Ladies and gentlemen, as you well know, I am the top gag books man in the business, and you wouldn’t hire me if you didn’t think you were in trouble. I doubt that the fat paycheck that you good people here at Jokes, Japes, ‘n’ Jests Press have been kind enough to hand me was so I’d come in here and fellate you, rhetorically-speaking. So I’m gonna just skip to the hard truths. And there’s one truth that’s impossible to ignore. Your joke books just aren’t selling.
That’s where I come in.
First off, we gotta do something about the numbers of jokes in your books. Like this one: 528 Jokes! Where did that number, 528, come from? It seems both painfully arbitrary and too specific. Why didn’t the author stop at 500 jokes? Or, conversely, why not proceed to 530? The number grates on the ears and inspires bafflement in the soul. Also, I admire your desire to provide bulk value, but when it comes to joke books, brevity is the watchword. Remember your core audience: middle-aged men looking for jokes to share at the vacuum cleaner salesman convention; kids 6 to 10, before they develop any comedic discernment; and uncles who don’t know what their nephews want for Christmas. None of these key demos are gonna buy a Proust-sized joke book. And when you have the guy who turned around Chucklefunsters Books on your side, you can take that to the bank. The comedy bank. Where jokes are kept. The metaphor is imperfect.
Then you’ve got this book, just titled One Joke. I cannot fault you for accuracy. It’s one joke, and yet it’s somehow, additionally, 300 pages. Granted, I read the book, and I gotta say — it’s a great joke. Trenchant, hilarious… even a little heartwarming. It earns those 300 pages. But, c’mon guys. You should be able to read and comprehend a joke during the average trip to the toilet. Because that’s where your books live.
Let me let you in on a little industry secret. I’m gonna whisper a number, and I want you all to commit it to memory: 101.
That’s your sweet spot — 101 jokes. And you know why? Because 99 jokes sounds downright lazy, and 100 jokes sounds like your joke book doesn’t want to go above and beyond. But one hundred and ONE jokes? Now Joe and Jane Q. Public feel like they’re getting a deal! They hit joke one hundred, think they’re done, and then you give them a wink and a nod, and say, “You know what, sport? Here’s a freebie.” And that last one? It’s a killer. Clean enough to tell your grandma, but racy enough you gotta whisper it in church. It’s got a pirate and a naked lady, and you’re gonna love it! Laffs for days.
Meanwhile, your books are off in the numerical wilderness! And don’t get me started on your “specialty” joke books. Look, we all know that the real money’s in getting specific — 101 Doctor Jokes, 101 Lawyer Jokes, 101 Golf Jokes, et cetera. Makes sense. Comedy’s about specificity. You can’t tell a dentist joke to a sports guy! How’s he gonna understand it?
He’s not a ball or puck man. He’s a dental man! People only like jokes about their own pastimes! I know I hear a joke about something other than international joke book consulting and I shut down and start writing grocery lists in my head.
So I can’t fault you for getting specific. But may I suggest there’s such a thing as too specific. Like this volume: 728 ‘Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations’ Jokes. Gotta say, folks with that job are an extremely thin slice of the joke-book buying market. Sure, you might get some spillover from people who work in general water treatment, or even from people just considering a water management career, but you can’t rely on them to fill out your market. You know what the most common job in America is? Retail. Those poor bastards must have funny stuff happen to them. Occasionally. Maybe look into it?
I see our time grows short, so I’m gonna run through a few of these critiques rapid fire. Okay, first: No joke book should use the word putrefaction as much as this one. I’d say at MOST you get two, but it seems to be on every page. Second: Racist jokes cannot be made un-racist simply by replacing the names of specific races with the words “you know the ones we mean.” Third: Try not to have a continuing story through the jokes. That means you’ve written a novel. Fourth: A picture of a funny-looking rock does not count as a “joke.”
You know what? I’ll leave the rest of the list with your assistant.
It’s going to be a long road ahead of you, but with my help, and with the help of the Lord above, we can turn this ship around. Within a year, I promise you that you will sell more joke books than any company in history. I’m talking about numbers in the 500, maybe 600-copies range! I give you my word, we will avert disaster, and then we can carve out time to focus on those 12 riddle books you published, where the answer to every riddle was “your shadow.”