Wow, this can be so confusing. I've been reading about them for some time this morning and I still don't really know that much. It does appear that most if not all of the major publishing houses won't accept a submission unless it's through an agent. There are alot of other publishers who will, but it's hard to know much about them, even if they have great websites. They certainly paint a bleak picture for first time authors.
And then there's that pesky Platform business popping up again. How does a fiction writer really get the kind of followers you need to qualify as a "platform"? I admit that I'm a bit lost when it comes to that whole concept. I mean, between freelancing and writing, I don't have a lot of time for playing around on the social networks. But I guess I'd better find it if I want to sell my book. The problem is, you can't print excerpts because some publishers don't go for that, so how do you get people interested in your book?
I was amazed at how much the agents took. They really take a bite out of whatever royalties you get, unless that percentage is just for the advance, but I doubt it. Yeouch!