If that doesn't shock and dismay you, I don't know what will. Have you priced a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gasoline today? Then you and I know that a five grand advance in 2011 is abysmal. Almost criminal.
It was a lot more money in 1984!
So why would anyone wish to go through the difficulty of getting a decent agent, the crapshoot of hoping the agent can actually sell the book, and then get paid $5000, half on signing, half on delivery of the manuscript?
Because it might be a bestseller? Not if the publisher only paid $5000 2011 dollars. There will be a small print run, no advertising, a few copies here and there in a few bookstores (or libraries if it is a hardcover), and the book, like most books will not "earn out" meaning it will never make more than the advance monies paid. Because it is in print? Createspace on Amazon can put it in print for you. No, it probably won't be in bookstores, those that are left, but readers can certainly get a print copy if they please.
I have to agree with Konrath and so many others doing well with digital e-books and becoming their own independent publishers--Why waste your time with traditional publishing? Now I do believe you need experience, practice, skill, talent, readers for feedback, editors, and e-book cover artists, but I do not believe you need to go through the long, difficult turmoil of agent-editor-paperback/hardback publication through NYC.
I wouldn't have said this a year ago, because I still had the mindset of a traditionally published author. It had been my world for nearly 30 years and it is what I knew. Now I know something else. My books are available at Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Crossroad Press, and other places. My e-books are selling and I have a whole new reading audience.
If I were a first novelist today I would know what to do. It's a no-brainer. Publishing traditionally UNLESS I was able to keep all digital rights (and that's not going to happen) would not be my choice. I would publish in the e-book world. I would take control of my own destiny and leave all the waiting, the angst, the disappointments, and the crummy $5000 advance to someone else, baby. I'd have none of it.