But how do you discover where to send the baby you've slaved over writing, polishing, printing and packaging, without the fear of instant rejection?
In today's world of information literally at your fingertips, your first stop is online. Google is your friend. If you're familiar with the names of publishing houses, do a search for the name. If you don't know the name, why don't you? Check out who published the books you read, whether printed or electronic and start hunting.
What will you find?
Some publishers share detailed information about what sub-genres they publish, word count, type of submission they'll accept (query only, query with synopsis, full manuscript), and how they prefer to receive it, whether electronically or printed and sent through the USPS. You may learn the typical response time. Some list the name or names of the editor(s) it should be sent to. You may also learn the publishing house only accepts submissions from agents. If that's the case, you have work to do on learning about acquiring an agent.
But what if the publisher isn't online or doesn't offer guidelines online?
If you can't find the submission guidelines for a specific publishing house online, check with your local library for a copy of The Writers Market from Writers Digest Books. It comes in full version or there's a Novel and Short Story edition. It's published each year, so is relatively up to date. If the information given doesn't give you what you need to know, you can write or call the publishing house to ask for submission guidelines.
What if I still can't find what I need to know?
Ask a writer friend who you know has some experience with submitting. S/he may have more current information on what a specific house is looking for. Also, many authors offer links to publishing houses on their websites to help new writers.
Don't risk an instant rejection. Do your homework. Even better, do your homework BEFORE you write the book! Target your writing to a specific publisher.