When it's the end to the story you're working on, once you've marked it with those infamous and self-satisfying final two words - The End. And even though the story is done, the rest of it is just beginning.
There's so much to be done, even when you think you're finished just by marking your story done, but truth be told you're just beginning. Even assuming you've been editing as you go, you need to do it again. You can never go over your manuscript too often. Has anyone else read it, besides yourself? A beta and/or a critique group are both invaluable tools to possess. I have both. It's usually easier to present them with WIPs in chapters than as one lump sum presented as a fait accompli - you're bound to garner their appreciation, as well as a more timely reponse.
Many new writers make the mistake of thinking that once they've written it, those words are etched in stone, sacrosanct, not to be touched - a notion which you better disabuse yourself of right here and now. It took me a while, I admit, to get over the idea of someone changing my words, and now I understand that it's done to make them better. Objective eyes can see things that your subjective eyes might miss. Especially if you've been reading and re-reading your own words. Where do you find a beta or critique group? Other authors are a good place to look, and that generally becomes a reciprocal agreement. I fell into my critique group, invited by an author whom I began to chat with on a Yahoo author group. That's another good avenue of exploration, the various author/publisher groups on Yahoo - you can learn quite a bit from them. Things to do, things to avoid, people to connect with, etc. Even if you're unpublished, you can join these groups.
For newcomers to publishing, a good way to get your foot in the door is through anthologies. Granted, they don't pay particularly well, but that isn't what you're looking for at first, it's exposure you want. So check among the publishers who deal in what you write, see who's offering what, who wants what. Keep in mind that before you submit to any publisher, you need to check them out, google them thoroughly, see what other people are saying about them before you commit - they may not be someone you wish to deal with.
Even if you aren't angling for an anthology, check out any prospective publisher. See what they like, what they publish. Are they both print and e-pub? Or just e-pub? Important things to know. If you're set on seeing your words in print, then some publishers are eliminated right out of the starting gate. Some publishers have sample contracts on their site- check them out. Look at percentages, length of contract, stuff like that. It's pretty standard for e-pub royalties to be around the 35-40% mark, with print at about 15%. Silver offers 60%. Two years is good, three isn't bad, but any longer is something to really think about. I was offered one for seven, but didn't take it.
Elementary, but I'll say it anyway - if you write m/m fiction, don't send it to someone who doesn't want it, just cause you think you can get them to change their minds - you can't, and they won't. Be sure they accept your genre, and be sure you don't write things that they are against - most publishers have lists of don't touch subjects.
Look at the covers on the site - that says a lot about their books. If you find their covers cheesy, then maybe they aren't the one for you. You don't want to look at your own book cover and cringe, do you? The cover is the first place a prospective buyer stops to look - it can be a real dealmaker or dealbreaker. I have seen books I'd never touch based on the cover alone.
I shouldn't have to say this either - run spellcheck. No matter how good you think you are, it's just common sense. You still gotta do a visual, because spellcheck won't pick up on misused but spelled correctly words. That's why you have the grammar check too.
Be aware of how long the publisher gives as a response time. If they say they don't accept simultaneous submissions, then respect that. I never sub to more than one at a time, not with the same story. I would be annoyed if I accepted an author's work only to learn that they subbed it out to XYZ Publisher who's taken it, after I've taken the trouble to read it. Be courteous and respectful of someone you want to publish your work.
And their guidelines for manuscript submission? Follow them. Don't be innovative - there's a reason for the things they ask for. Follow them.
So you see that marking The End is not the end at all, but the beginning. And a glorious beginning it is!
What do you all do to celebrate when you send your story in? Do you have any particular rituals you follow? Tell me about them, I'd love to hear them!