Tips On Writing With Humor

There are so many facets to creating great fiction.  Here’s one that a lot of people don’t think of often when they’re plotting out their masterpieces, but if you stop and think about some of your favorite reading, it probably has humorous elements. 

Of course, there’s comedy writing itself, but humor can make romance more fun or adventure more delightful.  And even in a horror story, a little counterpoint of humor can make it more horrifying in contrast.  Suspense can be that much more suspenseful in the midst of laughter.  Even a clown can be terrifying, and that’s before Stephen King slaps us in the psyche with one.

So here’s a little perspective on that by funny bone tickler Dan Brotzel, who I ran across on Writer’s Digest as I was blithely skittering around the internet in search of wisdom.  This suffices.

Peruse and use as you’re slaving away over a hot keyboard, and spice up your literary mélange with a little levity…it might be just what your manuscript needs to become that masterpiece.

15 Ways to Write Funnier Fiction

MAY 27, 2019

Short story writer and novelist Dan Brotzel dishes out 15 tips on how to use humor in fiction writing.

It’s amazing how often you hear aspiring writers say: ‘I can’t write humor. I’m not funny.’ While it’s undoubtedly true that some people come across as naturally funnier than others—though often this may be the product of unseen hard work as much as raw talent—I believe that everyone has the potential to be funny. After all, if you can laugh, you have a sense of humor.

The subject of how to find the funny in your writing is one I think about all the time. I’ve spent the last 25 years writing a variety of comic material designed to tickle people’s funny bones—sketches for BBC radio, humorous columns for magazines and newsletters, short stories, and now a comic novel. I was even Asda Christmas cracker joke-writing champion in 2004, a UK prize that’s roughly the equivalent of a comedy Pulitzer*, so I couldn’t really be more qualified.

If you’re interested in getting more humor into your fiction, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

Think of comedy as an ingredient, not a genre.

Try not to think of comedy as a genre in its own right that you have to write in all the time. When you think about it, comedy can be found in all sorts of stories and genres. Horror and sci-fi novels can have their funny moments, as can YA, romance, and literary fiction.

So think of humor as one of the tools in your writing toolkit, like tension or strong characterization or voice. It doesn’t have to color everything you do in the way that a true genre does, but it’s a great thing to pull out when the occasion demands.

Think of comedy as a craft, not an inspired gift.

Let go, too, of the idea of funny writers as people who have amazing flights of imagination and deliver great comic revelations from a perspective that you could never possibly emulate. Of course you need ideas and inspiration, but as we’ll see, writing comedy is as much about craft: selecting the right word, paying attention to rhythm and pace, replacing an obvious element of a story with a surprising one.

People who seem to be naturally funny are often actually people who spend their spare time quietly practicing routines and crafting material to themselves. No wonder it sounds so polished when you hear it …

Make yourself laugh first.

As a novelist, you have so many routes to humor. You can create characters with funny traits. You can set up situations that are funny because they’re so unbelievable (farce) or, on the other hand, make us laugh because they’re excruciatingly close to home. You can describe things in funny ways. (“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”—Douglas Adams.) You can use humor as a satirical tool to make powerful points about politics and society.

Whatever route you choose, your attempts at being funny will have more chance of succeeding if they flow from own your own sense of humor. If you don’t make yourself laugh, how can you expect anyone else to find you funny?

Don’t see your fiction as a comedy routine.

What you don’t need to do is act like a stand-up. You don’t need to introduce a crashing boom-boom punchline every paragraph. Humor in fiction is more subtle than that. It arises from character and plot, from an interesting authorial voice, from a unique way of looking at the world.

So there’s no need to go for big belly laughs—aim to make your reader smile instead. Gags are crude, throwaway things; humor in fiction is slower-burning but packs more emotional power. As the comic novelist Muriel Spark once said: “I have a great desire to make people smile—not laugh, but smile. Laughter is too aggressive.”

Facebook Ads – An Excellent Guide

Here’s another great post from Jane Friedman’s blog, and I’ll pause right here to urge you to check out her website.  It has tons of great information and I could bounce around reading blog posts all day and never run out of things to learn.  Of course everything isn’t interesting to everybody, but there’s something there for everybody who writes, in one way or another.  Of special note is her free email newsletter, which may or may not come with a new fascinating tidbit that’s pertinent to you every time, but hey…it’s email so it’s easy to check out and delete if it’s not up your alley.

This post is by book advertising consultant Matt Holmes, and it’s one of the most detailed, thorough, and well-illustrated discussions on marketing how-to I’ve ever seen, particularly for something free to whoever wants to go looking for it.  And you can never have too much free advice.  There’s one very significant thing about advice: you never really know whether it’s any good until after you’ve taken it.  So consider it carefully and remember that even when you get good advice, it’s not going to do much good until you put time and effort and money into it.  It’s advice, not magic.

I’ve only tried running Facebook ads a couple of times, and was unimpressed with the results, but I was trying it on my own, on the fly, without a clue.  Experimenting.  The task is complex, complicated, and daunting to the uninitiated, but made much clearer, right here, by someone with experience and success.

