If you want to get your books in major publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster or others. They want the agent to read and decide for them if your book is worth taking a gamble with for sales.
Agents know right off who your story will fit in with for a publishing company. Maybe lead into a movie or TV sitcom. Agents want you to succeed so they will. Agents hope you do well with a follow-up story in case readers are dying to read more from you.
I always felt agents or traditional publishers were the frosting on the cake. They get your books into the hands of publishers that will get your books onto the shelves of bookstores and other locations.
Do you want to wait 1-2 years for that to happen? Do you want to get little royalties? Remember a publisher can stop your book with them if it is not selling then you have to start over again. They can help if you become a speaker. If this is your hope, an agent is for you.
If not, go with self-publishing. Try CreateSpace. I did 4 paperbacks and 3 handbooks publishing them on my own. Yes, it was a nightmare trying to figure out how to, but once I did, it became easier. My problem is like most authors, getting ourselves and our books known…promoting and marketing. That is not easy.
Promoting and marketing is a constant daily task of writing or calling locations to read or give a talk. It can pay off. An author friend once said to me, “Be careful what you wish for.” She’s right. Do you want to travel all over the country for months to sell and talk about your book? Do you have the time if you become famous?
If traditional publishers give you $5,000-$10,000 to promote, you get no royalty at all for 6 months until you sell that amount of books to pay back that lent money. It has to be hard work. If you have a family, do you want to be away that long? There are a lot of questions to ask.
Don’t jump into excitement and go for the “free” publishers. There’s always a payback. DON”T FOR ANY REASON go with PublishAmerica. I had to get out of a 7 years contract in 4 years and pay $99 to do so. My books were suppose to stop in 2013 and they are still for sale on Amazon in 2017. Where did the books come from? I never made any royalties from them even through a 3rd party bookstore.
Most POD (print on demand) companies cost money and you do all the work. Most also depend on YOU doing all the selling. There are so many hard choices to make on who you go with. A lot like to have you buy your own books for festivals or talks.
It’s a world of un-trust with the publishing world. It seems everyone makes money but the authors.
Think hard before deciding. Go on every agent and publisher’s website and look them up; how many books sold, what do they do for you, what royalties do you get, of they have a great website. Have your questions written down in case you hear from an agent; what do they do, how much do they get in royalties, etc.