I get so many emails asking me how to get a book published that I’ve decided to blog it, once and for all.
First of all, is your book really finished? Or is it a rough draft or missing any chapters or reading through and editing? The first thing is to have a finished book. For new writers, that's imperative.
Second, you should be able to find books at any bookstore or on Amazon, such as the Writer's Market or Writer's Guide, that list agents who send books to publishers. Or do it the easy way and google "agents for authors."
Never EVER take an agent that asks you to pay them for sending your book to a publisher. These people are running scams. A real agent will ask to see some part of your book, such as the first ten pages or the first chapter. They will probably also want you to give them a short synopsis or query that describes the entire book in one page or five pages. Find out what the specific agent you pick requires. Then do your best to describe your book in exciting terms, to interest the agent in representing you.
Different agents have different specialties. Make absolutely sure you're not wasting your time sending your book to an agent that only works with adult books, if your book is YA, or an agent who specializes in romance books, if your book is urban fantasy.
Reputable agents will have websites that tell their specialities, and what they're looking for. Make sure that you send exactly what they ask for, and nothing more or less.
Third, cross your fingers. If an agent takes you on, you don't have to do any more work (unless the agent asks you to). The agent will send your book to different publishers and try to get them to buy it.
If an agent refuses you, but gives you criticism, that's good! Think about their remarks, change your manuscript if you feel that their criticism has merit. (It probably does. I know it hurts to be told your book needs to be changed, but agents know what publishers want--and you want your book published.
Fourth, if you have tried 10 agents who specialize in your book's type, and they have refused you, you can try the slush pile. This doesn't sound very good, but it just means the place where publishers put books that have been sent to them from the authors who don't have agents. Some books get do published from the slush pile! After I had written The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening for Harper, and before it was published, I got a very excited phone call from a young assistant at Harper. Somehow she had gotten hold of the manuscript for The Awakening and she thought that it had come from the slush pile. She wanted to publish it. I had to explain that it was already coming out. We both ended up laughing.
Fifth, there is also the self-publishing or "vanity publishing" method. Google these terms, since I don't know anything about the process. I believe that you can sell self-published books on Amazon, but it's best to check that information with Amazon.
Hope this helps any new writers!