You will know when your novel is finished. You will feel like throwing up whenever you look at it. You will be at the point where further rewrite just changes things around; it no longer makes the novel better. Only different.
Now the thing to do is have it copy-edited by a grammarian who can spell, and have it professionally typed. There is a standard way to prepare and mail a manuscript, which is described in several books you can find at your local library. The most popular is Writer's Market, put out every year by Writer's Digest. Be sure to follow the standard; this is no place to get creative.
Your job now is to find an agent. If you've written a salable manuscript, you will find an agent. You will find an agent even if you've written a possibly salable manuscript. The way to go about finding an agent is this:
First, use writer friends. If they have agents, ask them to recommend you. If you can't get a recommendation, get a list of all known agents from the library. Write to them, including a brief synopsis of the book, a sample chapter, and a cover letter telling them about yourself, your educational background, any previous publications (including nonfiction), and the training you've had in writing fiction—including workshops you've attended and classes you've taken. Send all that along with an SASE, a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
When an agent expresses an interest, call and say you'll not send the book to another agent if you can be assured of a quick answer. Play fair with agents; they'll usually play fair with you. Court only one at a time. Agree to give them the manuscript only if they promise you a quick reading. If an agent keeps the book for more than a month, insist that he read it quickly or send it back.
Once you have an agent, let the agent work on selling the manuscript, negotiating the contract, and keeping track of your royalties. You get busy on the next one.
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