Say you’re the editor of Big Pro Magazine looking at two submissions, one from Writer A and one from Writer B. Writer A is unknown–a couple token or semipro sales, maybe, but no one that more than a handful of people have heard of. Writer B is a pro–he’s got a career of five or ten years, possibly decades; two or three or a dozen well-received novels under his belt; he’s got plenty of fans, people who will pick up a copy of Big Pro Magazinejust because his name’s on the cover.

The stories are of equal quality.

If that’s the case, and if technical details like word count are also equal, is there any circumstance under which you’ll choose Writer A’s story over Writer B? Unless, say, Writer B once said you couldn’t edit your way out of a paper bag, or last convention you attended he barfed eight whiskey sodas all over your shoes?

I mean, Writer B’s going to make you more money. He’ll bring his own established fans to the table. You’ll sell more copies.

When it comes down to Writer A competing with Writer B for the same spot, then, the only way for Unknown Writer A to win is to write a better story than Professional Writer B.

This all just occurred to me a couple minutes ago, and so I’m not ready to offer any more analysis than that just yet, and don’t mean to be making value judgments–obviously, for instance, it makes sense to go with Writer B over Writer A; also, Writer B earned those fans he’ll bring through years of hard work and quality output.

But it points to some clear potential problems for anyone trying to break in. More when I’m less crippled by fever.

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