Remember, these are just my opinions and suggestions. Nothing is set in stone. Other writers could answer quite differently and argue with me over my answers. What works for one person may not work for another.
The next question or topic was about making the choice between an agent or to submit directly to a publisher or to self-publish. I cannot say, "DO IT THIS WAY ONLY." It's totally a personal choice and plain luck plays a huge part in the outcome. Questions to ask yourself: Do you know anyone in the writing business (such as: an agent, a publisher, someone who works for those people or places that could be on your side to help you) and if so that may be a deciding factor to push you one direction or the other. Consider: How you prefer to work WITH others, how much time, effort, possibly money you're able to devote, your marketing know-how, the technical and computer skills you possess, the length of time you're willing to wait for an agent or publisher to offer you a contract – to represent you (WHICH FOR SOME AUTHORS – NEVER HAPPENS), if you're going to submit directly to publishers are you only going to deal with the "big time" publishers or will you be happy with a small publishing house, and how long you want to wait until the book actually gets published…Those are not in any particular order but they are all things you need to ask yourself in making the decision to submit to either an agent or a publisher or to choose to self-publish.
YOU should NEVER HAVE to pay anything out of your pocket to an agent or publisher. IF you choose to purchase your own books to have some in stock to sell, well of course you'll PAY for the books (although usually the publisher will give you a set number of free copies) but to have an agent or publisher represent you and all that they do – you do NOT pay them a dime.
If you choose to self-publish, any & all costs WILL come out of your pocket. Depending on which company you self-publish through, the expenses can range from very low to ridiculously high. BUT, using Amazon as an example, the cost is extremely minimal. To setup your book on Amazon is about $20- $30. Now, for the cover art, it depends on what you plan on using because you could use something of your own creation – which costs nothing - or fork over hundreds of dollars for someone to design something. Or anything in between. Another example: you may choose to PAY someone to edit your book. Or maybe you know people who'll do it for free. Marketing is another area of self-publishing: will you PAY for a publicist OR decide to handle the marketing yourself or do you know people who will help for free?
See what I'm getting at? As an author, there are many different avenues you can take in the pursuit of getting your book published. There is no right or wrong way. There are no "set in stone" costs or expenses that affect every single author the exact same way.
From what I've researched, don't submit to both agents AND publishers at the same time. Pick either agents or publishers, unless of course you're self-publishing. If after a lengthy period of time one option doesn't work, you can switch to the other. And so much keeps changing in the publishing industry it makes your head spin! I even read that some agents are like a hybrid – multi-performing – especially when it comes to ebooks -- taking on the duties of an editor, publicist and they do all the work to format & upload your book to the internet. Getting back to hunting down an agent or a publisher -- Now here's where something can you bite you in the butt: I've heard that if you start out with publishers THEN switch to agents, it could get dicey, because IF you land an agent and THEY start to submit to publishers on your behalf, because they're now representing you, – well – if the agent ends up submitting to any of the SAME publishers YOU'VE already made an attempt with, chances are, your name & book title will be tossed out because that publishing house will recognize you and will see that they had previously decided that they're NOT interested. Another thing – AGENTS don't like the fact your manuscript has been shopped around. So, to expand on that a bit: if you've been sending your queries to publishers (some of which may have requested your manuscript) but after a period of time you hit a dead end with the publishing houses then decide to try the agent route, the agents who show an interest in your work just might flat out ask you if you've already submitted to publishers. You don't want to lie and get caught in the lie later…so you tell the prospective agent – "Sure, I've been in contact with 10 publishers who all rejected it." That agent is going to say, "PASS!" Whereas, if you start out with an agent and they promote your fresh-unseen manuscript to publishers, you might have a better chance that a publisher will be interested in your book...because they've never seen it yet. The way I just described it, the problem arises when you decide to switch from seeking one type of representation to another form = as in an agent to publishers or vice versa.
Confusing, huh?! It REALLY is a personal choice whether you choose to have an agent represent you or submit directly to publishers or strike out on your own to self-publish.~~~~~~
The next segment from my speech continues on the topic of agents vs. publishers vs. self-publishing. Should post in a few days. Thanks!