I remember when Mark Bavaro played football. He was a tough, idiosyncratic athlete at the top of his sport. Oh, wait, no, that's the character in his debut novel. But, hold on, yes he was an athlete, and quite the character. So you write what you know, and now he's a novelist penning his closet autobiography. Can't hurt that he played for the NY Giants and all the publishers are in NYC. Now, if Dick Butkus were to write a book...I'd read that one, but I'll pass on this one.
Salvatore Scibona has written a novel, about life in an Italian neighborhood. How much research did he have to do, do you think, to bring that element of realism to his book? By the way, he's the writing coordinator at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Just so you don't think he's using his own world as fodder for the novel, he set the fiction in Ohio but he works in Massachusetts, in a sort of artists' colony for writers. Quite sturdy, that platform, and sure to hold up a great deal of weight.
There'll soon be a work of fiction from Nick Taylor, a prolific non-fiction writer. It's cheating to call his first work of make-believe a debut, since he's been a writer for a long time. This isn't exactly a novice getting an agent through cold querying and then dazzling an acquisitions editor.
People with platforms, like Starling Lawrence, get published. He's an editor-in-chief at Norton, and who could argue with him about what makes a good novel? I tried to read The Lightening Keeper, honest to Jesus I did, but it was so bad that I couldn't go on with the torture. And I thought Charles Dickens was boring. He could have taken lessons from Mr. Lawrence in putting the reader to sleep. Still and all, he's got a platform, and that's all it takes to get your novel out these days.