One of my favorite things to read is Matthew Buckley's Chickens in the Headlights. Why? Because it is dang funny! Humor is my favorite thing to read. If a book is a romance and has humor in it, I'm loving it. If it's a suspense or mystery novel, (like Jeff Savage's books) with humor added, I think it's great. Unfortunately, humor alone (apparently) doesn't sell. I know this from first, or perhaps I should say second, hand experience.
I illustrated a book of essays that a talented newspaper columnist wrote called Sorry, the Stork Takes No Returns. It's a funny, sometimes touching, look at motherhood and dealing with children. I thought it was hilarious, and so did everyone I gave a copy to. I had a brother buy a couple. I think a neighbor said she bought one. Unfortunately, it wasn't a national best seller, and Clair Bowen will keep writing newspaper columns.
Matthew Buckley's book is wonderful as well, it's full of true stories from his youth--funny experiences of a large family. It has sold much more than the Stork book, but I don't think it's a national best seller yet–-it would be nice, huh Matthew? You could quit your day job...
Unfortunately, what sells is mystery, fantasy, history and sex, and standard publishing is all about what sells. On the other hand, if you try something silly to get attention, sometimes it brings the whole world to your door.
Take the latest words by a mom to sell some Pokemon cards on Ebay. She wrote this really cute little essay about how her kids had managed to stick them in her cart while shopping, and had over 100,000 hits. People thought her little story was the funniest thing they had read in a long time, and kept telling other people. By the time the auction ended, she had sold the cards for $140 or so. This was a regular pack of cards by the way, nothing special, but she had caught the imagination of the people, and they had rewarded her for it. She's now doing radio interviews and keeping track on her blog.
At first I felt miffed. I have seven children, and let me tell you, they've done some pretty funny things (although they didn't always seem funny at the time – like when they tried to burn spaghetti noodles on the electric burners after dumping Tang all over the stove while being babysat by their older sisters...) and I fully intended to write a children's book about my autistic son using the escapades he got into while he was young – (notably how he loved to run down the street in nothing but a diaper, chasing the water in the gutters)but time escaped me and I neglected to write them down while they were fresh. My bad.
Now that I've had a chance to sit back and ponder the situation, I'm impressed and happy for her. More power to you! Isn't that our feeling with our fellow writers? Support and high five's when they get it right? Not all of us will get there that way, that's just the way life goes. Some of us must struggle and suffer for our efforts. Perhaps it's not in my destiny to become a famous writer, humor or otherwise with a surprising flash of -- whatever.
But the thing I've found the most, is that forcing the humor never works. It's when it slips out in the normal flow of things that it goes right. So, here's to hoping some day we'll all get it right--we've got lots of footsteps to follow.