Writing for Comedy Television

Recently, I read two autobiographies of very successful comedy writers: Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants” and Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me”? Underneath the entertaining tone and jokes, I found that both these books had interesting insider views on the industry of comedy writing. In this post, I’ve listed a few helpful ideas.

1)      Comedy Writers Know how to Act and make Time to Hone their Skill.

Tina Fey majored in drama. She worked long hours at a boring office job to afford improve classes. Though Kaling had a job as a babysitter, she and her roommate wrote a one hour skit in which they directed and performed. Because these two comedy writers knew how to deliver lines, they knew how to craft them. The beauty of being able to act and compose your own work is that you don’t need anyone else’s permission. You can write a skit that you can hope someone with power will supply the vision for, or you can do the imagining on you own and wait for no one.

2)      Comedy Writers Start Small

Fey traveled in a comedic group for years until she networked with the producer of Saturday Night Live. Kaling committed her time  and effort to her one act play until she met the producer of The Office. These comedic writers climbed the corporate ladder. Because they never stopped learning and practicing their craft, they were able to demonstrate their ability and love of their art.

3)      Comedy Writers are Resilient and take Risks

Fey agonized over writing the pilot of 30 Rock and was unable to get Baldwin to sign up as the lead until the last minute. Kailing tried to be a writer for other shows that fell apart before the pilot aired. Ultimately, 30 Rock became one of TV’s most unusual sitcoms, though was reluctant to change in order to appear more mainstream, a choice that caused the series to miss out on certain awards and audiences. Kailing was hesitant to do a remake of a successful British show worried how to pull it off

These autobiograhies really helped me discern ways to break into difficult industires, such as writing for televison. I’ll post other options such as this one in the weeks ahead.

Breaking Into the Publishing Industry

How does one break into the Publishing Industry? University of New Mexico professor, David Dunaway, offers an action plan on how to do it.

1)      Build Your Collection of Published Works

 Write for your college paper. Write for your local paper. Write letters to the editors. When you apply to jobs in the publisjhing industry, you need to prove your aptitude as a writer. By having your name out as much as possible, you will provide evidence for your work, attesting to your cabability.

Also, working on the actual design and layout of the publication will only increase your range of skills and understanding of clean copy.

2)      Have a Bachlor of Fine Arts in Publishing/Editing or Bachlors of Arts in English

It is possible to reciece an undergraduate education in Publishing or Ediitng. Some schools that offer this path are: Emerson College, Bard College and Fordham University to name a few. Also, those pursuing an English degree at any of the seven sister schools (Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Radcliffe colleges) have had luck gaining entry into the publishing industry upon graduation. After reviewing these schools, you will quickly realize that they are clustered on the East Coast. Because the Publishing Industry is centered on the East Coast, these universities profit by their proximity to this hub and their graduates will have an easier time obtaining a job within the industry.

What about graduates from other schools? While you can get an English degree everywhere, you will need to establish crediility. After graduation, those who want to break into the publishing inidustry are advised to attend an extended educational program/ publishing seminars from established instutuions. Berkely, NYU, The University of Denver, and the University of Los Angeles Extended University all offer publishing seminars for graduates and would be impressive to include on a resume. Of course, these programs will cost a few thousand to complete.

3)      Do I need a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts?

 Usually, no. Most of those employed in the publishing industry have Bachlors Degrees or completed established seminars on publishing. However, MA/MFAs (and PHDs) are more predominate in Academic Publishing employment sector and can be considered the exception to the rule.

Class Post # 6

The organization I wrote about in week 7 was the Muse (TheDailyMuse.com). The Muse describes its purpose as “Everything you need to find your dream career – & be awesome at it.”
The Muse has its own website, Facebook and Twitter. After reading the article from the Business Insider, I believe I now understand the reasoning behind these choices. Though the Muse offers helpful career advice for everyone to take advantage of, it does seem directed toward
the inexperienced employees who are looking for tips on how to get ahead or are considering career changes or graduate school. Younger employees are more likely to internalize the insights and advice offered in these articles over mature employees who already developed their own methods. This emphasis on beginning or developing careers also explains the Muse’s Twitter site, a social media platform that skews toward the younger crowd.

