While it has never been easy for an unknown author to get published by a traditional publishing house it seems to be even more difficult in the present day. Most books that get published don’t come from the slush pile but agents and publishers prefer writers they know, i.e. writers with a proven track record, and even they can find it incredibly difficult to continue to be published. How you get a track record when no one will publish you in the first place is the classic chicken and egg scenario. Self publishing could help you to get your work out there, followed by creative and persistent marketing to stiumlate sales and raise your profile.
If you are a new writer, without an agent, then it is almost impossible to get a mainstream publisher interested in your work, unless you have connections. Instead it might be better to focus on agents and smaller publishers who are much more approachable and who you might be able to meet at writers' conferences and book festivals. You will also find that many agents and smaller publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. I have named a few such publishers here on this web site.
Before submitting your work though here are a few basic tips:
1. Check the publishers and agents web sites for submission guidelines and make sure you follow these to the letter.
2. Ensure that your work is the best you can make it before submitting it anywhere. This is where many new writers fall down.
3. If your work is a novel then have a clear idea of its genre and typical readership, i.e. who would buy and read your book.
4. Check the titles on the publisher's web site to ensure that your work fits their list and demonstrate this to them in your approach.
5. Include a brief biography, containing any relevant information such as previous published titles.
6. Make sure that your synopsis or outline is concise and to the point and contains the storyline, beginning, middle and end.