Luckily, I got on long enough to stumble across a request from a LiveJournal friend of mine, who wanted to know something about the process of getting a novel published. I only had time to pass on the very short version, but I thought some of you also might be curious, so here's the answer I gave her:
My first piece of advise is polish, polish, polish -- make it as perfect a story as possible before you let anyone in the industry see it. At the same time, either buy a copy of Fiction Writer's Market or subscribe to Writer's Market online -- I do both, because I like the articles in the hard copy but the website constantly updates its information.
You'll need to decide whether to try to get an agent or find a publisher first -- I did both at the same time. Many publishers won't even look at an unagented submission, but you might get lucky. You need to make sure they actually deal in your genre of story: It might help to find stories of a similar kind of the bookshelf, and look in the dedications to see if an agent is mentioned.
The submission process will involve a query letter, along with maybe sample pages, a synopsis, and/or an outline. They're all hard to do, and they need to be *very* good in order to stand out. One of the best books I've found on the subject of query and cover letters is here:
So to start out with: 1. make your story perfect. 2. Write great outlines and synopsis. 3. Carefully research your markets and study their submission requirements (which are almost always on their websites). 4. Once you've identified a market or agent, write a bang-up query letter and send them what they've requested.
Then be prepared to wait. You can make simultaneous submissions to almost all agents, but most publishers don't take kindly to that, and it's best not to get on their bad side at this point. With response times ranging from weeks to months, once you've sent it in there's nothing to do but get started on your next story.
You will be rejected -- we all are. Dont be discouraged!