This week, I was reading Marie Claire and came across  an interview with the creator of the Muse, among other startup companies and up-and-coming professionals. I think this reinforces the target audience for the Muse; It is focused on young, creative professionals.

In regards to my personal interest, I think the power users would likely be Writers Digest and Publishers Weekly, which are pretty much regarded as the authority in the writing market. Though mid-list authors are not necessarily a mission of these two voices, when a mid-list author shows up on these websites it can be considered a great feat. I think it’s important to read through their updates on all things writing in order to find recent material that mid-list authors need to know.

As the publishing industry is rapidly changing, it is important to jeep apace with any happenings at the corporate conglomerate level as these changes may eventually trickle down to the smaller authors and publishers.

Power users that are passionate about mid-list authors are Indie Bound, and Small Press Distributors. Because these users are dedicated to this smaller industry, they have an important role its market by offering commenting on mid-list authors, providing free marketing for this subject.



Money Makers

New authors or mid-list authors are ones that may struggle with making enough money to earn a living. This begs the question:  how does someone make a living as a writer?  

When we are lost, we look to the stars.

Forbes makes a handy list of the highest paid authors every year. For 2013, please see the finalists listed below.

The Forbes list:
EL James: $95m
James Patterson: $91m
Suzanne Collins: $55m
Bill O’Reilly: $28m
Danielle Steel: $26m
Jeff Kinney: $24m
Janet Evanovich: $24m
Nora Roberts: $23m
Dan Brown: $22m
Stephen King: $20m
Dean Koontz: $20m
John Grisham: $18m
David Baldacci: $15m
Rick Riordan: $14m
JK Rowling: $13m
George RR Martin: $12m

Whether it is thriller, romance or mystery, the names on this list are mostly genre authors. There’s a reason why genre authors are usually the authors that can making a living off their earnings. It makes sense to write a book where there’s already an established market for. In addition, having a book with an existing market may help new authors land a literary agent or publishing house. If authors can make a strong case that their book will sale than the industry will probably buy it.

What about the self-published authors? One idea is to create your own market. If you have an active following on social media, you can make an argument that there is a market for your book. Self-publishing is an interesting way of making a living as an author, but it may be worthwhile if the author can sale numerous copies of his/her work.

Though many of these names are blockbuster authors, it’s important to notice what they have in common. Many of these writers have a strong genre they work in, even if some authors (Stephan king) have pen names for separate writing focuses (literary- in Stephan King’s case).  Also, many of these authors release in high volume, such as Koontz and Roberts.

Once an author identifies their market, it’s time to start writing. A good take away for authors and self-published authors are to always be doing 3 things: have one work in the market, one work in progress, and the next work in the planning stage. The more a writer writes the more marketing and opportunities that are afforded to them.

Mid-list Book Review: Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season: A Novel

Mid-list Book Review: Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season: A Novel

About: In the year 2059, crime is committed with and through clairvoyant powers. Paige Mahoney, a 19 year-old woman involved with the criminal society, The Seven Seals, breaks into the minds of others to discover lucrative information. Catching the attention of a species called the Raphaite; she is captured and enslaved to the mysterious Warden, whose intentions are unclear. Paige must challenge this new fight for her freedom and safety of her friends.

Review: Even with maps and diagrams included in the foremost pages of the book, it is complex and at times, plain confusing. Shannon sets up an external world where governments have layers. The protagonist, Paige Mahoney, starts as a part of the criminal underworld, falls into the hands of Scion, a totalitarian government, and then is enslaved by a new species, the Raphaite. Inside the social hierocracy of the Raphaite, Paige must prove herself through a series of challenging tests that further develop her powers. While the external environment of the book is intricate, Paige’s ability to enter minds and dreamscapes of others also moves the reader into the world of the characters’ minds. Though The Bone Season is deeply, deeply imagined, I did not feel frustrated or willing to give up. It is a story filled with action, fantasy and romance. In a dystopian world, Paige’s powers are both her salvation and death sentence. While the setting of London as a totalitarian state is interesting enough, the involvement of the Raphaite complicates the plot in a most compelling way. It’s a story to get lost in-the good kind of lost.

Author: Samantha Shannon was born in 1991 and is an Oxford graduate-so be inspired. She also has her own blog where she discusses current news about her book as well as its development. I strongly recommend fellow authors, inspiring authors, and readers to check it out!

