Most authors don’t get far regardless of the path they choose. In other words, your chances with self-publishing success is the same as your chances with traditional publishing success…and in both cases it’s the very top 1% - 2% who “make it.”
The problem with determining the chances comes from how people do the math. If you consider the “entire pool” of traditional published authors as those who have released a book through that route, then it would appear much higher than self. In other words. Maybe 10% of books traditionally published do “fairly well” whereas only 1 in 1000 self published books would. But…if you are looking at the traditional group as “those who have got a contract” you’ve already taken a very exclusive sample (as most don’t get published).
Bottom line…if you were to compare apples to apples you would have to look at all people who are querying traditional (and getting no where) and if you look at that subset then I think the chances of success is about equal.
As for how you do well with self-publishing…it’s the same as the approach with traditional. You need to…
- Write a good book (defined as a book that people will tell others to read)
- Get it noticed by a few people to get the ball rolling
- Rinse and repeat.
This “formula” works for both kinds of publishing (self and traditional).