Despite spending the last entire week avoiding actually writing anything at all - hey, its school holidays, I have varmints underfoot - my primary form of occupation is being a writer. What you see on the blog is often my daily 'pages', where I get to do some fun, easy writing, with no thought for character or plot or following a story arc. I love my blog, have I mentioned that lately??
In the last few years I have purposefully backed away from publishing. I've still been writing, but the demands of publishing novels and having small children were too much. I just didn't have the mental energy to do a good job at either. However, now that the kids are at school, I've been focussing on getting my stories out there once more.
Why is publishing so demanding? Because these days to be an author also means you have to be a dedicated self-marketer. And that can take as much time and energy as writing, if not more. There is a great post here about the changes for authors in the new digital publishing age.
Lately I've had a few un-published authors ask me about submitting manuscripts and 'how to get published.' This is what I've been telling them...
First up, I've got really good news. With the explosion in self-publishing and websites like http://www.smashwords.com, it means that you have options. If your book is too off-centre for nervous traditional publishers, then you always have the option of self-publishing it and finding your audience yourself. So, your manuscript is never going to end up forgotten on a hard drive somewhere - you can upload it to e-book sellers like Amazon under your own steam and charge a price that you decide (even give it away free if you want).
Both my published books are with Samhain Publishing, which publishes in both digital and print. I would happily be published with them again. It is well worth reading their submission guidelines http://www.samhainpublishing.com Samhain is one of the foremost e-pubs out there and a great place to start.
Another good digital publisher is http://www.carinapress.com Carina is the e-pubbing arm of Harlequin and is interested in a wide variety of genres (romance, horror, fantasy, sci fi etc), Carina are good, but they are e-pub only, and so you wont see your book in print - however, with the huge explosion in the e-reader market, its a viable option.
But I want to see my book in print? Firstly, with POD (print on demand) technology moving as fast as it is, then its highly likely that eventually a reader will be able to order any electronic book in print version - so it might be worth e-pubbing and then waiting to see what develops. Second, e-books are forever, print books are in shops for a few months, or up to a year. After four years I am still getting monthly royalties from the e-versions of my two books - the print royalties dried up yonks ago.
There are a lot of other e-pubs out there on the internet, but be careful and do your research, Samhain and Carina are as good as they get, but a few have turned out to be breathtakingly dodgy. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
If you are looking at submitting to a New York publisher, ie the huge, household name type publishers, you will probably need an agent, though now and then they do open for unsolicited submissions. Information about their submission processes are on their websites, and often you can email your query letter rather than posting - in fact it is becoming more and more rare for publishers to want paper submissions.
A good place to look for agents in the US is www.agentquery.com, just google 'literary agents' to find those in the UK. There are a handful of Aussie agents, but the Aussie publishing industry is wary of genre fiction at the moment, especially from the unpubbed. A good place to ask questions of an Aussie agent is http://www.callmyagent.blogspot.com.
On a more personal note, remember that the publishing industry is tough and rejection is doled out on a daily basis. You just have to keep submitting, or take a break if it all gets too much and jump back in when you are ready. Rejection is not personal, your book just wasn't right for them. I know its not easy, and I know that it takes huge strength and tenacity to keep going, but it will be worth it. The sting will pass, and the disappointment of it is not worth stopping altogether.
Good luck, ask if you have questions, am happy to answer anything I can. If you need to rage and vent, email me; firstname.lastname@example.org - don't vent on a blog (but more on that next Tuesday, when I'll write about the realities of having a public profile, even when you are unpubbed)
Happy writing :)