The same questions keep coming up, and the answers never change. Sorry. If you want a different answer, its not happening. Here, adapted from every honest answer to these questions, is the absolute truth. If you can't handle the truth, that's not my problem.
RULE #!: never spend any money on getting published, period.
Don't fall into the trap set by legions of subsidy publishers who promise you the world and charge you anywhere between a few hundred bucks and a few grand for doing what other publishers, the legitimate ones, do for free.
RULE #2: Postage is the only money you should ever spend.
Take a chance, mail those manuscripts...try Random House, Putnam, Penguin, HarperCollins, Knopf, Time Warner, a University press or two. The odds are tremendously against you, all the cards are stacked the wrong way. But that does not need to keep you from trying. And if those big boys require that you submit through an agent, get yourself that agent. But again,beware!
Never pay any money to an agent. They will take their percentage directly from payments made to you, through them, from the publisher.
Meanwhile, prepare yourself for a long, long wait The major league of publishers accepts less than .5 (that's right, less than one-half) percent of all submissions. You will hear back from them, sure enough within...oh...two years on the outside. And the answer is always a firm, "No!" If it's a Yes,you were either opening a letter that was not intended for you, or you are the luckiest writer in the world.
Yes, I admit being one of the luckiest writers in the world. When I write a book, the publisher pays me. Honest. Now, that doesn't mean that everything I bring to a publisher is something they want. Nope. I haven't had this much rejection since high school, but I keep submitting to publishers who know and trust me, and our relationship continues profitably. Now, if you are just starting out, heed the above advice. Its all true.