Writing a book is quite a daunting undertaking, too, but when you get done with it, you have to get it out there to people who want to read it or its purpose is never truly fulfilled.  You do that by marketing it, and for most of us — the ones who end up self-publishing — that responsibility falls upon our own shoulders.  And we need all the help we can get.

Here you go!

How Authors Can Leverage Facebook Ads to Sell More Books

June 15, 2021 by Matt Holmes

facebook ads

Today’s post is by book advertising consultant Matt Holmes.

When authors want to advertise their books, three advertising platforms spring to mind for most: Facebook ads, Amazon ads, and BookBub ads.

And while each of these platforms can be amazing in their own right and even more so when used holistically together, without a strong foundation (i.e. a great book that has been edited and proofread, a strong book description, right pricing for your category or genre, a professional-looking book cover that fits in your genre, etc.), no amount of advertising can sell a poor quality book.

Once you have a strong foundation, the truthis that advertising takes time to perfect; it takes testing; it takes patience, persistence, and, ultimately, it takes money.

However, let’s brighten things up.

When you get your ads dialed in, they can truly transform your career.

As an example, my wife is an author of fantasy novels. Before we started advertising her debut series of books, we were lucky if they pulled in $40 per month!

Last month, this same series earned $8,550 in royalties, with $5,200 of profit—and that’s with just one series of three books; the fourth book is due out later this year.

And the advertising platform that did the brunt of the leg work was…

Facebook ads.

Let’s dive into it. Here’s what you’ll learn.

  • Why Facebook offers authors an incredible opportunity to position themselves in front of their ideal readers
  • When to use Facebook ads
  • Are Facebook ads worth your time and money?
  • How to create scroll-stopping Facebook ads
  • My top 5 Facebook ads tips for authors

The Facebook ads opportunity

Facebook’s biggest and most valuable asset is data. As an advertiser on Facebook, you can tap into this data and pinpoint the exact people (readers) you want to reach with your ads.

As an example, if you know your readers:

  • Live in New York
  • Are female
  • Aged between 45 and 55
  • Work as an accountant
  • Have been a newlywed for 6 months
  • Recently moved
  • Enjoy French cuisine
  • Own a dog and a fish
  • And do yoga

You could potentially target them! Now, I wouldn’t recommend being this granular with your targeting; this is just an exaggerated example to show you how much Facebook knows about its user base. In fact, I have seen better results by leaving my targeting fairly open. I trust Facebook enough to go out and find the right people to position the books I’m advertising in front of.

So what sort of targeting should you be doing with your Facebook ads?

Targeting is a big topic and what works for one author won’t necessarily work for another. However, myself and many other authors have seen the best results by targeting:

  • Author names
  • Book / series titles
  • TV shows
  • Movies
  • Genres (e.g., romantic fantasy)

As long as your targeting is relevant to the book you’re advertising, it’s worth testing. That’s not to say that every target you test will be a winner, but the more relevant you can be, the higher the chance of your Facebook ads converting into sales and therefore providing you with a positive Return on Ad Spend (ROAS); in other words, profit.

When researching potential targets, I can’t recommend enough that you keep track of all your tests in a spreadsheet. I have built my own Targeting and Tracking spreadsheet which you can use for free; it’s included in my Author Ads Toolkit, which comes with several other valuable resources.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook ads allow you to advertise not just on the Facebook News Feed, although that is where you are likely to see the majority of your traffic coming from, but also on Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Instagram Feed, Facebook Messenger and many more.

Before we move on, let’s first take a quick look at what a Facebook ad actually looks like.

Sample Facebook ad

This is one of the ads I’ve run for my wife’s series of fantasy novels.

If you’ve spent any length of time scrolling on your Facebook News Feed, I’m sure you recognize the layout and style of this ad. As you can see, Facebook wants their ads to fit in with an organic post (i.e., not an ad) that you might see from one of your Facebook friends.

I’ll be walking you through the different assets that make up a Facebook ad, as well as some tips and best practices on how to create scroll-stopping ads.

Scribbling For Dollars – How Much Do Writers Really Make?

Good question!  And every aspiring word-wrassler wants to know the answer, but good, honest answers are a bit hard to come by.  So I’m going to be embarrassingly up-front about my finances to start with, and hook you up with some good discussions about it shortly.  Keep in mind that this is about fiction writing.  There are many kinds of writing, and a competent person can make a good living in areas like copywriting, technical writing, and journalism without all the uncertainty involved with things like promotions, advertising, cover design, and begging their friends to buy their books and write reviews.

First up-front confession: I’ve published one novel.  Okay, I self-published one novel.  So far.  So I haven’t been in this business for decades with vast amounts of experience battling the stingy moneybags of the publishing world.  What I do have experience with is research and experimentation and the stories of a whole boatload of other people who have researched and experimented and battled the moneybags for decades.  I’ll start with mine.

