When I first started writing this novel, I never considered the idea of having an agent. Now that I've been doing more research - examining publisher websites, reading blogs of people in the industry (authors, agents, editors), etc. - I'm seriously leaning toward targeting an agent first instead of a publisher. Though there's always the option of getting an agent after receiving an offer from an publisher, but before negotiating the contract. In a case like that, it would be easier to get an agent as it's a guaranteed sale.
An agent blogged yesterday about receiving a phone call from an unagented author who had an offer on the table from a publisher. In the comments someone asked why an author would need an agent if she already has an offer. Diana Peterfreund (author) responded:
...agents do a whole lot more than just send books out to publishers.
Yes, an agent can negotiate the contract. The author could do it themselves, but they aren't necessarily going to know everything to look for, or be able to get the same responses as an agent could.
In addition, the agent can turn the original offer into something else entirely -- a one book deal into a multi-book deal, etc. They can see the offer the publisher is making as well as the potential of the project and advise the author NOT to take it. Since there is an offer from one publisher, there may be an offer from another, and the agent can help facilitate this through her contacts.
And that's all before a contract is agreed upon. An agent's job isn't over when the contract is delivered. She can help guide the author through the entire process -- cover design, publicity concerns, editing concerns -- everything.
Great information. Makes me wonder why someone wouldn't look for an agent. Especially as a first time author with no experience in the business. Especially when there's proof that, on average, authors with agents get higher advances than those without.
Of course, this all brings me back to needing to finish my book. I'm about halfway through chapter eight, sitting at 31,950 words total. Not sure yet how many chapters there will be. I should go figure that out (after my daily writing of course).
edited to correct author genre mistake