Kerry Colburn and Jennifer Worick are the dynamic duo behind the Business of Books: workshops, toolkits, webinars, and more to help authors get published. They offer a one-day intensive workshop called "30 Days to a Winning Book Proposal" on Saturday February 9, 2013 from 9:30am–5pm at the Hotel 1000 in Seattle.
Kerry and Jen answered some questions for me about what they do for authors.
How did the Business of Books come to be?
Jen & I worked together in publishing in Seattle nearly 20 years ago, and we both ended up back here after stints at publishing houses on the east coast (Jen) and the west coast (Kerry). We’d been close friends all those years, and we now found ourselves as next-door-neighbors! One day, we were talking about how often we get questions from people with book ideas. We both would get calls from friends or friends of friends, asking: How do I get published? Do I have to write my whole book before I pitch it to an agent? My neighbor has a children’s book idea, what should she do with it? It became clear to us that there was still a lot of mystery around publishing and how to navigate the business, and this confusion was stopping people in their tracks. Their ideas were languishing. We decided it was time to demystify publishing for first-time authors, and show them how to properly pitch their idea so it could have the best chance possible.
Our first talk was through the wonderful Kim Ricketts Book Events, and it was a sell-out. The outpouring of gratitude from attendees at the end was overwhelming. We realized we’d hit upon a need in this community, and we wanted to continue forward. Our motivation for the business has never changed: We want to help those book ideas take flight. Nothing makes us sadder than the thought of a good book idea sitting in a drawer. We want to bridge that gap between writing and publishing.
What's the best piece of advice someone gave you about publishing? Worst?
Having both worked in publishing, we picked up a lot of advice and knowledge along the way. Perhaps the most valuable thing to keep in mind as you go through the proposal and submission process is this: As an aspiring author, you are applying for a job with a publishing house and your proposal is your business plan. You want to convince the publisher that you have a solid idea that will profit both of you. Publishing is a business and you need to make a compelling, solid case for your idea, which includes things like a deep understanding of the market, a strong author platform, a creative and on-point marketing plan and great writing, of course.
Some of the misconceptions we’ve heard in our workshops stem from the mystery surrounding the publishing process. “I need to write the whole manuscript.” No, you don’t. You need a great sample and a proposal (the exception being a children’s picture book). “No one takes unsolicited submissions any more so I should just self-publish.” There are wonderful small and mid-size publishing houses that continue to accept unsolicited, non-agented proposals. The great thing about smaller houses is that your book can get more attention, both during the production process and the publicity and marketing stage. It’s worth the time to research a variety of publishing avenues to find the best home and fit for your book.
Do you have a favorite story from a past workshop?
In a recent workshop, we had a student say at the beginning that she felt doomed. By the end, she said, “I went from doomed to excited.” That’s what we love to hear! And we hear that in every class or workshop we teach. Publishing seems like a mystery to most and having been both publishing executives and authors, we love 1) demystifying the process, 2) giving people a clear roadmap to execute their proposal (we have a 4-week plan that breaks down the 9 elements into doable chunks) and 3) encouraging aspiring authors. The road to publishing can be long and we are here to tell you to keep the faith and that there is a home for your book project.
We love hearing that students submitted their proposals and even better, scored a book deal. Kerry happened upon a former student in a coffee shop one day and he happily told her he got a book deal with his first-choice publisher! Jen went to a book launch event for another student and when she walked in, the new author and Jen both started crying. Seriously. We are invested in seeing you through the process and in the short time we’ve been teaching and consulting, we’ve seen numerous writers go through our class and get published.
When would a writer most benefit from your services?
As soon as you have a book idea, we are ready to help.
When someone has just a glimmer of an idea, our talks and webinars help hone it and test it for viability, then offer the tools to move forward with it and write a complete proposal—which will inform the manuscript along the way. Or, if a writer already has a complete draft or a working manuscript for a book, we guide the writing of the proposal and how to best present as marketable and irresistible to a publisher or agent. The “ideal” is probably someone who has a book idea and has given it some thought, and has perhaps begun drafting a portion of it.
We also find that many attendees—even if they have a locked-down concept when they arrive—end up coming up with new marketable book ideas in our workshops, too.
Can you help those outside Seattle/those who can’t make it to your workshop?
Yes, we can help writers anywhere in the world!
First, we offer our Publishing Toolkit, what we like to call “Jen & Kerry in a binder.” This is 100-plus pages of information from all of our talks, including worksheets, hands-on exercises, and two complete proposals you can use as templates. It also maps out our plan for completing your proposal in 30 days. It retails for $99 a la cart (it’s included in the price of the all-day workshop).
Second, we offer webinars for some of our most popular talks, including how to build your author platform. These are recordings that you can watch as many times as you like for $79
Third, we offer private “2-on-1” proposal consultations, in which we go through proposals with a fine-tooth comb and make sure they’re the absolute best they can be. Writers can email us for more detail and a quote: firstname.lastname@example.org
What can people expect from your workshops?
In a nutshell, to leave with a clear plan to develop their book proposal in four weeks.
Our Feb. 9 all-day workshop is called “30 Days to a Winning Book Proposal” and it really delivers on its promise. We’ve developed a proven program that breaks the proposal down into nine elements, with a week-by-week schedule to develop it efficiently and intelligently. We pride ourselves on being both informational and motivational. People will leave inspired and charged up to complete their proposal, and they’ll have the tools and information to write it!
Seattle readers: Jen and Kerry would like to offer examiner,com readers their Friends & Family discount code for $50 off the Feb. 9 class!
To use it, go to the regular ticket link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/292545
then put in discount code POSSE.
(If your Valentine is an aspiring author, wouldn't this be the sweetest early Valentine's Day gift?)