Months before you finish your novel, you should be thinking about the right market for it. This is important even if you intend to get an agent because you will have to tell that agent where your book fits in the market.
If you read a recently published book that has similar elements to the book you are creating, look at who published it and make a note. Look at the publisher's line it is printed under. Is it their fantasy line or their romance line? How many pages long is it? When was it published?
Does the writer thank his agent or editor by name in the acknowledgment or dedication page? Has the writer published other books or is this the first?
Make notes on all this information as well as a brief plot summary, any similarities to your own book, and your impressions of the book, then put it in a file for later when you begin to plan the marketing of your book.
Also mention where the book is physically. This will save you from ripping your keeper shelves apart when the book came from the library or was loaned to you.
Now is a good time to get that subscription to "RT Bookreview," "Locus," or some other review magazine in your genre.
If you read a review of a similar book, clip the review, date it, and toss it into the file, too. Also, get a copy of the book and read it.
You may be eclectic in your reading, but the NY publishers aren't eclectic in their buying. Every line, whether romance or otherwise, has neat little pigeon holes for each kind of book, and if you choose the wrong pigeon hole to put your book in, they'll toss it back to you.
Being published for the first time is hard enough when you have an incredible book that's perfectly crafted. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and waste your time and some editor's by sending a book written for one market to another.
Also, notice what the first-time writers have sold to publishers. Nora Roberts can do incredibly innovative things because she has the name and audience to do it so editors let her write whatever she pleases. The first-time writer shows you what you probably can get away with and sell. Of course, if that new writer's book failed badly, I wouldn't use it as your poster child to a successful career.
Now is also the time you should start searching for market news.
If you are a member of RWA or another organization, start studying the market news offered.
Read my "Links of Interest" every Wednesday where I list editor and agent interviews as well as market information.
The Internet also offers an incredible number of other market resources, and some offer listserv newsletters. I subscribe to Cindi Myers romance market news/blog. To join, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
A FEW MARKET NEWS AND MARKET LISTS:
The Market List for sf, fantasy, and horror:
Mystery Readers International another list of links to publishers, etc.:
SF romance small press markets:
SF romance traditional publishers:
SF/fantasy/horror markets, short story and novel:
Listing of publishers and agents looking for YA and kid books:
Cluelass.com listing of links to publishers, etc. for mystery:
SF/fantasy/horror search engine:
SF short story markets:
TOMORROW: Finding an epublisher.