So you've finished a manuscript—most likely one of your firsts—and are wondering where you should go from this point. Authors who are getting back on the saddle along with new writers who are only beginning their journey are bombarded with all kinds of information on how best to get their work out there. Perhaps it's been quite some time since you've published anything and the connections you've made as a published author in the past have long disintegrated or maybe you are a new writer taking baby steps into the publishing world; how do you appeal to publishers? Where do you start your publisher search? Do you seek out literary agents? How do you increase your chances of getting published? Do you want to go straight to a publisher or speak to an agent first?
Literary agents or publishers is a common dilemma for writers who are not entirely sure which path will lead them to a published book. This however, is a more complex one or the other question because it all truly depends on the situation (and market) you are in. For instance, it is a lot more critical for an author in larger markets such as the UK and the US to secure an agent than it is in smaller markets. If you are toying with the idea of self publishing, which is understandable for modern authors who are every which way, fed news and information about the new trend, it is also important to remember that even that route takes work, perhaps even more work than a tedious publisher search.
The best way to seek out the right information on book publishers and literary agents you have the best chance with is to look into the obvious. The best sources actually hide in plain sight, including your own library, especially when you have books of the same genre, subject matter, or general feel as the one you've just finished writing. The imprint page and acknowledgments section of these publications are a treasure trove of information you need to get closer to the right people who can help you publish your work. Look at author and publisher websites or contact the literary agent for the book or collection of books you've found that are in the same genre as your own and start doing your legwork.
When all is said and done and you need help managing the rights for your work, turn to resources like PubMatch to see how you can make the most out of your hard work.