Following on from my previous posting on this subject; let's suppose you have now finished your novel. It's gone through several drafts.You've checked, or had checked, the spelling, punctuation and grammar. You paid for a professional/begged a knowledgable friend, to critique it for you and have made the necessary changes.
You've printed it out. Read it through again. Noted the remaining typos that show up now you've printed the novel out again, corrected them and reprinted.
Hey! I think you might now be ready to send it out. But how do you choose who to send it to? Simple. You buy/borrow/steal (oops! not really) the necessary reference book. That will be Writers' Handbook or Writers' & Artists' Yearbook in the UK. Writers' Market in the US. And please get the latest edition as these people MOVE, darn 'em. A LOT.
Now you check through the listings, marking up and turning the corners of the pages of your pristine new book (yeah, I know, you hate to do that. Get some post-it notes, then, or similar), those agents/publishers who are interested in your particular type of book, be it mystery, history, romance, sci-fi, and so on. Then you check to see if the listing gives a name for the person who handles your genre and ring up the receptionist to make sure she or he hasn't moved, gone mad or died. Be sure to check the correct spelling of their name. And you send them a letter, telling them a little about yourself and your book and whether you envisage it being the first book in a series and asking if they'll consider reading your book, which you'll describe (briefly) Try to make this letter no more than one page - you don't want to inundate Ms Editor/Agent with your ramblings. That's likely to piss Ms Ed off and she'll put you on her 'Avoid Like The Plague', list.
Then you repeat this letter to other editors/agents dealing with your genre, again ringing the firm to check the individual's name. Do this step as many times as you can afford or till you run out of people. Don't worry about multiple submissions. Who's got the time to hang around while Ms Ed works her way through the slush pile of letters/submissions? The only thing you should allow to limit the number of your submission letters is time and/or money.
Then you wait. Probably for three months, maybe more. But you don't spend the waiting time in idle contemplation of your navel. You get on with the next book. Yes, that's right. More of the same. You don't want to be a one-hit wonder, do you? In your spare time you can do a bit of networking to see if you can't make acquaintance with a few editors/agents that you missed. Or even those you didn't.
In what remains of your diminishing spare time, you get yourself a website organized. Your own Blog, too, would be helpful. And you are on Facebook, aren't you? Tell me you Tweet. Social networking has helped me sell books; there's no reason why it shouldn't do the same for you. Putting the word out is simply preparing the ground for when you are published.
By the way. CONGRATULATIONS! You've got a book out to market. Well done! You're clearly one of the doing writers, rather than one of the thinking about doing, writers.
Till next time and So You Want To Be A Writer III. When I'll post about what happens if Ms Ed rejects you. And - even more important - what to do if she - GASP - accepts your book.