Self-publishing is a different beast and lots of advice and tips can be found on other Web sites.
The golden rule for getting published with traditional publishers is “know your markets.” Identifying appropriate markets for your work requires self-education and research which can be time-consuming, expensive, and often frustrating. There aren’t really any shortcuts.
The basic steps are:
1. identify publishers/ agents
2. find their submission guidelines (if they have them, not all do)
3. find and read examples of their publications/clients
4. evaluate whether what you write is right for them or decide whether you can write something that meets their guidelines
5. submit something or move on to the next publisher/agent
Novel & Short Story Writers Market, usually referred to by writers as Writers Market, (published by Writers Digest) comes out once a year and is a good place to start. Most libraries have a copy.
http://www.fundsforwriters.com/ (offers two free weekly email newsletters as well as one for paid subscription)
One of the chief benefits of spending the money on membership to national writing organizations or joining free online writing groups is networking and information about markets.
Mystery— Submitting a novel to a major publisher requires an agent; novels to small presses and short stories do not require agents. See http://www.writemarket.com/. For short stories, consider joining for free the Short Mystery Fiction Society which maintains a nice basic market page: http://www.shortmystery.net/markets.html
Romance—Romance Writers of America (RWA); also try http://www.writemarket.com/. Consider subscribing to Cyndi Sterling’s excellent free weekly newsletter–http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CynthiaSterling/
For short fiction, there is the high-paying: Womans’ World Guidelines
Science Fiction & Fantasy— Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA): see also the SFWA market resources: http://www.sfwa.org/links/market.htm
YA and Children’s—Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
Updated January 12, 2016
Photo: Ithaca, NY courtesy of the talented Paul Joran