Someone asked me the question, "Why do you want an agent if you already have a publishing contract?"
I thought it was a great question, and though I answered it in the comment section of the post in which it was asked, I thought I'd post my answer here as well. I didn't answer the opposite questions some of you have asked: why did I decide not to get an agent. I think I've answered that in previous posts.
So this is why a writer might still want an agent, even if they have a contract:
One of the main reasons people will seek out an agent after they already have a publisher is to have an experienced eye look at the contract and make sure it's fair and competitive, and not sneaky or a rip-off. I actually had a lawyer look at mine, and it was very straight forward with no fine print to worry about.
For me it was more a long term thing to consider. Right now I have a book deal. That's attractive to an agent because they basically have very little work to do. If an agent would want me now because I have a book, that's someone on my side for the next book if I want to submit to the larger houses on a new book. The larger publishing houses could offer greater marketing and exposure, advances, stocking in bookstores, and more likelihood of foreign rights.
If I don't use this publishing contract to get an agent, and if my book doesn't have some significant sales, it will be much, much harder to get an agent in the future than if I hadn't published at all. It's a huge risk: to go with a small press unagented is to risk never breaking into a bigger market.
I decided before I signed with NorLights and looking at the options, that I'd take that risk. Not everyone will agree with my decision. Traditional publishing is entrenched in the agent system, so it's hard for many to imagine traversing it without an agent.
My big question is why an agent would want to take on a writer with a small press contract. There is basically no money in it for them, very little marketing money to help their client, and if the book doesn't sell widely, they will have a much harder time selling a new book to a larger publisher.
There really isn't a right or wrong way. There are different ways. Each author has to evaluate the pros and cons, and what they want out of the agent relationship and out of their own career, and make the decision that's best for them.