You know I'm beginning to think that publishers and agents are going about it the wrong way. They're complaining that they're overwhelmed with submissions yet they want people to just submit a query or 3 chapters and outline at most. Well, of course they'll be swamped. But as shalanna says, do all these queries and partials really have a complete and polished novel attached?
If I was a publisher or agent I would say: I will not take e-submissions. Send me the complete novel. It must be as polished as you can make it. I will not return your MS, if it doesn't meet our needs it will be thrown in the paper recycling.
Personally I think this would drastically cut the quantity of submissions the editors will have to wade through because it takes time, effort and money to package up and send a whole novel. It would make people think twice before submitting any old thing and it would ensure that the whole novel had been written. Yes it's tough on those who don't have much money for postage, but submission has probably become too easy and too many are using a scattergun approach.
But having said that, there are an awful lot of people out there writing fiction and there's a lot of talent. And it's not just writing. Fortunately I have no ambitions these days to be a professional photographer, but a quick look at Flickr shows just how many very good photographers there are in the world. Creating art is no longer a pastime for the elite. Even the hoi-polloi can do it -- and very good they are too! Sadly this means that not everyone is going to achieve their aim of publication or of selling photos. The activity is increasingly going to have to be a pleasure in itself and/or something done and shared with a bunch of fellow enthusiasts.
Could there be a fiction equivalent of Flickr? Is it there already and I'm not aware of it?