Miss Snark, I've been nosing around the internet trying to learn as much as I can about books and publishing for quite a while, and recently I heard something I find dubious, even though it came from a pretty good source.
A writer (one who sells very well) said that publishers keep one or two slots in their schedule open specifically for new authors. He said unpublished writers don't have to compete against established writers, only other unpublished wannabes.
I found this hard to believe, but haven't been able to confirm or refute it. He was being kinda nuts, wasn't he?
I don't know.
Every piece of fiction I've sold, they've pretty much just told me which catalogue it was going to be in. Sometimes we've bargained for better positioning or earlier/late pub dates but I've never been told, "no, you're the debut novel for this list you have to stay here".
On the other hand, hard as this is to believe, Miss Snark does not know everything.
There are other agents, and editors reading the blog.
If they care to chime in, or send an email for anon posting, I'll be glad to hear what they know.