There have long been accusations of nepotism and elitism within the world of publishing. In this case, I am referring specifically to literary magazines rather than publishing houses that publish novels (where the importance of established names and reputation is a lot more obvious). There have been testimonies by former insiders who work for literary magazine firms confirming these accusations. Also, many experiments have been carried out in which stories that had been previously published under people with established names were sent to magazines with the name on the transcript substituted for that of an unknown individual and the stories were rejected in such a way that it was clear that the people doing the rejection were unaware that the story had been previously published.
Furthermore, I myself have seen quite a number of stories that were published in magazines by well-known authors that were of shockingly inferior quality, both in terms of prose and engagement, to stories that I and other relatively new and unknown authors have written. One example I will use is that of a very famous person: Stephen King. I know that this may be sacrilege to many people, but the fact is that, while King is a very admirable novel writer, many of his short stories have been very unimpressive. One glaring example of this is the novelette ‘The Moving Finger’. This story is light years away in quality from ‘Children of the Corn,’ for example, which was a shorter story and truly entertaining and well-written. The Moving Finger drags on for far too long and is basically pointless. Yet, remarkably, this dull and rather ridiculous story was published by Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. What makes it even more remarkable is that I know from experience that this same magazine (as well as others) rejects submissions (even with forms) that are far superior in quality to this story. In other words, stories that are far more engaging, profound and meaningful.
Is it right that this sort of thing regularly happens in the literary publication industry? These are the sorts of perceived problems involving professional ethics and honesty that I have been trying to draw attention to but which my attempts to do so are met with resistance by people who favor the status quo.
I know that one can argue that stories with big names on them attract readers, but, at the same time, I think literary magazines should hold big name authors to the same high standards that they presumably hold others. I think it is better not only for their reputation and sales but also because it is ethical. The same reply applies to the argument that they are private entities and are thus entitled to do whatever they want. After all, they strongly give authors the impression on their websites that quality is what they are after. Nowhere on their websites do they say anything like “Oh, by the way, if someone with a well-known name sends to us, we will still prefer that one over yours even if yours is more engaging” or “make sure you send us a really good and engaging story OR, alternatively, make sure you have a relatively big name.”
[If you feel threatened by this question, you may feel free to close it.]