you go and visit bookshops without being jumped up and pushy then you would have every chance with us. The work produced through this route is usually at the very least, interesting. A lot of small presses we stock have some excellent content which is good but a lot are also clueless when it comes to typesetting, design and covers which is not so good and also very important for getting your stuff stocked by bookshops.
Which I suppose is where the self-critical bit comes in. You have to be strong in your convictions but you also have to be aware of your shortcomings and if there are areas where you fall short then don't be afraid to get help and if you're not getting help because of financial constraints in the long run it will be a very false economy.