What you wrote is true, no doubt about it, just don't forget that when Cory started out by giving away "Down and out in the magic kingdom" he was pretty much unknown as an author too. In fact I remember hearing about his book because it was on slashdot and the very idea was so intriguing that I downloaded the book, it sat there in my hard drive for over a year before I got around to reading it.
Once I did, I thought the story was good but I can't remember being wowed by his writing back then (Sorry Cory!), anyway, it was good enough that I read the next book and then the next and now I'm a fan.
Publishing, music, the arts in general, are pretty big crap shoot as far as careers go, seems to me like getting any attention at all is all you can do, hopefully some people will like your work and maybe, just maybe, you'll eventually sell something.
(Of course this is different from what I would call, "Service art jobs" for lack of a better term: Journalism, photography, design, commercial jingles/music, where art is commissioned.)