Book Jacket


rank 2658
word count 16242
date submitted 10.05.2010
date updated 10.05.2010
genres: Fiction, Popular Culture, Instructi...
classification: moderate

How to Fail

Shaun Clayton

Self-proclaimed expert on failure Phineas T. Wollenfellow guides you on How to Fail, covering subjects from falling in love, to mashed potatoes and more.


How to Fail is a satire of self-help books delivering advice on how to help a person fail at a whole variety of tasks. It is a guide on how not to succeed at Dating, Public Speaking, Playing Chess, Sledding, Making a Sandwich, Flying a Kite, Destroying the Zerblan Hornblatter of Gorongo 6 and many other subjects both sensible and bizarre. The book is also interspersed with Shaun Clayton's recollections of the eccentric Mr. Wollenfellow, a fictional person who claims to be an “expert in failure,” having failed at an exceedingly large amount of things in his life, including actually writing the book on failure. He hires Shaun to write the book for him, based off his words, and Shaun has to not lose his mind in the process.

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comedy, failure, instruction, satire, self-help

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Charlie James wrote 659 days ago

Hi Shaun,

I'm forever on the hunt for comedy, and I think tht is why I ended up on your pages. I've been entertained by how to fail and can see where you are going with it. Due to the short episodal nature I wonder if it is commercial enough to be publishable, but then again I have zero experience here so perhaps I'm worth ignoring on that point.

In essence I think that this reads a little like a blog or email forward and that is why I wonder about the format you've chosen. Humour wise, I think you could increase the impact of the jokes by pruning some and cutting some of the sections, because it is all pitched at the same level I think some oomph is lost. Also, as a consequence, it seems that the novel is trying too hard with some of the jokes and this creates a sense of desperation which detracts. Culling stuff might help alter the level and make it funnier.

Nothing else I think I can really add. Nice idea, well executed, but perhaps in need of a trim.

Adam Thurstman wrote 662 days ago

Dear Shaun

Thank you so much (I think) for making me laugh more than I think you ever intended anyone to. I will confess that I did not read all of your book, in fact I probably only read a 1/4 or so, but that was more than enough to get the idea, and also because I feared that I may perhaps become overly intoxicated by this somewhat dangerous way of thinking; certainly I have been enraptured by your revolutionary concept, and thus may have gotten a little carried away, perhaps even taking the joke beyond it usable effectiveness? (I think some may agree) but that, I suppose that is just 'me'.

Even more seriously (sort of), I wonder if you too have been affected by all this, if so, I am right there with you and for you - mate.

The 99.99% thing is still tickling me; 2 years later and you still have failed to achive the crucial 0.01% left over!

I am 99.99% sure you are a comic genius.

Adam Thurstman wrote 663 days ago

Dear Prospective ‘How to Fail’ Supporter,

Here at the How to Fail support team we have been greatly encouraged by the developing lack of failure in our book’s progress; thanks to the ongoing support of all our members. Please allow us to make you fully aware of our gratitude and thanks to all those who have continued to contribute and partner with us.

It’s is our hope, dream and wish that soon everyone will be able to know how to fail, in a way that they have never known before, so that others will only be able to look on in awe at what a complete mess they have made of their lives.

You can find out more about this great ‘Manual to life’ via the following thread. (Temporarily unavailable till further notice)

We apologise in advance for all our staffing and technical problems we are experiencing and are indebted to Mr De-Thurstman who had kindly allowed us to use his facilities until we have all the necessary equipment, computers, that sort of thing, and our own profile in order for you to contact us directly. In the mean time you can still reach us via Mr De-Thurstman's profile; Here you can find a link to us by clicking on the book ‘How to Fail’, on his book shelf.

Yours faithfully,
The team

Legal Disclaimer:

Any suggestion, reference or otherwise thought of idea that the above is in any way an advert for
Mr De-Thurstman’s book:


(Found via clicking on the name: Adam Thurstman, just to the top left there)

Is merely coincidental.

Su Dan wrote 664 days ago

surely failure is easy! this is a great idea, well written book. very well done...
read SEASONS...

Adam Thurstman wrote 664 days ago


I was on the verge of giving up/a nervous breakdown today, until I read your comments which have alleviated my concerns of the very real prospect that this book would indeed fail.

Since my efforts to resurrect your book I have increased its backings by a massive 400%. Me and the other two new backers: Darin and Leelah, along with Gil now make’s 4, in total. (Although I might be pulling my own backing eventually, for various health reasons).

Last night I accidentally deleted my last message, (a mistake/symptom I think of the mental stress of trying to promote your work). It contained an idea for any forth coming sequel, I have since thought of another one, and here they both are:

1. A chapter about how to overcome the deep-seated fear of failure that seems to exists in all of us. Which hinders those of us who are trying desperately to fail, but as of yet have been unsuccessful.

2. A chapter about how to deal with and or ignore the madness that inevitably ensues in trying to fail.

You may also want to add a mental health warning to the book as a disclaimer, SERIOUSLY! As from personal experience, and judging from your pitch, I think you know how this book a can have a somewhat damaging effect upon ones mental reasoning. This might be wise?

With this in mind, I would like to add the following message to anyone who has been adversely affected by this book; and that a solution to all and any problems you may be facing, can be found in my book: IS ISRAEL REAL? that’s IS ISRAEL REAL? Where in chapter 10, a remedy is given to all ills. In fact this panacea to health is what has indeed kept me sane through all of this; well almost.

I shall now be relinquishing myself imposed duties as chief promoter of your work for a period of rest and reflection, or at least that’s what the doctor calls it. I leave it now in your very capable; although I’m not so sure, hands.

