The industry people always give you the same advice: "Read the magazines, read the novels, read the writing guides, practice your craft, and only submit your finest work. Cream will rise to the top. The industry always spots quality." Well, folks, I'm here to tell you, this is bullshit. Think of the tens of thousands of books and stories that sit in slush piles for a few weeks and then get tossed into the recycling bin. Sure, some editorial assistant will give each one a ten-second glance, just to say they did due diligence, but it's not "quality" that determines who gets published. "Quality" is a catch phrase for "I liked it," which is to say, your tastes as a writer sync up with the tastes of the editor/agent. In the arts, there are no objective measurements of "quality." So if the cream doesn't somehow rise to the top, what sells your work? I think it's personal factors. A year or two ago I read Creating Short Fiction, by Damon Knight, which is a book on craft. Late in the book he tosses out a one-line blockbuster: he has talked for hundreds of pages about getting ideas, developing story arcs, working on your writing skills, etc., then he admits that he made his first professional sale not by these skills but by knowing Frederik Pohl, who asked him for a story and then published it. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Writing skills, storytelling talents, honing your craft...all of this is nice, but knowing an insider moves you onto the inside track. Past the phalanxes of gatekeepers, all of who are trying to keep you out; past the armies of the semi-skilled who are trying to hold you back; past your peers who are trying to break in before you do. Taking creative risks is nice, and having a powerful voice can get you noticed, but nothing moves your career like knowing those insiders. You think I'm full of crap. Think of all the mediocre stories and books you read each year. How did that dreck get published? The writer knew an insider. Personal factors sold the book, not some nebulous idea of "quality." Agree? Disagree? You've heard stories, that you'd now like to share, about other writers who got on the inside track? Or do you believe that in fantasy fiction there is such a thing as "quality," and the industry people are geniuses who spot this elusive trait every time?