A couple of rejections from agents for both novels I have out have trickled in, but that's the way that process goes. Meanwhile, I told Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain what books I have in my trunk. Given this is me, and I've been at this for a while, I've got quite a few, but the ones that are worth looking at, in my opinion, are the women's fiction/contemporary romance that I've got out to agents and a middle grade, hard science fiction novel. Not exactly a normal mix to come from one author.
They asked for both of them.
I feel loved. This is not a typical response, especially not with two books so entirely different in genre and target audience. I sent the romance to them and will take a couple of weeks to revise my science fiction, then send it as well. When I told some friends about possibly sending the romance to them, a common reaction was to say, "But wait! Don't you want to go for a bigger publisher? Don't you want an agent?" These are what we writers call the problems you dream of having. If you're really worried that the publisher who wants to publish your book might not promote it as well as another, well, you're still way better off than someone with no publishers interested.
Should this actually become an issue, here's how I'd deal with it: 1) I'd get in touch with agents who've given me personal responses and ask if they'd be willing to either represent this project, or at least give me some advice on how to proceed. 2) I'd do my market research into the national romance market and see if I should have any "concerns". If so, I explain them using numbers and market data to Deseret Book. As long as you're talking business and not being an emotional diva, the publisher should respond in an equally businesslike manner. I.e. say things like: "I notice most romance sales are through x distribution channel, whereas most of your sales are through y. What would be your marketing strategy for this?" Not "This book is the best thing ever written and I fully expect a seven figure advance. You'll earn it back when I hit the New York Times Bestseller list the day the book hits stores." If they don't respond to your businesslike questions in a businesslike manner, run, do not walk, away. Publishing is, in the end of the day, a business, and if the publisher isn't run like a business, then you are wasting your time. Both you and your publisher should have the same end goal in mind, selling as many books as possible and keeping the book in print as long as possible. That and forming a relationship based on trust and mutual respect that ideally leads to more books coming out from said publisher.
This is why agents are so important, because it is much better to have someone else hash out the contract details and business matters without it souring your relationship with your editor. But absent an agent, turn to other writers (offer is open to anyone reading this - I have seen quite a few publishing contracts and can put you in touch with more successful writers who know them even better) and, if that fails, an attorney who does entertainment law. Authors have been able to see success without an agent. Last I knew, L.E. Modesitt did not have one. However, having one is definitely the norm. It is still my primary goal, but if editors would like to review my manuscripts in the meantime, I will definitely take advantage of the opportunity.