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing is an independent house with companies in London, New York, Sydney and New Delhi. Bloomsbury publishes academic, adult and children’s literature. It was first established in 1986.

Class Post #5

Because I have experience working with non-profits, I was immediately attracted to Beth Kanter’s blog. After reading through some of her posts, I quickly learned a ton of valuable information. I found her post on Peer Learning especially interesting as it correlated with some of my own experiences and presented new ideas.

When Kanter becomes involved in company workshops, she has them break into smaller groups that brainstorm and tackle different assignments together as they strive to the completion of one common goal. First, group members break the ice by sharing some of the accomplishments they are most proud of. As the professionals come from different backgrounds and possess different talents, this discussion is usual inspiring and is a learning experience for the group members. Then the groups are assigned their specific assignments. Not only does work get done quicker through this route, Kanter claims that interpersonal relations become stronger within the workplace as a result of this team work. At the end of the workshops, the teams combine to form a powerhouse network toward the completion of the singular task.

As a communication major, I believe this system of peer learning could be integrated in the senior capstone class, in which senior C&J majors break into smaller groups and fundraise for community groups. While I enjoyed this class and learned much about my group’s choice, Casa Esperanza, I only learned about what the other groups were involved with on the last day of class where each group presented on the project they had chosen. I was disappointed I did not have the opportunity to learn more about the other groups’ projects, such as Make A Wish or a Senior Prom for Seniors (Elders).

I believe the C&J senior capstone class could integrate community and peer learning for an even richer experience. While I think having the seniors break into groups is an effective way to reach out to different community groups, I think groups should also be formed from seniors that belong to different groups. These groups could meet occasionally throughout the semester to talk about their different projects and strategizes. This way, insights can be taken from other groups within the project development in order to strengthen the overall project.

Class post #4

I’m always looking to be inspired, which is why my favorite website
right now is the DailyMuse.com. The Muse is full of helpful career and
life advice, featuring articles that range from switching career
fields to time management to new recipes to try out. Some articles are
written by the staff at the Muse, while others originate from outside

The Muse currently hosts informative and motivational articles from
other bloggers, fearing some of the most compelling content on the
web. The Muse also acts as a medium between me and bloggers in my
prospective career fields, thus connecting me with people who I could
learn much from and continue to follow. The Muse also lists job
openings at great corporations (ProjectRED, Pintrest, etc.) on a
weekly basis, as well as describing different career fields so that
readers can gain a better idea of the positions in question. I like
that the Muse is designed to improve the lives of its readers by
encouraging new ideas through the content it hosts.

Unique to the Muse are its free classes (Muse University), designed to
better prepare individuals for the workplace. When I have a free
moment, I look at the Muse and find valuable information that will
help me succeed in my professional and personal goals. The Muse also
takes advantage of Twitter, using its easily navigational style to
host links to more insightful articles

I think the main drawback to Muse is that its “Hub of Information”
set-up makes interaction with its readers difficult. While I’ve seen
the Muse give thanks to commenters for reading/commenting on Twitter,
I do not see this back and forth on its main website. At the end of
each article that is written by a staff member is his/her biography
and picture. Though this does humanize the brand slightly, I think
other brands have been more successful in creating a strong
personality for its brand- a characteristic I do not feel from the

If I worked for the Muse, I would use more personality to make the
brand stand out. I would be very energetic and motivational in my
descriptions of other articles and definitely create more interaction
with readers by hosting contests where they can submit career/life
tips and be featured on the site.

Publishing Childern’s Literature

So you want to publish childern’s literature. How exactly does one break into the industry of children’s literature? This week’s blog post will focus on what to expect when you start your quest to publish your children’s book.

Do I need to find/be an illustrator?
In short, no. Usually, a publishing company will find an illustrator to compliment your text. Even if you have pictures, even if you’re an artist, a publisher will want to select their own illustrator. Of course, I’m sure you may think of an exception to the rule, perhaps the famous Dr. Seuss. However, exceptions are exceptions for a reason. Though you may include illustrations, it is unlikely that they will be accepted. In fact, such initiative may risk you “slow boating” our own text. Manuscripts consisting of only text are able to be sent to the right people and pumped out faster. Also, the size of the book and even the font are up to the publisher’s discretion.

