You finally finished your first novel. That four-word idea you scribbled on a napkin last year is finally 250 pages of literary brilliance. You've spent more time bonding with your writing software than your loved ones. You've cursed the scene that just wouldn t work, and wept for joy when it finally came together. You've thrown out two supporting characters and replaced them with a loyal pet. Through blood, sweat and tears   and a lot of coffee   you've finally completed the book you knew you had in you.

Novel writing is a lot of work. And you're not nearly done yet. The next step is getting that manuscript in front of an editor so it can eventually get published. After all, what good is your epic tale doing the world by just lazing about in a shoe box at the back of the closet?

It can seem like a daunting task. And it is. You're not without resources, however; there's a lot of advice out there on how to get started and eventually get published. Below is a summary of some of the most common advice given to aspiring authors by those in the know. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To. 

Market Research
The first step is always to look at the market. What's out there? What is not out there, but should be? This can (and should) be done rather early in the process of book writing. After all, imagine you're writing the definitive work on Civil War hair styles for men when you discover it's already been written. If you make this discovery early enough in your writing process, you can change your slant to fill a gap   and focus on women's hair styles instead. Experts suggest spending time in book stores and online in order to familiarize yourself with where your book fits in the overall publishing market. This will also help you get a feel for the genre you're writing: the length, the cost, the look and the style.

Publishing Houses
You'll also want to research publishing houses. Which companies publish the kind of book you want to write? Are there companies that publish related books but don't have one quite like yours? Perhaps your book will fill a gap in a company's product list. The more you know about the market for your book and the publishing house you're submitting it to, the better off you'll be and the more likely your book will get published.

Before you submit your manuscript to a publisher, be sure to very carefully look at their submission guidelines   and follow them to the letter. Realize the avalanche of manuscripts a reader sees in a week, and understand that the guidelines are usually established to help streamline their internal processes. Besides, there's no reason for your labor of love to start its life with one strike already against it.

Get an Agent, or Don't
If you're serious about pushing your work to get published, most experts suggest hiring an agent. In fact, some publishers won't look at a manuscript not represented by an agent. On the other hand, there are smaller publishing houses that may be interested in manuscripts from independent authors. One advantage of hiring an agent is that he or she will be familiar with the book market and the publishing companies and should be able to quickly sift through the mountain of companies and help get your manuscript in front of the right people. However, some experts offer a word of caution: This is an unregulated industry, and you should be careful. If you decide to hire an agent, one of the best ways to find a good one is by talking to other writers who are happy with theirs. 

When you've done your research, decided whether to hire an agent, and submitted your manuscript to a publisher, it may get rejected. Don't be surprised. It happens. A lot. It's important to realize that books are rejected for a number of reasons, including internal concerns known only to the publisher, such as their workload and current product offerings. A rejection doesn t necessarily reflect on the quality of your work or your novel writing skills. Follow up on your submission, and if they're not interested, move on to another publisher. Many writers don't get published because they drop out of the process. Don t get discouraged, and keep pounding away with at your next novel, with your trusty writing software by your side. Even if you don't find a publisher for this book, there's every chance your next one will be even better. 

More Top Stories