Agents: Some writers say we need them, some writers say we don't. Whether we need an agent is up to the writer himself or herself. Personally, I don't have one but would love to have someone to represent me. This is why.
First, an agent knows the business inside and out. He or she knows who's looking for what types of books. Second, an agent is educated to know what works for those stories and can help polish your story if it isn't perfect. If the agent doesn't know personally, he or she can direct the author to the right people for editing needs and may even have people like that on staff. Third, the agent can do more than assisting the writing in finding the right publisher. He or she can also find the best deal and handle the process once you sign the contract. The relationship doesn't end there. There's over seas deals, movie deals, and more.
An agent makes 10-15% of your funds from the book so he or she doesn't make anything unless you do. Some may say there's an annual fee for copies, phone calls, other office supplies but run away from these agents. This kind of deal gives the agent another motive to work for you--money. The agents who only charge commision strive to get you published! That's all the motive they need. Yes, sometimes a ligitamate agent will come along and ask for extra fees (non-upfront fees) that may cover some expenses like postage and phone calls, etc. But they will not ask for anything on a yearly basis or be up-front so if they are, please run as fast as you can.
As a writer, you will have relationship with the agent. This is professional. There will be phone calls made between the two of you. Your approval will be needed at times for different things. And as long as you are in this relationship, whenever you make money on your book so will your agent. Contracts are drawn up and will specify yours and theirs responsibilities. Checks from publishers and others will go to them and then the agent will draw a new check payable to you, taking out their comission of course.
Other reasons for choosing an agent..... Some publishers may only go through agents. Publishers will state this on their website under guidlines or through other means such as Writer's Market and other books (or search engines online). That's why its important to read those. Agents have guidelines as well so be sure to read them! Agents may also be able to get you (the writer) a bigger deal than you can on your own. Like I said, they know the business inside and out.
Good luck in your search for an agent. If you choose not to have an agent, the door is still open to many wonderful publishers. The hunt is on. Remember, dreams really do come true; all you have to do is believe!
Amber Rigby Grosjean