it's sort of like getting a job. if you're connected, it's easier to get a job. but you're not usually going to get a job that you're not qualified for. but, for those who are qualified but unconnected, it's a matter of determination and a little bit of luck.
generally people are pretty helpful. but it's all about finding someone who needs something, just like with a job. people are happy to give advice and guidance, but really none of that works unless you're really connected, i dont think.
the process of getting long fiction published is that you first have to find an agent. my communication with them reminds me of a lot of letters i got from unsolicited resumes back when i was a kid trying to find a job and didnt know anyone. lots rejection mixed with a few "keep on pluggin away" stuff. it's a very closed environment. but, from what i've been told or read, getting in is just a matter of getting lucky with someone (assuming you have good material), and then things happen pretty quickly after that. i've read that for every 100 query letters you send out, you're likely to get maybe 5 or 6 requests for the mss. and after that, the chances are something like 5 or 10 percent that they'll take it. so it's a matter of determination (something that a lot of insecure, self-centered writers dont always tend to have). like anything else, it's a good idea to play the game: network, go to writers conferences and book readings and get to know people.
a hack is someone who has a lot more respect for their work than they should. a hack is loud with his ignorance.