How Do I Promote Myself?
Most authors of children’s literature have websites that further solidify their presence. I invite you to check out Ronald Dahl’s website, for example. Since children’s literature is vibrant and charming, I recommend having a blog or webpage to immerse your fans in your creative vision.
Your publisher may also set up readings for you in your hometown. Never underestimate the power of locality, folks!

Where is this Industry?
Well, it helps to know where to start. In the USA, one such hub for children/ young adult literature is Minnesota. In sum, 40 children’s literature publishers call Minnesota their home and most are independently owned. Of the 40 houses, 3 (ABDO Publishing Group, Capstone Publishing Group, and Lerner Publishing Group) are the largest in the nation.

Further Advice
Though one can take multiple paths to being a publisher or author of children’s literature, I think it’s worth pointing out that some experts in this field study early elementary edge or similar topics. I think this educational background would help an author or publishers improve his/her craft by better understanding the target audience.

Class Post #3- My feelings about Twitter

I love Twitter. The updates are short enough that my page is completely scannable. I do not have to waste time on every update from the companies/people I follow; I just find the news that interest me and move on. Because of the character limit, I know that I will be able to discern the point of an update in a matter of seconds.  In that way, I believe Twitter does function as a news broadcasting website. Its timely updates also help me keep up on the latest industry news. I love that I can log on and see the news I care about and read them immediately. I can read about a favorite author’s new book and then read about marketing tips and what’s going on at a conference. Once I brush up on a topic, I can move onto the next. Like Carr claimed, I feel like this system helps me have an understanding of pertinent news at all times.

I also like that I do not have to actually know people to follow them. As a young professional, I am trying to learn and adopt the habits of successful, mature professionals who have proved themselves in their fields. Twitter provides me with insight to the lives of the people I admire.

 I believe that I can learn how to use Twitter to build my own personal brand. For example, many companies will follow you if you follow them. That is an easy way to build an audience for a novice social media professional such as myself. The option of re-tweeting is wonderful as it gives me room to say why I like something and think it’s important, allowing me to make the news my own, in a way. By re-tweeting other content and commenting often on the stories of businesses I would like to be involved with, I believe I will be able to get my name out there a little more. I am hopeful that Twitter will allow me to network with people I otherwise would never meet.

Twitter seems to crash often, however, which is frustrating. Other than that inconvenience, I feel positively toward Twitter.

Marketing with Social Media

Last week, I followed a lead on an interesting website for locating midlist books: Small Press Distributors. After exploring the site, I have to say that I was impressed. Small Press Distributors in a non-profit in Berkeley, California that serves the literary community by emphasizing book releases by smaller profits- a noble cause.

I had fun sleuthing around the website. The website categorizes smaller press books by company and literary genre (fiction, non-fiction, poetry). The site also has a healthy “self-published” section, which I have never before had come across and was excited to see. The site also posts that 3 of its promoted books are short listed for the National Book Award. Impressive indeed.

Pleased as I was with SPD’s website, it made me wonder how else can/do smaller presses get their name out there and its books on peoples’ shelves or in their e-readers? The mystery did not last long. I came across a Twitter article that gives a few ideas in regards to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, and YouTube as marketing channels for books. Another article lists 15 ways publishers can engage with the audience of readers more deeply and imparts the inspiring message: Not all books can be bestsellers, but all books can be good sellers.

Another interesting angle was that authors can have an online presence and relationship with their readers through social media and blog updates, and I believe this would be a highly effective method. The major negative I’ve heard with this route is that authors that put time into self-marketing lose out on time that they could actually spend writing.

 Though I agree that most people cannot be doing two things at once, it is possible that such self-marketing may culminate in feelings that lead to motivating the writer and the writing process, rather than only detract from it. An author that engages regularly with a fan base may discover the motivation necessary to continue on. While not every author may be a best-selling author, having the support of his/her readers will no doubt support and sustain them. With social media becoming more ingrained in typical communication, new authors may already be comfortable with social media and able to use this medium to his/her professional advantage as personal brands become more typical.  I think that social media is a huge asset to smaller publishers and mid-list authors alike.