So I've been sitting on a finished novel for some time now. I've submitted it to two publishers, and am still waiting on a reply from the second.
But it's time I realised that I can't do this on my own. I contacted a professor, and published author, at UPEI, for some help. He is pretty high up in the English department at the university, runs the Creative Writing program, and is the sort of teacher that everybody should have at least once in their lives.
I met him in his office yesterday afternoon, and he was incredibly helpful. More helpful than I think he realises. He gave me some tips on how to contact a publisher correctly, how to get in touch with an editor, and how the editing process works. He's passing my name on to a professional editor (and fellow English/Creative Writing professor at UPEI), and mentioned several workshops in the area that I should attend.
On top of this, he gave me a list of publishing houses who would be more amenable to my writing, and was very encouraging. He was friendly, accepting, and seemed very excited that I was taking this step. He mentioned that, as the Creative Writing prof at UPEI (which has a higher percentage of douchbaggy writer wannabes than most other universities, it seems), he sees a lot of people who say they want to be writers, but who never go past the actual writing stage. He seemed pleased that I was willing to put in the money and the work to do it.
Writing a book is the easy part. Getting it published is like performing brain surgery while blindfolded, on fire, in space, and fighting a rabid grizzly bear with your bare hands. It's difficult, frustrating, and more a matter of luck than anything else. You hear stories all the time of people who went it alone, and almost singlehandedly get their work written, edited, polished, published, and on the best sellers lists. But it doesn't work that way. You need the support of people around you, even if it's just those people who are willing to put up with your pretentious bullshit. You need contacts, and friends in the industry. You need to make friends with people who you normally wouldn't like, and you need to do it with a smile on your face.
But, if you're lucky, you meet guys like this professor, who was genuinely helpful, friendly, and willing to give you the advice you need.
I'll be stepping up my efforts to get my books on a shelf near you, and am willing to work my ass off to do it. This is what I want to do for a living, and I'm not going to let anything stop me.