It may seem sometimes that non-fiction writers have a better deal. They don’t start writing until a book has been accepted. But there is a vast difference between a proposal and an idea. You may be able to send the same idea to several publishers but you have to couch it in different terms to each one and it may be a different sort of book you write for each one anyway. The latter of course perhaps means that you can sell the same idea over and over. Even that, though is not all that straight forward. You daren’t try to sell to more than one publisher at a time … in case they all like it and you ended up having to write half a dozen books in one go… plus there can be some quite restrictive clauses slipped into contracts.
Yesterday, for instance, I was putting together a proposal for an edited book I want to produce. A chicken and egg situation exists. How can I convince the publisher to publish if I don’t have a list of respected writers waiting to write for me? How can I expect a lot of respected writers to write for me if I don’t have a publisher lined up?
Then there is also a lot more to be included. I have had to describe my book, who will buy it, why this particular publisher should publish me and my publishing record and I’ve had to supply a collection of one line endorsements about my writing.
Then I must put together a sample of my writing.
The next publisher will ask for something different, no doubt. It’s very similar to applying for jobs, though the competition may be even greater. So, even as with fiction submissions, you can end up writing quite a lot without any guarantee of a return.