I've become a fan of "Unsolicited", a Gawker column written by an anonymous New York book editor. She (at least I think it's a she, unless it's a clever he) offers straight-dope, no-bull advice to authors and others about how the wheels of the publishing industry actually turn and occasionally jam. And it's useful for veteran authors and aspiring writers alike.
A few of "Unsolicited"'s greatest hits:
"Editors don't find things in the slush pile. If you can't ally yourself with one of the ten bazillion agents who currently exist, there is something really wrong with you. Also, most publishing houses have ironclad no-unsolicited-submissions policies. So get an agent. It's not that hard! (to get a crappy one). It is hard to get a good one, but that's another Unsolicited....
"[Editors also don't] lead glamorous lives. Maybe there is, like, one rockstareditor left in this city, swilling hard liquor long into the night with his rockstarauthors while discussing, you know, Sartre v. Camus. He is statistically insignificant compared to the thousands of us who steal milk and toilet paper from the office because we can't afford our own, and go to readings for the free canapés."
"When people read the phrase 'six figure advance,' they usually pretty much stop reading after the first two words. But the word 'advance' means that your book has to sell enough copies to make your publisher that much money, plus production costs, plus more, or else it's a flop...."
"You can't trust me. My loyalties are inherently divided. Look. I care about your book. I do! I mean, I wouldn't have acquired it if I didn't. (Uh, probably) But there will come a time in the near future when I will have to put the publishing company's interests before yours. After all, you don't pay me -- they do. You will inevitably feel betrayed by my sudden businessy 'tude. And I will feel bad, and secretly resent you for putting me in that position...."
Good stuff; go read. And learn.