Meanwhile, I have a present for you if you have a UK address or would like to nominate a UK resident to receive it instead of you. I will send a copy of Carole Blake's book, From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published, to a randomly chosen person out of those who comment below. [Unless your comment is rude, in which case you will be disqualified.]
Carole Blake, of course, is a leading literary agent, director of the Blake Friedmann agency, a very good person to have as your agent (no, she's not mine, in case you're wondering, but then I'm lucky enough to have another very good person as my agent) and a very bad person to sent a dud submission to or to pester inappropriately by waving an MS in front of her face. She wears great shoes. The only thing I can find to condemn in her is that she doesn't like chocolate much. This is a bit weird, but her book is excellent despite her having written it without the aid of our friendly cocoa bean.
If you are not lucky enough to win one, I suggest you buy it. Not only does it cover all the practicalities of preparing and sending your submission, and dealing with rejection and acceptance, but it also gives you a great insight into how and why agents and publishers think the way they do. It's also a fantastic way of learning all the business aspects of publishing. The description of what happens during a book auction is fascinating - and will, in one fell chapter, stop you wondering exactly how agents help authors in ways in which most of us simply cannot help ourselves. Carole's agency, [at the time of her writing the book], deals with commercial fiction and she gives great insights into what makes a book sell. Too many authors assume a book will sell just because they think it's brilliant; too few actually go to the trouble of working out why anyone would want it to be one of the books they might choose to read that year, out of all the thousands and thousands to choose from. From Pitch to Publication will get you thinking about this. And no, I haven't been sent a free copy, in case you're wondering. I have my very own, bought with my very own pennies, and I will buy another for the lucky winner - you wouldn't want mine as it's all thumbed and has a few flakes of chocolate on page 84.
This book is, of course, not to be confused with Pen2Publication, which is a completely different kettle of trout. Luckily, Carole's book and my consultancy are not in competition, otherwise we could have seen stilettos at dawn. I would have won, naturally, because she's a softie and I'm crabbit.
Go comment. I'll be back to check that you've been suitably sycophantic, because there's really no such thing as randomness, according to mathematicians. They'd better be right, because I've just written a book about it...