As a traditionally published author who has also dabbled in self
publishing, here are the pros and cons as I see them.
Pros of Having a Literary Agent:
* They do all the footwork to sell your book
* They personally know editors and what types of books they are seeking
* They should be able to get you a much better contract
* They should be able to get you a larger advance
Cons of Having a Literary Agent:
* It's very difficult to get a literary agent unless you've already
had a book published by a traditional publishing house. (There are
exceptions; if you're a well known motivational speaker on the subject
of "influence," for example, it will be much easier to get your foot
in the door.)
* The agent gets a commission on your advance and royalties. (However,
the better agents make up for this by getting you more money in the
Pros of Self Publishing:
* You have total control over your work. There are no editors or
publishers asking for changes.
* If you can make big enough sales, you may earn more money in the long run.
Cons of Self Publishing:
* You have total control over your work. There are no editors of
publishers to guide you in what works best and what will make the most
professional, marketable book.
* The up front fees can be large, unless you use a Print-on-Demand
* Your work may not be taken seriously by reviewers and bookstores.
There is still quite a stigma attached to self publishing.
There is another option, too, and that is marketing your book directly
to a publisher. Not all the major publishers will look at unagented
work, but a good many do. It requires more legwork on your part (you
have to figure out which publishers are open to unagented material,
you have to do the actual mailings), but it is quite possible to be
published this way, if your work is good.
All that said, my very best advice is this:
If you are an experienced writer who's written for major magazines,
self publishing might work for you. You'll also have a higher chance
of getting your foot in the door by approaching a publisher directly.
If you're a less experienced writer, you'll need to hire a good
editor, if you want to self publish. Or, if you go the traditional
route, you'll need to get more writing experience under your belt. Get
at least a handful of magazine articles published, so you can prove to
an agent or a publisher that you are a professional who can write.
Here are some links that may provide more insight:
* "Self Publishing Pros and Cons:"
* "Self Publishing: The Odds of Success:"
* "The Evolution of Self Publishing:"
* "How To Get An Agent" (with ideas on what an agent can do for an
Researcher's personal knowledge
Google searches: pros cons self publishing, pros cons literary agent