I’ve come to conclude, with all these arguments for and against self-published or published material, to submit work to a publisher first. Subject it to criticism. Maybe they’ll even tell you why they like it or not. And work with that. If you don’t agree with what they have to say, or are pretty sure that they’re wrong, then go the self-publishing route after a round of feedback.
— If you’re impatient and you need to see your novel in tangible book format NOW, then self-publish.
— If you want to self-publish because the profits from it are much more enticing than going through a publisher, then self-publish.
— If you want to improve your work, you write for fun, and write because you love it, then try that publisher route first.
For now, I feel that self-publishing, being relatively new, is still very malleable. Opinions are still being made of it. Sure, there may be a lot of self-published crap out there, but isn’t it all relative? For the most part, we know that publishers need to make a dollar, too, and they’re looking out for themselves. Trends come and go, and there’s so much talent out there that is yet to be discovered. Not to mention that there are hundreds upon hundred of publishers out there. I’m not saying submit your piece to every publisher out there before going the self-publishing route. Be reasonable, give yourself a limit, and if you get nothing out of the experience (to include the contract), and you really want to get your book out there to the complete stranger, then self-publish.
I recommend Smashwords.
Also, another peeve of mine is when articles compare novel writing with writing a movie script. Sure, there are some complicated movie plots out there, but for the most part, it’s very direct (has to be because of time restraints) and generally quite restricting as far as character and backstory development goes. You know why reading the book the movie was based on is so much more fulfilling than watching the film. That’s why. So unless you’re writing a screenplay, I can’t recommend taking scriptwriting advise for your novel. No, I’m not condoning wandering from your plot and theme just because you have the liberty of filling up 200 pages as opposed to a screenplay’s average 100 pages (with typically a lot of white space on the paper). Directness and making every scene count is essential. The fun of novel-writing is flowering it up, putting in a lot of twists and expounding on certain details, subplots and description. Modern Hollywood is not a good example for how you should write your novel.
That’s my humble opinion though, of course.