I have read numerous books on the pros and cons of getting representation with a literary agent. Would any of you care to give advice on whether or not an agent is a good idea? I understand they work off sales percentages, but are there other issues I need to be aware of? Thank you.
Keep in mind, an agent has more functions than just to sell your book. Having sold a book to a major publisher without an agent, I can certainly attest that it is possible. However, in hindsight, I would have been better off getting one. Unless you want to become an expert in the business of books, and you have time and opportunity to hobnob with publishers, an agent will probably be well worth the fees.
For instance, as I mentioned in another post, I'm interested in trying to get my book reissued, or the rights back, and I haven't had much success. I'm reasonably sure if I had an agent, this wouldn't be an issue.
(On the downside, it isn't particularly easy to get a good agent --selling your book might actually even be easier!)
I'm not an expert in the subject, but I've recently done a lot of research into this myself.
From what I can gather, nowadays publishers are almost entirely likely to dismiss a piece of writing (whether it's a novel or a children's book) if it is not sent to them from an agency.
This is because they get thousands of submissions weekly, so it is their first line to reduce the amount of scripts that they need to read.
However, an agency is more likely to read, give notes and be more invested in your project, as they will make money personally if you do well.
They generally already have a good relationship with many publishers, so the publisher will know that the work that they are submitting is at least worth reading.
Overall I would suggest trying to submit to an agent, as you are more likely to be able to get published. And them charging a percentage of your sales seems like a good choice. Better than having 100% of no money if you can't get published.
I'm not aware of other issues, but someone else with more experience on literary agents may be able to enlighten you on that.
You need to negotiate when publishing the cases in which the rights revert to you if the book goes out of print. (I suppose today one would also have to negotiate whether a POD book is considered out of print or how long it remains POD only for it to be considered out of print.) Do you want to make digital editions of your work be free of DRM? Do you want foreign rights. That is another thing to negotiate, and so on. An agent helps with this; they know more about the book trade than you do. It's division of labor.
Most publishers, except in science fiction (and quite a few in science fiction) simply won't accept manuscripts without agents or without you knowing the editors personally. You're reduced in options without an agent.
But you'll need to get a book accepted without an agent first to later get a capable agent you'd want working for you. It changes your publishing record that you present to potential agents to get them to work for you. (I agree with O.S.C. in this.) Only exception is if you get lucky: a great agent is looking for authors for some reason.