We have gone over every step of the process: getting an idea, forming a plan, building a platform, writing your story, editing your story and now you are ready to publish.... and here is where it gets hard. (I can hear all of you screaming right now "What?!?!?!?". I hear you, I do.)
Seriously, even though everything you did before now seems hard; it was all stuff you had direct control over. Now that you are looking at publishing, you have to go WAY OUTSIDE your comfort zone. To begin that process the first thing you have to decide is this: Get an agent or self-publish?
Most of you may be thinking "Duh, teach, get an agent!!" Yeah, because we have all been told self-publishing is bad, scammy, and you will never be accepted into the "real" publishing world if you do it. I was there three years ago. I know what you are thinking.
But the truth is that the publishing industry is in major fluctuation right now. No one really knows what is going to end up being the "standard" anymore. Technology has made it so much easier to publish for yourself and leaves a lot of that money in your pockets at the end of the day. If you are business savy, aren't afraid to market, and are technically inclined then you can publish your own work and make a pretty healthy sum. Ask John Locke or the hundreds of other self-publishers out there.
Then again, there are millions who never make much of anything. You see, self-publishing requires a much wider gamut of talent and skills than just being an awesome writer with a really great idea. You have to do editing, layout, artwork, proofing, marketing and distribution all by yourself. Or you have to put together a team of people who can help you (hopefully for little or no money). It is hard. But then writing a book is hard too!
So why not go the traditional route? Your book is good enough, right? Just keep in mind that pursuing a traditional publishing deal means you have to become expert at legaleze, get an agent who will help you get a publisher, go through the editing process, and still be prepared to assist in marketing your book to the hilt in hopes of making a blip on the barrage of entertainment options the world is currently offering. If you don't do well on your first book, it may become harder for you to get a contract the next time.
The reality is that very few authors getting published by the big houses today are first-time authors. Even if you have a perfect sales pitch, can demonstrate a desire for your product, and have the next best seller; you still might get bypassed. Be prepared to accept some harsh realities if you decide to go the traditional route: You will only get 15% (max) on all sales. (As opposed to 35-45% for self-publishing.) You will have to give up to 25% (National is typically 15% International can go as high as 25%) of your royalties to your agent as a finders fee. The day of an advance is fast becoming an antiquated ritual, especially for first-time authors. Once they pick up the rights to your book, you lose almost all control of when (or if) your book gets published, how much marketing they will provide, and what channels they will sell it on.
Before you make a decision, get out there and read all the literature you can find and decide what route is the best route for you. Think about the time you have to give to your work, and the time you can afford to wait to be published. Make sure that you are reading from both camps. Self-pubbers tend to be very biased against publishing with the big houses, and there are still a lot of agents and authors who insist that if you self-pub you are signing your own literary death certificate.
There are big changes in the industry and no one can know for sure where things will fall out, but in my humble opinion... I suspect that in the near future first-time authors will self-publish and based on their sales from their first book, (and all the other stuff publishers look at) will be able to get contracts with the big publishing houses on their next books.
So get on that research to decide what is the best decision for you and your book. To help get you started, here are some good resources: