1. Do your research. I can talk to you all day about my experiences and what I've learned through publishing, but there's no substitute for educating yourself. It's absolutely necessary, in fact, because there are "sharks" out there looking to take advantage of your dreams just like there are anywhere else, and your own ignorance is the bait they can use to reel you in. Research the various publishing methods available, and think about your goals and what's right for you. I suggest some books at the end of this entry that might help you in getting started.
2. Skip the traditional route. The heavens are made of brass and you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a publishing contract from one of the "big six" publishers - or even getting an agent to represent you. I'm not saying that's impossible. I never say never. What I'm saying is that this is the path of most resistance, and when it really comes down to it, it's not much different from publishing by other means anyway. You'll still have to do most of your own publicity, because you'll have their attention for a few weeks maybe, and then they'll be off to the next project. But most likely, you'll amass an impressive collection of rejection letters that offer you no advice on how to improve your writing because they don't WANT you to improve. After all, why would they encourage competition with their tried and true favorites? Plus, ebooks are on the rise, and the traditional publishing industry really is a dying trend, whether anybody realizes it or not. Out with the old, folks. They've killed themselves with their high-fluent demeanor and exclusive attitiudes, and this is not a death you want a front row seat too, especially with your precious writing in the mix.
3. If you want a publisher, query an e-publisher. They usually have the same requirements as traditional publishers, and you submit to them the same way (by checking their guidelines online to see what they want you to submit). Plus, they usually aren't as hard to get in with as traditional publishers, because ebook publishers are more willing to take a chance on new names and types of writing. The Writer's Market Guide usually has a list of these publishers, or (better yet) you can do a websearch for "Epublishers" or "Ebook Publishers." I published Splinter and Anywhere But Here through Whiskey Creek Press (who merged with Start Publishing), and I published Blurry through Wings ePress.
4. Consider self publishing through Kindle Direct and/or Smashwords. The plus side of this is that it's free, and you publish at no risk to yourself. The downside is that you do all of the work: you have to find people to proofread the manuscript, produce cover art, and you have to format it for publication (and I won't lie - this is a gigantic pain in the rear until you get used to doing it). I've self published a lot of my work through these two sites, and overall I've been very happy with them. You can control the pricing and you can go back in and make updates to your manuscript and cover later if you wish. I'd suggest publishing through both of them, because Kindle Direct only publishes to Amazon, and Smashwords publishes through pretty much all of the other ebook outlets if your book is accepted in the premium catalog. If you really want a paperback copy of your book available, you can go through CreateSpace with Amazon to make it available, but I do believe there's a cost associated with it. I'm not sure how much it is, because frankly I haven't sold a paperback book in at least 2 years, so I don't mess with it, because I've heard from other writers that formatting for CreateSpace is an even bigger pain than ebook formatting.
5. Stay away from vanity publishers. These are the ones that want you to pay them to do all of the work. They're some of the aforementioned "sharks" and you should stay away from anybody that wants you to pay them to publish your work (except CreateSpace, which is reputable). And they usually want a lot of money from you to do it - like, thousands of dollars - and they do nothing for promotion. Speaking of which:
6. Start building an online platform now. If you haven't done it already, build a website and start a blog.Join social media to build an "audience" with friends and followers by helping them get to know you. I have a book suggestion below that helps you get started on this effort.
7. Join websites that help writers. If you write short stories or even want to post excerpts from larger writing projects, then Readwave.com is a good place to post your work to get feedback. Writing.com is also a great place to post your work to get reader feedback. Another good site is Goodreads.com, because it's a great site for readers and writers, so you can connect with readers and other authors. One site I caution you to beware of is Authonomy.com. You can post a full manuscript there, but it's set up as a competition where the top 10 books of the month get the first 10,000 words read by editors at HarperCollins. That sounds good, but it is a system, and people know how to play it, because it's built on getting a lot of followers and a lot of people to read your work (or at least leave good reviews for you). It's not entirely honest, and the "deal" of getting read by a HarperCollins editor isn't as glamerous as it seems, because I don't know of anybody that's scored a contract with them that way yet (I could be wrong, of course, but you get the picture).
8. If you decide to self publish, be sure to hire an editor and a cover artist to do that work for you. If you DIY it, the readers will know. You can find editors and graphic artists online (Goodreads is a good place to find them). Smashwords will also provide you with "Mark's List," which is a list of people that will format ebooks and do cover art for you at reasonable prices. I haven't found a "master list" of editors yet, but if I do, I'll let you know.
9. Check your expectations. I still have my day job for a reason, folks. We all dream of being the Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, but the fact is that this is extremely rare. Most writers have primary jobs to keep the bills paid, because writing doesn't make a tremendous amount of money. Heck, J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis were college professors that wrote and worked full time, and eventually retired from their day jobs. Again, I never say never. Anything can happen. All I say is that if you are writing and publishing your work, then you need to do it for the right reason, and the right reason is because you love to write and want to share your stories with readers. Because writing rarely brings in "fat stacks" and fortune in this business really favors the persistent and the ones who really and truly love the art of creating and sharing stories.
10. Here are some reference books that I've found extremely helpful in my own road to publication. These all link to the ebook versions:
Smashwords Style Guide (this book is free)
Building Your Book for Kindle (this book is free)
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform (this is only available as a paperback book)
2015 Writer's Market
I hope these tips are helpful if you're considering publishing. As I mentioned before, I highly encourage you do research publishing and publishing options to decide what's right for you.
That's all today. Take care, and have a great week.