Getting a novel published is the dream of many writers. Unfortunately, there are some people who spend years wishing and hoping without ever finding a home for their novel. There are a few ways to get a novel published. The three main options are going with a large publishing company, going with a small press or university press, or self-publishing the novel.
In order to get published by a large press, it is almost certain that an author will have to have a literary agent. Most big publishing companies will not even consider manuscript submissions that come from authors without agents. In order to get a literary agent, an author must submit his manuscript or manuscripts to agents and, with luck, find someone who is interested in representing his work. Working with an agent and a large publishing company means this option creates the greatest likelihood for financial gain and national reviews, which can drive up book sales. It also can be quite difficult to get a good agent and a contract with a large publishing company.
Other authors decide to try to get their novels published through small presses, independent presses, or university presses. These presses usually have smaller staffs and smaller budgets, but are often open to books that, for some reason or another, do not fit into mainstream or commercial models for novels. It is possible to get a novel published with one of these kinds of presses without an agent, but authors with agents can also submit their manuscripts to these kinds of presses. Working with a small press means there is a better chance to publish literary or experimental novels. It also is less likely that books published with these kinds of presses will yield large profits for the authors.
The third option is to get a novel published using a self-publishing company. These sorts of companies usually have very limited screening procedures for the books that they publish and it is quite easy to get a novel published in this manner. Publishing a novel through a self-publishing system means an author can go from manuscript to bound book in a matter of weeks. It also means that the author usually has to pay all of the printing and distribution costs up front and critics usually completely ignore books that have been self-published.