Ann Emmert Abbott
1. As a negotiator. Do you understand all the many different rights you might be signing away? You can acquire an agent after a publisher has expressed willingness to buy. The agent may surprise you by getting you into a bidding war and you wind up with a much better deal.
2. Small presses are nothing like vanity publishers. They don’t take just anything that comes along. The know their fields. They have a cachet that a self-publisher cannot hope to attain. Just the opposite, in fact. A vanity publisher’s imprint is still pretty much the kiss of death for a book or the author. Some small presses are well-known for their quality offerings. They can get your book reviewed in places a self-publisher can’t. They know how to set up distribution, warehousing, wholesaling, selling to chains, and all the nuts and bolts that go along with book publishing.
3. Of course. Any small press (just about) is more respected than a vanity publisher, which is about the same as being a self-publisher. The vanity press is not going to stand behind the author if there is trouble with the book or the selling process.