Lately I've been writing book proposals for other people, and when one went out, two publishers responded right away. One offered a decent advance; the other wanted the book, but didn't want to pay for it.
"I've never sold a book for nothing," the agent wrote.
The editor was indignant; wanted the book and whined about uncertainty. The agent said that acquiring mss. ought not to be going for certainty (buying mss. that are like other best-selling books etc.) but "betting on the right horse."
I love that idea! And not just because it reminds me of John Steinbeck saying, "Publishing makes horse-racing look like a stable, secure business."
Betting on the right horse is a good way to think about my own books, too -- though for me it's like owning a horse as well as betting on one. If you muck out the stalls etc. yourself, owning a horse is a lot of work. And so is writing a book. You have to really love the creature to make all that work worthwhile, whether it wins the race or not.