When you think your book is as good as you can possibly get it, it's time to try to find an agent. The way to do this is to go a library or bookstore and get a book like The Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents. Identify the ones that handle your kind of book and contact them in exactly the manner they request.

A lot of people think that, in the writing business, it's not what you know, but who. This has not been my experience. Who you know might get an agent to take a look at something you've written, but after that you will stand or fall entirely on the quality of your writing and other business calculations. In other words, the best a mutual acquaintance can do is to possibly get your work moved closer to the top of the agent's pile. But this is a minimal benefit, because agents read everything that's submitted to them. That's their business. It may take the agent a while, but eventually he or she will read what you've sent regardless. After that, the agent will be making a business decision, not doing a favor for a friend. If your manuscript isn't quality, you know what that business decision will be.

Never give up. Let's face it, not everyone will get published. Getting published takes luck as well as discipline. But finishing a manuscript? That's entirely up to you. If you don't get published, don't let it be your fault. You'll regret that. It's not failing to get published that should frighten you; it's knowing that it was your fault, and dealing with associated regret. If you do everything you can to make it happen, you should be damn proud, no matter how it turns out.

Never give up. Keep practicing.