From left: Kerry Colburn and Jennifer Worick will help you publish, not perish.

You’d have thought local authors Kerry Colburn and Jennifer Worick were touting secrets to better hair and eternal life last Thursday, because the sold-out crowd at Hotel 1000 was engrossed. Notebooks out, pens scribbling furiously, like we were taking notes from Moses on the mountain…if Moses already had a two-book deal with Random House for The 10 Commandments: Slab One and Two. Between the two of them, Colburn and Worick have published more than 30 books—including Worick’s bestseller The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex and Colburn’s nonfiction titles How to Have Your Second Child First and Good Drinks for Bad Days—in addition to working as editors at Chronicle Books and Running Press, respectively. They’ve been on both sides of the trenches, and have emerged with practical tips for fledgling authors, delivered with a bit of sass and a mom’s encouragement.

“We want you to pull the trigger, rip off the Band-Aid and sell your book,” Worick enthused.

In their three-part publishing seminar, they cover everything from creating a book proposal (“You don’t have to send a whole manuscript”) to self-publishing to understanding advances and royalties (“Stand for nothing less than a 5 percent royalty!”). It was useful stuff, even for someone who’d already started a proposal (my collection of short stories is languishing in an envelope beneath my desk). Thursday’s “The Business of Books: Navigating the World of Publishing” discussion ended with—what else—a top 10 list.

Ten Reasons Publishers Say No to Your Book

1. Too much competition.
2. Too similar to a book that’s already out.
“Avoid going up against the Category Killer—a book that overwhelmingly dominates its genre.”
3. Too small in sales potential.
4. Too narrow in scope.
“We call this ‘magazine article syndrome.’ It’s a story that doesn’t have the legs to run long, like ‘Planning a Wedding When You’re Over 40 and on Jury Duty.’”
5. Not enough author recognition.
“Publishers are looking for authors who are specialists, with an area of expertise and a base of fans and contacts.”
6. Beyond author’s capabilities and/or credentials.
7. Poorly written.
“This is self-explanatory.”
8. Too expensive to produce.
9. Outside our purview.
“In other words, we don’t publish sci-fi/young adult/children’s books/romance/etc.”
10. Not remarkable, surprising, or unputdownable enough.

Fear No. 10? We all do. But it’s a four-letter word this duo doesn’t want to hear. They’ll lead a free, abbreviated version of their publishing talks at Seattle Public Library’s Central Library on Saturday, April 2, from noon–1pm. They’ll also run the same three-part series this April through June ($40 a session/$99 all three); find out more at

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