This is kinda-sorta related to a link Sarah sent me today (go read it - Sarah's comment on the post is excellent), via my usual leaps of illogic. The aspiring author's expectations seem to be set somewhere between "If I'm good enough, they'll see my brilliance and love me" and "They don't love me: they must hate me."
It's the same kind of thing that causes Joe Beginning Author to obsessively parse out rejection letters in the hope of divining some notion of the 'real' reason for the rejection (otherwise known as rejectomancy): we at the outskirts of the industry have no idea what actually goes on between when we send our story in and when we get it back. Some of us even harbor the quaint notion that we're going to get an unbiased read. We're not. (That's not to say there's a big hairy blacklist and if you put a toe over the invisible line you get smacked. It's more that slush readers have this humongous pile of unread stuff threatening to bury them, so they're looking for reasons to kick the story, not reasons to take it.)
Publishing does have a hefty image problem in the science fiction community, and deservedly so: as far as I can tell no-one really knows what happens between when a story is bought by a publisher and when it emerges sometimes years later as an actual book with cover art and everything, or if the people in the editing side of things know, they aren't telling us peasants slaving over manuscripts.
The result: we work on inference and observation. We see that everyone who's anyone in the field knows everyone else, and the obvious conclusion is that they pass information around and form a kind of quasi-monopoly, except for the designated pariah who dares do things differently. Naturally, writers being writers, the tendency is to leap from that to conspiracy and active collusion, and from there to an ever-growing blacklist and rumors of strange favors as a prerequisite along with the arbitrary "rules" like "thou shalt not commit prologue" and "thy urban fantasy shall be told in first person by a kick-ass female; mind thou that she be hot stuff"
Authors tend to be prone to conspiracy theory and paranoia anyway - a secretive cabal pulling the strings makes a much better story than random crap happening to some poor schmuck. Not falling into the conspiracy trap means finding out what I really can expect, and not letting myself fall into either the "They just don't understand my brilliance" trap or the "They hate me and I've been blacklisted" trap. Realistically, I'm not even on the radar - there's no way I'm going to be actively targeted.
On the flip side, I can expect that most places my manuscripts wind up, the first person who looks at it is likely to be an idealistic, poorly paid intern, and given the physical location I'm dealing with and the reluctance to move to electronic submission processes, probably one from a specific location and culture. If I start with something guaranteed to piss that sort of person off, I'm going to get bounced.
As to how to hook the poor sod reading the slush pile, who mostly wants to get away from the reams and reams of mind-bogglingly awful and is looking for reasons to cut the whole experience short and move to the next one, that I'm not so sure about. Sarah's advice yesterday helps, but what else is there?
How do we jump ourselves past that gate?