After almost ten years of writing in bits and spurts, I've finally finished the draft of my first novel, book one of a trilogy. It came in at 183,000 words, although will probably expand (and contract) a bit during the second draft and end up being around 200,000...or so I'm guessing.
Anyhow, I'm trying to envision the next stage. Right now I'm engaged in the second draft, which for me is reading over it from the beginning, making edits large or small, and filling in areas that I skipped over. Parts of the text are relatively polished, while other parts need a lot of work. I imagine that it will take two or three months to hammer out the second draft (maybe more), and then I plan on handing out copies to friends and family, with a questionnaire asking for feedback. After that I'll probably incorporate feedback in a third draft and then think seriously about publication.
Which is where I hit a bit of a snag. The traditional route, as I understand it, is to try to find an agent first, which is really half or more of the battle. If you have a good agent that believes in you, chances are you'll (or they'll) find a publisher. But I'm tentatively thinking of self-publishing, perhaps in addition to the traditional route. I really like the idea of having control over my work, and I'm also inspired by the many "ebook success stories" (e.g. Michael Sullivan).
Any advice? How does one go about finding an agent? And at what point in my process should I start? Should I start now, while working on the second draft or should I wait until the second or even third "semi-final" draft?
And if I want to go the route of self-publishing, what are the steps there? How do I develop a web presence and market myself?
Finally, what about the two-pronged approach? Is there a recommended order of operations? Should I go one way first and then the other or can I put my work up on Amazon and also try to find an agent at the same time?
Anyhow, exciting times. I'm getting myself geared up for lots of rejection and heartache! But I hope to persevere and see my book(s) in print, whether sooner or later.