It is no coincidence that as I return from the World Fantasy Convention I wanted to talk about more than simply writing. As I see it, getting your book written is only the tip of a Titanic sized iceberg. Here's my helpful breakdown:
1. Write book.
2. Everything else.
Yes, your manuscript and the words in it should be the ultimate selling point, but what can you do other than write the best book evah to help yourself get noticed or at least get moved higher up in the slush piles?
Go to conventions. (This is the part where you learn to help yourself.)
I can not state this strong enough. More things will happen for you over drinks and nachos than by slushing your manuscript to every publishing house on the planet.
Why? Because conventions level the playing field for the unpublished writer. Or rather, think of it like this. If you don't go, you're simply up in the bleachers watching the publishing game. below. Or maybe home watching it on Pay Per View. Go to a convention at least puts you on the side lines on the field and possibly you'll get called in and given a chance to play.
Going to conventions gives you an access to agents/editors/buyers/other writers. The strata of conventions allow for a lot of opportunity, as long as you're not a super pushy asshole. And here's the best advice I can give you on that:
Learn how to hold a conversation... and here's another big HINT: Don't make it about your book. If you can prove you're semi-intelligent, charming, able to converse without giggling like a desperate fan boy or girl, you're 90% of your way towards getting to your true purpose at any convention. The trick to selling your book in these cases is to sell yourself, not the book. Remember this mantra for selling your book at these things: It's Not About The Book. If people are getting a good vibe from you, eventually they'll turn the conversation to whatever you're working on or why you came. I've watched the miracle happen.
Also, don't brag at these conventions. You only come off as a desperate asshat. Telling everyone you meet that you're "in five high level writing programs, name dropping, and that you produce 10,000 words a day" is just sad and agents/editors/ other authors will do anything in their power to get away from you.
But go to them. Rarely does any book simply sell itself by its amazingness alone.