As far as I can see those answers, whilst not complete lies, are somewhat economical with the truth - especially the one about great authors in the past paying to be published. For example, the Bronte sisters did go down that route with their first volume of poetry because they were naive and suffered a huge disappointment but their subsequent novels were published by well-regarded publishers. Genuine agents do not charge 'for their services'. The fee they get is a percentage of the fee paid by the publisher to the author. No writer should ever pay anything to an agent. The money comes from the publisher. I had an agent who tried for months to sell a novel of mine. She sent the manuscript out to many publishers. She phoned me with frequent progress reports. She did not charge me a penny. Not one. Nothing.

The all-important questions that new writers should ask publishers is how they make their money, which company handles their distribution and do they operate on a sale or return basis with bookshops. (Without the latter bookshops will not stock them and some will not order them even if a customer asks them to order one. Any profit publishers receive should come entirely from bookshops ie from people who pay to buy the book. Not from their writers. Not for anything. Not for spurious 'editorial services' like copy-editing and cover design, not for obtaining an ISBN or sending their novel to the Library of Congress/British Library.

If only most new writers would realise that their difficulties in getting published are not because of nasty, elitist, rude publishers and agents. It's always been hard to get published. The reason those instant fame and fortune stories - which you should take with a hefty pinch of salt - make the news is that they are extremely rare. If you get fed up with years of rejection (and expect years, not months) and have the cash and think you can promote, advertise and more importantly sell your own book and make a profit, why not self-publish? (And no, self-publishing is not the same as vanity/subsidy publishing, whatever these crooks tell you. If you self-publish, the publisher's name and address after the title page of the finished book is always yours and yours alone.

PS I am a published novelist, formerly a fiction magazine editor who has also worked in bookshops.