You need to get a literary agent because publishers won’t look at unagented submissions. This is what you were always told. It didn’t occur to you that things could be any different.
So you embarked on a time-consuming process of researching those agents most likely to be interested in your novel and meticulously followed their instructions. This usually meant a covering letter, a synopsis (the agony of this will need a post of its own) and the first three chapters. Then you waited, biting your nails, for their response requesting the full manuscript…
Sometimes rejections came by return of post or same day email (suspicion: had anyone read a word of your submission?!) sometimes several months later. Or never.
Given that some agents request no multiple submissions, in theory a new author might spend years working through a target list. A little dispiriting if you are in your prime…
Or even more frustratingly, an agent once landed can spend months failing to sell your book to a publisher.
A strong-minded piece in the November issue of the ever-helpful Writing Magazine comes as happy light to the weary. It overturns the old advice. In a Q & A section, it’s suggested that nowadays other routes to publication (CreateSpace, Smashwords etc) are as valid and may be more effective than the traditional one. The rewards can be instant, in both financial and publicity terms. No agent fees, and commercial publishers might come knocking at the door. In short, searching for a literary agent can be a waste of time.
Get an agent and get published? Maybe not.