Hey cHEwY gum gums
So I’ve been hanging out with other writers and librarians lately, and one question has kept popping up recently. What do I think about the latest trend of Australian comedians coming out with children’s books? A lot of them are on the best-sellers list. Some writers have described them as the bane of their aspirations, thinking that these comedians have a backdoor pass to publishers and are hogging all of the press, attention and shelf space. So are these books selling because of the quality of the story, or the actual celebrity name on the cover?
I guess they ask me because I’ve come from a comedy background. When I first started out as a writer, I was a regular on the stand-up comedy scene. But I rather be a writer. I could easily kept going with the comedy while I was writing and touring with the schools, but I wanted time with loved ones, comedy can be full-on (not to mention the late nights hehe). So I only do a handful of gigs these days and it’s a nice hobby on the side. Back then I thought that doing stand-up comedy was a great platform for TV and radio, but not children’s books. How times have changed.
I get where these aspiring writers are coming from. In some cases, publishers do approach these comedians, thinking that their name as a brand will sell the book. I mean, if you cast a wider net, it’s not just comedians who have published children’s books this way. I remember a few singers releasing a few children’s books back in the day. Perhaps these celebrities do get a spot on the publisher’s list that would normally have gone to someone on the slush pile. But I wouldn’t hold that against the publishers, they’re out there to make a buck too. If these celebrity-books keep the rest of us afloat then so be it.
I’ve only read a few of these books written by comedians, so I can’t say much about the quality of the stories. But the celebrity brand can only take you so far. If the books are terrible, then chances are they’ll be a one-book or one-series wonder. If a comedian happens to strike it lucky and write a killer series, then that’s great. Time will tell if they’re going to be in it for the long-run.
The most recent children’s book I’ve read written by a comedian, was Andrew Hansen from The Chaser fame. Along with his wife, Jess Roberts, they have got an awesome series out called Bab Sharkley and The Bearded Mummies. I’m glad they’ve entered the children books world because well…I enjoyed their tales. They’re actually great writers. If a kid likes those books, it’s probably because they like the writing or story, not what TV or radio show they’re from.
And on the flipside, I’ve read an awful children’s book by a stand-up comedian years ago (I’ll never tell haha) and well that person hasn’t written one since.
So…it’s time to put the cheesy hat on. All you can do is keep writing your stories and believe in them. There will always be more celebrities bringing out children’s books and they will be a raging success, but that should never stop you from chugging along. If you are writing a good story, it will find its way on the shelf, and you’ll have the last laugh.