This topic has raised a lot of controversy for me since I was published. I queried quite a few agents and I received over a hundred rejections before I took the plunge and began to query publishers directly. It was an eye-opening experience, filled with quite a few surprised and twists and turns in the road for me.
Other writers, who were also querying agents, heard what I was doing and would stare at me or send me messages about how I was making a mistake. Why? Because many publishers are not able to keep up with the flow of manuscripts they receive and use agents to sift through to find the best and most marketable novels. It's smart business for the publisher and it gives business to the agents. So I didn't stand a chance, right?
Wrong. Not only did I stand a chance, I started to receive acceptance letters right away. I currently do not have an agent and unless one pops up and comes to me with a really great offer I'm not sure I will ever have one. I learned a lot after I began querying the publishers directly. For instance, what an agent does and what an agent doesn't do. It is still up to the author to do a lot of the marketing and to reach out to his or her audience. If the author wants to schedule events like book signings, the author or publisher has to hire someone who can set these up. That's right - most agents don't do that.
An agent also acts as a go-between for the author and publisher. I think if I had an agent do this for me I would have lost out a lot when it comes to my publisher. I've learned so much, gotten to share ideas and I even was able to give input on the cover I wanted for my first book. I've made wonderful friends and I've seen firsthand what a publisher is capable of achieving when working directly with an author.
Does that mean it is for everyone? Definitely not. I know agents have some very big plusses (it's their job to know what sells and who to talk to), but I think publishers are worth speaking to directly. So if you are like me and crazy enough to attempt it, just remember that you have even more research to do regarding publishers than you did for agents. Know who you want to submit to, why you want to submit to them and are they accepting your genre and idea. If they are not doing so at that time, check back with them or ask what time of year they open submissions. Some publishers will accept unsolicited manuscripts if they see you've taken the time to do the work they expect in a quality manuscript.
Querying publishers directly can be difficult, but well worth the effort. Don't take it to heart if they send you a rejection. However, do listen to what they give as the reasons behind their decisions. At the very least you will learn something new about your query and/or manuscript that will help you in your second attempt or with the next publisher.
I do feel that everyone should try to get an agent before querying directly to publishers. So, to my readers out there: Would you ever consider querying directly?