Last night I watched the film Stuck In Love and was struck by how different the real world of writing is from the world portrayed in films. In that story a nineteen year old girl writes a novel with the editing help of her father who is a successful novelist (a winner of the Pen Faulkner award for fiction and the author of a best seller). She is frustrated by how much influence her father had on the final product, so she tosses the first book and writes a second in her spare time. She submits the book under a false name to be certain her father's reputation won't influence the response. The book is immediately picked up by Scribner (a major publishing firm known for publishing Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, and others just as famous).
The truth is that the publishing industry has for years functioned like most of the other industries in America. Who you know was as important as what you wrote, possibly more important. Hemingway went to Europe where he could gain the influence of people such as Ezra Pound. If he hadn't done that, would his name be as well known today? It's impossible to know for sure.
Later, in the film Stuck In Love there is another first publication mentioned, this one based on a recommendation from a major author who knows the author's father. That example is much closer to the truth.
However, technology has changed the publishing industry. There are still major publishers and best seller lists. Readers who want the books that everyone else is talking about should get their “to read” lists from those places. But every year there are more small presses, some producing high quality work. Readers who want new ideas and fresh voices, should go to those sources when picking their next book.