I have a little manuscript, an urban fantasy for 9-13 year olds, which I submitted to four Australian publishers this year. Three of these actually invited me to submit. How do you get an invite? Simply attend as many conferences and workshops where publishers are present. I've found the publishers at these events are very approachable and also looking for the opportunity to meet new authors like me.
The CYA conference has the 'Pitch' sessions each year, where you may pitch your manuscript to a publisher or an agent for a fee. This is really worthwhile, as through the CYA pitch I have met a leading children's publisher and a literary agent, both of whom were interested in my work. Hopefully this may lead to future opportunities. An editorial consultation at the Queensland Writers Centre also helped me to fine tune my approach to being published. The consultant has since introduced me to publishers and even obtained on my behalf an invitation to submit to one of these.
And then there is the slush pile for unsolicited manuscripts. Many publishing houses do not accept these; others only have their slush pile 'open' at certain times of the year. My little manuscript found itself on one of these slush piles where it was waiting up to six months to be read. Luckily an industry contact (through conferences and workshops) enquired on my behalf and my manuscript found itself being fast tracked to the editor's desk.
Yesterday I received an email from this publishing house, informing me my manuscript has potential and I will hear from them 'in the near future'. Now that is something to celebrate.