This question may seem rather broad based on the title, so allow me to elaborate.
I am a self-taught author. I learned how to write, what works and what doesn't, all that good stuff. What I did not learn is anything at all about what happens once I've written my book. Publishers, agents, editors, distributors - all these terms are more or less foreign to me. The main thing is the process. I haven't a clue about how a book gets published.
I have a vague idea that you let the publisher look over your work. If he agrees to publish it, you sign a contract allowing him to do so. Who the agent is and where he comes in, I do not know. I also don't know how you get paid for your book (though there was a question about that, so I have a general idea).
I realize that publishing is a complex operation with lots of different methods involved, so all I'm looking for is a simple run-down of how it works, without all the technical terms and long sentences supplied by Wikipedia. A step-by-step process would be great.
Note: Yes, I could likely learn how the publishing process works simply by looking at Wikipedia. My main problem is that because I am new, I don't want to take the risk of being confused by Wikipedia, and then try to publish with a wrong idea of how it works. If I do that, there is always the chance I could make a really bad mistake, like signing away my power over the book or something. If I have a basic understanding of how it works first, then I can read Wikipedia and build off of that.
Thanks in advance!