This is a big question a lot of writers are asking themselves these days. Ten years ago, my answer to this question would have been an emphatic yes. These days, there are several more options available to authors and many who don't have agents have a lot of success.
Let's look at both sides.
Why you need an agent:
- if you want to publish with a press that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts, you need an agent.
- if you want to publish with one of the big presses, an agent with the right connections can get your manuscript to the right editor and move it to the front of the queue.
- agents are honest critique partners. They want you to polish your manuscript to make it its best because they have to sell it.
- agents will negotiate your contract terms with a publisher. It's in the agent's interest to get big royalties and advances. (After all, an agent makes about 15% of what the writer makes.)
Why you don't need an agent:
- you have to pay the agent whatever percentage you agreed upon when you sell your book. No agent = more royalties for you.
- agents and big publishers put your book through a lot of hoops before it's ready for the market. What they do in three years, you can do in less than one year if you self-publish.
- there are several self-promotion opportunities on the internet. Build your fan base.
- you can be your own boss. You aren't under contract and you don't have a legal deadline. You have control over what you want to do with your manuscript.
Whatever route you choose, always do your research. Watch out for scammers. Know everything you can about the agent or publisher you're sending your manuscript to.
In the past, I tried to get an agent, but had no luck. Since then, I've been to several writing seminars and I've done a lot of research. My life has changed and I have different priorities. Right now, I choose not to actively seek an agent. I want to give it a try without one. It'll be hard work, but I'm ready for the challenge.
Do you want an agent or are you pushing forward without one? Why did you make that decision?