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I've asked a couple of questions on this site over the past year or two about publishing. I've been thinking about going the self-publishing route. It still seems like the quickest and easiest way to go, though there are obviously disadvantages (thanks to all who've brought them up, in answers to my other questions).
Someone suggested going to a writers' conference and pitching my book to agents. This seems old-fashioned. Aren't there websites, email addresses, etc. that I can throw my idea at, instead? I'm still not set on going the trad route, as it seems too long and filled with disappointment for most people. But I could give it a try, if it didn't involve traveling around the US to pitch my idea.
If you are thinking of going the traditional route, then you'll likely need to research getting an agent. Pitching at a conference is one approach, but has its disadvantages (like travel costs). Start googling "agents for X" where X is the type of book you've written. Check magazines that may have articles on agents (such as "Poets & Writers") as well as those magazines websites. So the answer is, yes, there probably are websites and email addresses.
There are places such as lulu.com, who offer publishing services, but it depends on how much control you want to have. Going that route will give you complete control, which leaves no outside input into the final work, which you may want in terms of editing? Personally I would go the lulu route as it cuts out the agent, but I would perhaps recommend having someone proofread and edit for you so you don't lose that unbiased pair of eyes over your work.
Agents represent people, not manuscripts. The author/agent relationship is a long term business relationship on which the author's career and livelihood largely depends. If you don't like and trust your agent, you are not going to be happy. If an agent does not like or trust their client, they are not going to be happy. This is why it is so advantageous to meet an agent in person at a conference. It is why agents spend so much of their time and money to attend conferences. They are looking to form long term business relationships with writers they believe in both as professionals and as storytellers. And while such relationships can certainly be formed without meeting in person, the chances of forming them are much better if you do meet in person. There is a reason business people travel so much, and why to put such an emphasis on meeting in person. You can communicate any information anyone could need via email. But it is much harder to form a personal trust relationship that way.
Look at it this way. If you were applying for a job, would you want to have an in person interview? Do you think you would have a better chance if you me the hiring manager in person? Same think with an agent. You are forming a long term business relationship and it helps enormously to do that in person.