1. Finish a NovelSurprisingly, I found a lot of places that offered this advice: don't send out queries until your novel is finished. Publishers and Agents don't want something that will be ready in six months to a year. They want something that is complete now.
For me this was actually the hardest step. Because of my lack of a writing schedule - it took me ten years to write Shadowed Stones. Most of the writing actually took place over the course of a year or two. Once it was finished though - I still had trouble letting go. It is hard for me to call something "finished" unless it is "perfect."
2. Choose Your RouteIn several posts I chronicled much of my route to publication. As part of that I made the personal decision to go with Traditional Publication rather than Self Publication. This is not to say that I will not self publish in the future - it is just that I want to try for traditional publication first. Here are some of my reasons:
1. Experience - learning what it takes to get your novel out their to publishers.
2. Professional Feedback - my theory is if all the professionals hate my work - I probably would not cut it as a self published author.
3. Fulfilling a Dream - this was big for me. For some reason I did not feel the dream would be complete without at least trying traditional publication.
3. To Agent or not to AgentSince I decided to go with Traditional Publication - I then had to decide if I would seek an agent first or submit straight to publishers first. I decided to strike out on my own without an agent.
Not all publishers will accept unagented submissions. You can find out if they do through their website, or through a listing such as The Writer's Market. Most big publishers want you to have an agent. But I did find several publishers that accept unagented submissions.
My reasons for choosing to go without an agent right now are much the same as my reasons for choosing Traditional Publication. But more than that - in some of the books I have read about the craft, and in other research I have done, I found that it is not necessarily crucial that you have an agent. However, I do plan to switch to looking for an agent if submitting to publishers does not get me anywhere.
4. ResearchThere are two kinds of research that I did. First I research publishing in general. Some of the gotchas - best practices - and so on. Basically I wanted to know more about the process of submitting and what I could expect.
But the more important research is market research. I found the publishers that I plan to submit to from the following sources:
1. Amazon.com: I looked at the top sellers, and books that were coming out or had been recently released in my genre. I took note of all the publishers of these books. Then I did a google search for each publisher.
2. Google Search: I tried things like "Fantasy Book Publishers" and so on. This searching was not as helpful as I had hoped - but it did lead me to some resources.
3. The Writer's Market: I paid for an online subscription to The Writer's Market. I first discovered the books in the library when I was in elementary school, when my dream of being published began. The online resource is not the end all and be all of market listings - but it was helpful.
4. Recommendations: When I told people I was researching publishers to submit my novel to - I actually got a lot of recommendations. My little brother is the one who told me about Shadow Mountain Publishing.
While researching publishers I looked for ones that would accept unagented submissions, that published my genre, looked lagit, and published books a long the lines of my book. For Shadow Mountain Publishing I checked several of their books out from the library and read them. For other publishers I found their books on Amazon.com and read the samples there.
5. Prepare the Submission PacketAfter compiling my list of publishers - I prioritized them into the order that I would submit them too. Almost all publishers do not like simultaneous submissions (meaning you send the manuscript to more than one agent or publisher at a time.) This is because it takes time and effort for them to review your manuscript - and it would be a waste of their time if you had already signed a contract with someone else. So, I am only submitting to one publisher at a time.
Then I did more research on the first publisher in my list, Shadow Mountain Publishing. I found out what their submission guidelines were - mean what they expected me to send them and what format it should be in. Then I started preparing the things that I would need.
6. Take the PlungeThe last step was to send my submission packet in the mail. That was very hard for me. I had to not think about what I was doing or I would have chickened out. But as part of my new life philosophy - I don't let fear, or my comfort zone, get in the way of new experiences. So I did it.
Now, I am waiting to hear back. I will keep you all posted on the progress.
I would love to share with you any of the other knowledge that I have gleaned from my research and such. So feel free to ask me questions in the comments - or shoot me an email.