Assuming you've done the steps prior to these, that means you've written a book! You have slaved over your manuscript and gotten to know these characters like they're your children and the plot like it's your life.
The next step is the most crucial of all: Actually publishing your work.
Step 1: Submission
Every publisher has different requirements, so don't forget to reach each company's guidelines. Include a synopsis that you are confident with as well as an excerpt (if required).
Isn't it funny how your proofreading skills suddenly become error-proof after you've hit the "Submit" button?
Step 2: Waiting
Waiting is, arguably, the worst part about submitting your manuscript to a publisher. Is anybody even reading it? How long do you have to wait? What if they love the idea, but actually want to change everything? And worst of all, what if you've just sent 50 different publishers your book idea, just for nobody to like it?
But there is a lot going on the other side, so it's fair to cut the agent(s) some slack. Within this step, you might come face-to-face with:
1. Slush-pile read
This is simply someone working through the submissions. At this stage, if you get rejected then you’re likely to get a form rejection. It sucks, but take it as a learning opportunity:
Was there anything you could have done better?
Did you submit to a publisher who might not want your genre or type of story?
Are there better forums for your work?
Or, put bluntly, does your work stink?
2. The deafening silence
If you don’t get an immediate rejection, take heart; they’re considering your work. Most publishers will have guidelines for when you can bug them; please do remember that reading takes time, and the publisher might have 50 or 100 things to read!
3. Request for a full manuscript
You're in! They loved it!
4. Acceptance or rejection.
You may get more feedback at this stage; most publishers are too busy to go into much detail, but they won’t lie – so if they say they liked it, then they liked it. Usually the choice simply comes down to tone or style.
(Thank you, Dystopian Stories!)
Step 3: Editor's Read
If you've come this far, then you're in for the long haul. At this point, an editor -- or several -- will read through your manuscript and give you feedback on what to change, improve on, etc. This could happen multiple times, so prepare to re-read your work a lot. But remember: you have final say on the changes, so if your book begins to go in a direction you don't like, now's the time to speak up.
Step 4: Book Creation
At this point, you can relax. Larger publishing houses will have agents and cover-designers. Things will be run by you, of course, but your book is in the hands of the professionals now with all of your finished touches included.
Step 5: Publication
This is your time to shine. You'll receive a release date for your book. Hard copies get distributed to stores and become available for purchase online. If you agreed to a flat fee, then you might get paid at this point. Otherwise, if you are receiving royalties, you will have to wait for them to come in.
And then you might even think to yourself: "Well, that wasn't so agonizing. Let's do it again!"