The Comedy Doctor on comic novels

The Comedy Doctor. Credit: BCG

A member asks: Everyone seems to be writing comic novels. I'm considering writing one. Realistically I'd be self-publishing. It seems a very crowded and competitive market to get people to choose your book to read though, and that's even without the likes of Richard Osman taking most of the sales focus. Is there any point me writing one?

Thank you for this fantastic and pertinent question. Comic novels seem to be increasingly on the radar, as writers at every stage of their career look for new vehicles for their humour.

It makes sense. With the broadcasting landscape in flux - as well as, arguably, an overemphasis amongst television executives on star-led, writer-performer-based commissions - comedy writers are seeking alternative outlets for their talents.

Comic novels certainly have a rich tradition.

P G Wodehouse is probably the English author who most readily springs to mind, but everyone from Charles Dickens to Jane Austen underpinned their work with humour. The recently deceased Martin Amis was, at his best, devastatingly funny. It's a colourful and varied world.

The first thing to say is: if you want to write a comic novel, for goodness' sake, write one.

Do not let your creative ambition be held back by worries about competitive markets. It is vital for writers - particularly new writers - to be passionate about their subject matter, and the form they're working in.

It is that passion, and at times that passion alone, that will sustain them through the process of writing large amounts of material on spec.

Writing a novel is not easy. The standard commercial length for a novel is about 60 to 80 thousand words.

Brand new writers are very unlikely to receive advances for their novels, and new comic novels are not a priority for many publishers. (That is not to say you won't be able to get published via the traditional route. But it's important to be aware of the reality.)

However, as you rightly note, there are other routes.

Self-publishing has grown hugely in popularity in recent years. (We do not have space here to detail the ins and outs of how you self-publish, but the information is easily available, including on BCG Pro.)

It is an entirely viable pathway, without the need to part with significant sums of your own money. Indeed, self-published e-books can turn into very welcome sources of income for writers.

Furthermore, there is no shame in self-publishing. Increasingly, professional writers are actively choosing it. BCG Pro's friend and regular contributor Dave Cohen is just one of many examples of experienced writers choosing to self-publish, and making a huge success of it.

The result of this sea change, across both broadcasting and publishing, is that you have an entirely viable route to an audience, which sits aside from the world of Richard Osman's bestsellers. It will take time and effort - but getting your finished novel our there is more than possible, without signing a six-figure deal with Penguin.

To answer your question directly: yes, there is most certainly a point to writing a comic novel. So, stop reading this and get to it!

Got a question for the doctor? Email

Published: Tuesday 23rd January 2024
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