The bare facts are that in three years, I’ve sold 205 books.  About a third of them were e-books, and of the two-thirds that were paperback, about half were sold through Amazon and I sold the other half myself, through my website or the mail or a couple of consignment sources or the cardboard box in the back of my car.  I’ve brought in a whopping $940.07, which doesn’t sound bad for that number of books, but that isn’t profit.  On the outflow side, I’ve spent $1,008.18 for printing, shipping, PayPal fees, advertising, cover design, and all that happy stuff.  So, after three years, I’m still $68.11 in the hole.

Is that normal?  Kind of.  Everybody’s situation is different, and everybody has a different approach.  I did all my own editing, formatting, uploading, and account management with Amazon and Draft2Digital, the companies that handle distribution of my book.  Those functions are beyond the capabilities of some people, who would need to pay others to do that for them.  On the other hand, if I’d had a professional editor go through my manuscript, it may have become so much better that it would have made more money. 

Another example is the cover art…I paid a professional to do it even though I could have gone with something I cobbled together myself or used a generic one.  But if I had, it wouldn’t be nearly as good and I may have lost sales to customers who were drawn to the book by the cover.  Did it attract enough sales to make it worth what I paid?  That’s almost impossible to know.  You gamble with every aspect and do the best you can. 

I know people who have invested a whole lot more and sold half as many books.  Some struggle less and sell more, but from all my research, it looks like my start came out reasonably well compared to the vast armies of authors out there.  What you have to understand is that the entire writing thing is a work in progress, just like that masterpiece you have partly bottled up inside you that needs to come to the surface, become complete, and get out there to amaze the world.  The more you write, the better you get, the more worth your writing has, the more people will enjoy it, the more it will sell, the more money you make. 

All the advice-givers come up with three great truths:  1. Don’t give up your day job.  2. The best way to increase sales is to write the next book.  3. You have to start with a measure of talent, but the greatest indicator of how much money you make is how much effort you put into it.

The result of my first foray into authorhood is that I’ve basically spent that $68.11 on a tremendous education in the ins and outs and obfuscations of the publishing world.  I’m working diligently on the next novel and I know a whole lot more about the business, so everything will come a little easier and smoother this time and the next time and the next time.  And that’s what life’s all about.

So here’s that extra discussion I promised, with the wisdom of Jane Friedman — author, blogger, professor, and advice-giver.  It’s not just her blog post that has a bunch of info in it…three links she posts at the beginning have much more detail and discussion about a lot of aspects of this subject.  So chase those links as much as you care to, and learn all you can, and get out there to take on the world of writing armed with more of an understanding of what you’re getting yourself into than most word-wrasslers.

Good luck.

How Much Do Authors Earn? Here’s the Answer No One Likes.

Posted on by Jane Friedman

In the last month, there have been a few informative articles discussing how much authors earn:

All of these are excellent pieces, written and reported by people bringing transparency to the money side of the writing life. If you go and read them, you’ll have a meaningful education in what to expect as a writer if you’re just starting out. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and why I wrote The Business of Being a Writer. I’d heard too often—usually from speakers at AWP—that they wish someone had told them, before they went into six-figure debt for their MFA, that writing doesn’t pay that well. Not even a minimum wage.

So I’m always happy to see the veil lifted. We need more discussion of what writers earn, with specific authors talking about their advances, royalties, sales, expenses, connections that led to earnings and profitable gigs—all of it. In an industry where talking about the money is often taboo or even shameful (few want to admit how little or how much they earn), the more we all open up, then the more we can normalize the practice of talking about art and commerce, and the more people can make the best decisions for their careers. And I’ll disclose my own book earnings by the end of this post.

The big secret I haven’t revealed until now

OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the thing: I do not like this question. Of course I understand why it’s asked, and I empathize with those who ask it. But it’s like asking what does a musician earn? Or what does an artist earn? The answer will be influenced by all kinds of factors that may or may not apply to you—and that are entirely misleading about your own potential.

So, with the posts above, you’re going to find limitations. Someone will react to the information and say, “BUT [exception here].” From my POV, these exceptions can often be categorized thus:

  1. Traditional publishing earnings can have little in common with self-publishing earnings.
  2. Your genre/category can determine a lot about your potential earnings. So does how much work you have out on the market. More books equals more earnings potential, period, no matter how you publish.
  3. Authors who participate in the so-called Creator Economy can have little in common with authors who do not. (Here’s one perspective on the creator economy if you’re not familiar with it. This is a more optimistic view; there are pessimists, too.)

This is also why it is a tortured exercise to try and run any kind of meaningful survey on what authors earn. I’ve written at length about the problems of these author earnings surveys. However, authors organizations engage in these surveys regularly, partly because they have to. How else can they pressure lawmakers and advocate for their members? They need some kind of evidence that says, “Look! Writers are suffering. They earn less than ever before. This is an emergency!”

Is that true?


But is publishing and literary culture changing?


Are the changes bad?

It depends on who you ask.