The Business Project
Business projects have three main advantages for writers: They promote your career, they generate income, and they provide opportunities to hone your writing skills. These projects usually aren't personally compelling and would not have been your first choice. In fact, business projects will often come to you (as opposed to your seeking them out) through an agent or editor who thinks you might be a good fit — even if they've rejected a proposal from you before. For example, your agent or an editor may have rejected your mainstream novel, but may peg you for a book about small business planning because your author's bio indicated you've taught seminars on that topic for several years.
The best example of a business project is a nonfiction title for the writer who dreams of making a name for himself as a novelist. His heart is in fic-tion; that's where he finds the passion to write. But the path to getting published may well include a detour down the nonfiction lane, if he's open to the opportunity.
Many writers have a hard time accepting this premise; they believe they should only write in the genre or on the topic they feel passionate about. It's often especially difficult for would-be fiction authors to open themselves to the idea of writing nonfiction. But there are two factors that make the concept of the business project important to you as a writer. First, the hardest part about becoming a published book author is getting that first book credit. Second, it's often much easier for new writers to get that first book credit with a nonfiction project than with a fiction book.
How often do agents and editors solicit writers for projects?
It doesn't happen all the time, but it's frequent enough that you should keep an open mind about these kinds of opportunities. A publishing house may decide it needs a book on a specific topic to fill a niche in its list, and its editors will ask agents if they can recommend a writer for that project. Agents often keep reminders of prospective authors' areas of expertise for just such situations.