Letting you in on a few secrets
Nobody buys partial books from newcomers anymore, unless it’s the sort of prose that makes grown men weep. So finish it before you send it. A particular no-no is not having finished the book, sending a few thousand words to the publisher/agent, and a long-winded description of how you plan to finish it. Unless it’s a masterpiece, they will get quite cross at you explaining your intentions. They need to see the work and there’s no shortcut to this process.
Use the spellcheck on your computer. A few wrongly spelled words won’t kill your chances stone dead, but an awful lot of them will. Make sure you know where to put the apostrophe in the contractions and get a book on grammar to teach you how to use capital letters. It may be my personal bugbear, but I hate to see a manuscript littered with lots of capitals in the wrong place. It Drives me Mad.
Get a good friend, who reads voraciously to read your book and tell you honestly what they think. Don’t get your beloved to do it. You want intelligent criticism, not adoration.
Look at the acknowledgements in your favourite authors’ books and see who they are represented by. This is a good indication of what sort of work their agent represents. In other words don’t send a graphic novel to a Booker Prize winner’s agent.
Submitting your manuscript
Send your manuscript printed in a least 12pt type on one side of A4 paper, double-spaced and not bound, but with numbered pages. In your accompanying letter, say who and what you are, and include your address, email and phone numbers.
If you are stunningly attractive, a photo may help. They won’t publish your book because you’re cute, and people won’t buy it because you’re cute (have you ever gone in to a shop and said I want to buy a thriller by a beautiful brunette? Exactly). However if and when you do publicity, there is a slightly greater chance that newspapers will want to publish an article if they get gorgeous pictures too. Sad but true.
Be prepared to wait. Most agents take at least 3 months to get back to you. Good luck!