Obviously, if you are Joe and you can attract one of the high-powered agents in NYC to represent your work, it will be easier for you to attract a publisher also. But the publishing landscape is changing -- at least it seems to me as if it is -- about as rapidly as the world of electronics. "Real books", those made with real paper, printed with real ink, and sold in bookstores to readers who enjoy reading from a printed page, seem to be on the decline, replaced by electronic versions read on Kindles and other hand-held devices.
This brings to mind the question of how important is the publisher in this milieu? Granted, if you want your work to be distributed in "real book" form, publishing houses still have a role here. But e-books? It would seem that the often scoffed at self-published, or as many call them, "vanity published" books might gain ground quickly in this market. Correct me if I'm, wrong, but isn't it possible now for a self-published e-book to be sold directly on Amazon.com? From what I've read during my intensive research of agents' web sites, many of them seem to think the author should do much of the marketing, or at least have a marketing plan for his or her work. If this is indeed the case, what is the function of the agent and the publisher?
Authors are authors -- they are not marketers (with some rare exceptions) or advertising executives. They want to write, for their own and others' enjoyment and entertainment; if they are at all like me, and I am a Joe Schmo, they do not want to be concerned with the mundane issues of how to get something sold (again, there are some notable exceptions here). Obviously, if one can enjoy writing and also profit from it, that would be great, but should the emphasis be on the writing or whether the writing can be translated into dollars, euros, or yuans?
I will tell you now. My preference would be to have an agent, but not one who wants me to do my own marketing. I don't know the answers to all the questions I have posed here, but I'm sure an experienced agent does.