There are four ways in which you can get published.
The first is to enter a new author competition and hope you make it all the way to the final. There are many out there in the world of the internet, but be aware. Some are run by genuine publishing houses or writers clubs, and are normally free to enter, or may have a very small administration charge. Like I said, be aware! There are plenty more you can enter from named organisations which you have never heard of and will charge a hefty fee upfront. You can enter every competition there is but I have found that all you end up doing is, always-hanging-around for months on end only to find you never made it past the first round. If you do enter then double check you have matched all the rules that have been stipulated.
The second way is to try and get a publisher. You can find most publishing houses details on the internet or purchase the yearly guide to agents and publishers for your relevant country. But be aware! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of book publishers around the world, both large and small, but 99.99% won’t even look at what they call an unsolicited manuscript. This means if you blindly send into them your story all they will do is put it straight in the bin. You can spend months, and a lot of money in print and postage costs, sending your beloved manuscript to publishers and never hear a thing. Remember, sending in a manuscript with a steamy story line full of sex and blood isn’t going to be of interest to publishers that only specialises in religious book or publishers that only print books for the toddler market.
The third way is to try and get an agent first. This can be as hard as finding a publisher, and again you need to find one that handles clients on the same level as you. Some only deal with female authors, some only children’s pictures books; some will only touch you if you have already had something published, etc., etc., etc.
The third way is self-publishing, that’s a story for another day.
So what comes first the agent or the publisher? Just like the chicken and the egg it is a conundrum that causes many a debate.
I say what comes first is to join an online community (join more than one if you like) which you can trust, and then enter any competition they may run. You will most likely fail at the first stage, but as long as you can learn where you are going wrong along the way, and are prepared (as I stated in last week’s blog) to redraft your story as many times as necessary you will have a better chance of getting an agent or publisher.
Sending out your very first draft of your very first manuscript to every single agent and publisher in the country will only end up with you spending a lot of money and time, to only receive a lot of disappointment back.