For me, the writing is easy. Or if not easy, it's the part that comes naturally. The hard part is the querying, sending pages, taking the rejections (be they form letter or personalized, they all sting), and moving forward.
It took me a while to figure out how the publishing business works. When I started, queries were an unknown, agents were a vague concept that I considered optional (hah!), and the business of paperwork and rights and payment was totally foreign. Now, as I try to explain my limited knowledge to my friend that is just getting to the query stage, I can't seem to remember where I learned about these things. There are the old stand-bys, www.queryshark.blogspot.con and http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ but I know there are other web sites, blogs, books and magazine articles out there that would help the fledgling writers among us get a better understanding of what happens once you type the words THE END.
So, what are your favorite web sites and books? What does the collective knowledge here on hatrack say about the publication process?
(PS: I'd like to throw this web site out there as the first source I came across that explained what happens when you send your MS out into the great, wide world of publishing. http://jvj.com/wdinterview.html And if you aren't familiar with JV Jones, you might consider surfing her site at the very least--and joining her band of loyal readers isn't a bad idea, either. She's a fantastic author and keeps an online journal on what it's like to be a writer.)
Writers Marketplace - online listings of agents and editors, along with links to their pages and short descriptions of what they want.
It also doesn't hurt to check the agents and editors of books you enjoy in your genre.Sometimes they like to receive similar works.
From there I found agents' blogs. I read Nathan Bransford's as well, but Pub rants is good too, and there is the archives of Miss Snark's (an anonymous agent) that is tremendously helpful as well.
Don't forget Preditors and Editors. This is a list of all publishers, agents, and editors, and lets you know if anyone has made a complaint about them. A valuable reference once you get the coveted offer
I read "How to Get a Literary Agent" after I read the "Idiot's Guide" book. This let me understand the terminology in the "Literary Agent" book, which I found very informative and helpful in how to approach an agent and land one.
One last word; I just recently made my first submission, and it was to WotF. So I haven't used anything I've learned from these books, but they made perfect sense to me. And once I'm ready to go that next step, I'll probably read them again before submitting anything to a publishing house.
One other book I've found helpful is "Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript". Lots of good solid advice in that one, too.