I was having lunch one day a couple of years ago with an author who'd sold not one but two series of three books each. I was as yet unwanted by any publisher, and I listened carefully to everything she said, hoping to get a hint on how to get a break in publishing. I admit I was a tiny bit jealous of her success. Not that she didn't deserve it, but what am I, chopped liver?
To my surprise, she commented along the lines of what I was thinking. "I used to be so jealous of people who got the call," she confided. "I'd think, 'What has he got that I haven't got?' and almost get mad at other authors for having the success I wanted so much."
Most authors I've met are genuinely pleased at the success of other authors. The pastime of reading is such that success for any author leads to success for all, since if a person likes one book he or she is liable to pick up another. Still, we can't help but wonder before that call comes what it takes to get published. I've answered that in other posts: perserverance. But it doesn't explain why Author A is published right away and Author B waits seventeen years. Truthfully, I don't think anything does.
We can analyze trends, speak of networks and connections, or call it luck, but few will argue that only talent decides on an author's publishing progress. So the answer to "What has she got that I haven't got?" is probably simple: Nothing. And if you feel a little jealous that she's a step ahead of you, it doesn't make you a bad person, at least not in my book (which will be available soon).