The Sunday Times has been having a laugh at the expense of publishers and literary agents by sending in chapters from highly acclaimed, published novels by recognized authors - and having them rejected by everybody. It's brutal but totally unsurprising given that publishing is still an economic system. The reasons are simple. Just as is the case on the jobmarket, the cost of false positives is high whereas the cost of false negatives is 0. If you want to stay alive you therefore try to skew your judgment to avoid the false positives. And apparently some publishers have reached the same conclusion and no longer handle manuscripts from first time authors except through agents. The numbers in the article explain quite clearly why novels get lost given those market terms: Up to 50 manuscripts per day received - 6 accepted every year. It's obvious many good texts are not even considered.