If you’re writing nonfiction, then the answer is usually yes. You need to show credentials in your field, and such credentials often come in the form of previous publications. If you’re writing fiction, though, the answer is no. Publishing credits will always help, however. Even if you’ve only had a short story or two published in a small literary journal, those publications show that somebody somewhere read your work and fell in love with it. This is no small feat! Such credits show an agent that you’ve been writing for a while, that you’ve been sending your work out into the world, and that you’ve had some success. All that said, I truly believe that if your work is good enough, an agent will eventually take notice and jump on it, whether you’ve been published previously or not. Just write an irresistible query letter, and then have excellent work to back it up. Easy as pie, right?
Does a writer need to have an established list of publishing credits to be considered by a decent agent?