Summer School: Part II
This is Part II of The Bob summer school issue. It focuses on humor writing and is geared for those in comedy and includes poignant advice from some of the funniest minds of our generation, like Jack Handey, Michael Palin and others. The enclosed piece appeared initially in Writer’s Digest and is edited for clarity.
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Top 10+ Survival Tips for Publishing
There is only one certainty in publishing: If you are not able to put this crazy business in perspective, you will go Cocoa Puffs. You need to keep a sense of humor about it, and it’s essential you realize that the struggles you go through as a writer are the same as almost all writers experience. As satisfying as writing can be, publishing can be a royal pain-in-the-ass. That’s not a comment on agents, editors, and publishers. The people in this business care as much about books as anyone, and it’s in their best interests to see you get your due and buy a beautiful writing cabin upstate. The problem here is there is perhaps no business model with a more lopsided ratio of more supply than demand. So many writers, but so little real estate. Ernest Hemingway competed against a few drunken friends—how would he have handled and adjusted artistically to today’s market of four trillion new books released annually? (The Big Papa Is Slow Cooking! Cookbook and The Cats of Kilimanjaro desk calendar?)
1. Handling Rejection
This is the most important tip. The ability to persevere cannot be overestimated. Perhaps our generation’s greatest humor writer, Jack Handey, (Untrue Stories of Fiction) used rejection as tool: “When you start out, your work can be good, but a lot of the time it’s imitative, or plain. Rejections force you to develop your style.”
Likewise, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner, says, “I am now glad I was rejected for so many years before finally getting published. Not because I became better at handling rejection (I didn’t), but because I had no choice but to keep getting better as a writer. And I am glad I got better as a writer because I keep getting rejected, too.”
Venting to a support group is something every writer needs. “Take another author out for a coffee,” says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids. “You will feel good for being nice, they will feel good because they have saved $2.38. A literary friendship born! Or join a writer’s group (end it if everyone starts crying—this happened to me once).”
The way I deal with rejection, aside from expensive therapy, is to just take more up at-bats. It’s tiring but true advice—swing until you make contact. Gary Blackwood, bestselling author of The Devil to Pay agrees. “I find the best way of coping with rejection is to have lots of irons in the fire, so that one of them going cold isn’t such a big deal.”
“There will be highs, there will be lows,” said Mike Sacks, author of nine humor books, the most recent, Passing on the Right. “But, in the end, whatever happens will be a lot more interesting than working retail for $8 an hour on Rockville Pike or as a career temp at office parks off I-270 (both of which I could still be working). Never give up. A major part of success is just keeping down that path.”