Study the Jockey
Seasoned horse-racing fans will tell you--study the jockey, not just the horse. There are fewer Seabiscuits than there are Red Pollards, for one thing, and only a few Charles Howards.
Consider this - every time you send your manuscript into a race, you're the one who owns it, but once it lands where it's going, someone has to take over...your jockey...your editor. If you know the manuscript but nothing about the editor, your chances aren't as good as if you'd studied that editor and found out what they buy, what their preferences are, and whether or not they have a stable full of published authors with something to run that is equally as fast on track as yours and already has a record. So guess which manuscript will get the upper hand if the final decision rests upon you or a seasoned author?
Say you've hit the jackpot and have your Red Pollard editor. How about the owner of the publishing house? Do they have the finances and means of distribution to back your manuscript the way you want it produced and delivered?
Your edge is this business is realizing that it is a business and that you as owner of that horse need to know every aspect involving it from the ground up. If you know you have a winner, you'll need to find the right person to train (edit) it and sell it to the man or woman with the money.
Confession writers who had Pat Byrdsong as editor, for instance, knew that she preferred manuscripts that were thought-provoking more than titillating, and if they really did their homework, they found a way to meet her at conferences or read interviews with her, because then they learned that she was also very spiritually-minded, opening up yet another door for their submissions. And if they wanted to stay on top of their game, they'd join specific writers' groups that share information so that they'd know she hasn't been with Dorchester Media for some time now and that they'd need to query a different editor.
A mystery writer who queries agent Evan Marshall would know that Evan is a writer in his own right, that he not only manages clients who write everything from nonfiction to romance to mystery and mainstream, but that he likes cozy mysteries.
Romance authors who wish to submit to Kensington might 'google' Kate Duffy.
Nobody expects you to know everything about the writing world, but the professionals you'll deal with take it as a compliment if you know not only writing but something about their profession. They can help you if you trust them to do their job, for one thing, and you'll find it easier to do this if you've done your homework on them.
For one thing, they don't like you telling them their job - most of them have done it long enough to have earned their titles as editor, copy editor, art director, and so on...and if they haven't, then they still have the credentials to have landed the job. If they offer a suggestion, at least hear them out and give them the benefit of the doubt before saying no to what they have to say.
Speaking of horses, I found what looks to be a fascinating book by a man called Fergus M. Bordewich. If you've read My Mother’s Ghost or Bound For Canaan, tell me what you think.
Sorry to have been so lax for those of you who visit regularly - have a ton of medical appointments this month, and the eye clinic appointments tend to keep me from focusing well or too long at a computer. Have a great week, all...