In the old days of publishing, a writer who was not independently wealthy had two choices: work with a traditional publisher or work with a vanity publisher. The complexities and cost of book publishing were prohibitive for all but the few.
In the golden age age of desktop publishing, roughly 1985 until the introduction of the Kindle, personal computers opened up publishing to the many.
Now, writers do have many options, but increasingly, they are limited in being able to reach their entire potential market by a new set of complexities that begin with e-book formats and end with social media, e-commerce, and old-fashioned competition. For a glimpse into the chaos that is e-book formatting, see this Wikipedia article.
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