This frustrating phrase is never more true than in the publishing industry.
I once wrote an article about a 44 year old woman. To be fair, I was warned by my editor not to include anything that would time-stamp the material. The finished article was immediately approved for publication by the magazine. We waited 9 months to see it hit the stands. Upon reviewing it I noticed that my words had been changed to read 'a woman in her forties'. I guess even my editor wasn't sure when it would run.
Now I wait with one of my full manuscripts in the hands of what I believe is my dream-team literary agency.
I wait as they read every word. Interpret every space of white. For seasoned pros much of it is instinct, I'm sure, but they all use a similar rating system, if you will: Originality. Setting. Characters. Dialogue. Plot. Oh yeah, and quality of writing, too. Go figger!
This isn't exactly true in non-fiction books where you can pre-sell on an outline, assuming you have a strong platform. I've considered writing a non-fiction but I don't think it's for me. I like to lie and make shit up.
Oh, one more thing, I have a potty mouth that translates, I think rather well, to the written page. There are rules on that, too. More, later.
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." ___Mark Twain