Kindest regard’s
Adam De-Thurstman

Shaun Clayton wrote 665 days ago

Hello! I thought I would elaborate more. I didn't know so many people are actually looking at this, and I thank you all for so many positive comments. I'm on the verge of self publishing this as a start. I actually finished 99.99% of this two years ago and have just done absolutely nothing with it. So, I have failed to even try to fail on a book on how to fail. So, even if nobody reads this book, I this will help me get over that hurdle of self-doubt and super-angst (I don't know if that's a real thing, but it sounds correct) and forward towards getting other written ideas of mine out there.

Again, thank you very much for your kind comments. It's awesome.

Lyn Ventura wrote 665 days ago

HI Shaun,

I never knew failing could be so much fun! Kudos to you on your book! I wish you all the best with it's success, er' or should I say failure. lol In any case many stars from me.

Lyn Ventura
With All My Mind

Adam Thurstman wrote 666 days ago

Hi Shuan,

Since your last posting 5 days ago you have not come back to us, your brief and lackadaisical comment:

‘Thank you for the comments. Hope to do something with this shortly.’

Which you happened to repeat, obviously by accident? But then failed to amend, has left me thinking you must be some kind of comic genius, but as yet has been unable to fulfil their full potential. However, never fear, because I am on to it, and have managed to gather together a ‘small’ but select band of like minded individuals to help you achieve your dream. This team are working tirelessly, (although they are at lunch at the moment) to make your book the success, (or at least less of a failure than it has been) that it deserves to be.

Blessings coming your way soon.
Kindest regards

Adam Thurstman wrote 667 days ago

I was thinking too, that you could do a sequal; 'How to Fail 2' Based on the fact the first book failed to help people fail, so it would therefore be necassary for a further book to be written to help advise on the subject.
What do you/Phineas think. Is he still alive?

Adam De-Thurstman

TDonna wrote 668 days ago

Shaun, I'll never be able to play chess the same ever again! What have you done? You're hilarious. Super well written. This book would make such a fun gift for anyone fun loving :) Truly excellent. I'm sure you'll excel at failing to avoid the success sure to come your way. See ... this is proof that your book has accomplished its purpose and I failed at being a comedienne :) Only a few minor corrections still to be made, but you had me laughing instead of taking notes. I'm giving it high stars :)
(No Kiss Good-bye : the story of escaping communist Romania and the twisted path that eventually brought me to America during the Cold War.)

Wanttobeawriter wrote 668 days ago

This is a funny, funny book. I picture at least two or three sequels explaining all the other things a person could fail doing. I wonder if you considered adding a table of contents so a reader could immediately find the topic they’re most interested in. I thought the chapter on how to fail at playing hockey was hilarious. The last chapter wraps things up very well. A small thing: I’m not sure everyone is going to think the tip on raping a coworker to fail at getting a promotion is going to be funny. Either way, highly starred and added to my shelf. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

JamesRevoir wrote 668 days ago

Absolutely hilarious! 'Nuff said.

Adam Thurstman wrote 668 days ago

WIN £10 INSTANTLY JUST CALL 0800 2580456654085277709128HANGONTHISISABITLONG4729562952543NOITSTOOLONG27584390355305THISCANTBERIGHT284305720$%£$^"£$%&%^*WHATSTHAT!?!?!?!

Adam Thurstman wrote 670 days ago

If you read this please, please click here!

lucidreamer wrote 670 days ago

This ijs wonderful. I think if we are going to make a self help or in this case a self fail book, humar makes it so amazing. Keep up the good write. good luck with this

Adam Thurstman wrote 671 days ago

Hey everybody Shaun's back, let's help him fail at being a failure and get this book published!!!

Adam De-Thurstman

Adam Thurstman wrote 671 days ago

Shaun, where were you?

BTW this is a great book. I just came back to it today to leave another comment, I was going to leave one a day just to ammuse my self.

Adam De-Thurstman

Shaun Clayton wrote 672 days ago

Thank you for the comments. Hope to do something with this shortly.

Shaun Clayton wrote 672 days ago

Thank you for the comments. Hope to do something with this shortly.

Adam Thurstman wrote 672 days ago

This book is funny already and I haven't even begun reading; why? the author hasn't been hear for 700 days and yet it seems brilliant, but like the book it all about failing! I'm tempted to shelve it for that reason alone. Shaun where are you you failure? Humour of the highest order - genius.

Adam De-thurstman

Gil Cleeton wrote 690 days ago

Shaun I have read your book and think it is a brilliant example of lateral and divergent thinking. It admirably negates those who wish you 'Have a Nice Day' when they really mean 'Drop Dead'. I have added it to my list. Maybe if you are old enough you could have a look at my book 'The Quirkies - a Foreplay with America' since it also does not mask the truth? Gil

leelah wrote 981 days ago

I am reading chapter 4 now. I have peed in my pants twice already. LOVE the combinations of food to give to guests to dinnerparties. Oh, I have so much to learn. I'll have your book on my shelf for a L O N G time.

leelah wrote 983 days ago

Oh this is SO good. MUCH better than reading self-help-books, you're helping us to see what brings us forward by demonstrating what does not. And could it be done better than with humor? I L O O V E this

Leelah - wearing pudding on her face, throwing cheese and screaming AAAH, holding up a nude photo of herself
oh please - I need this book in my hands and in my purse.
And do you know there's a bonafide spiritual path, "failing?" the sacred Fool...

Andrew Foley Jones wrote 1373 days ago

Excruciating and hilarious
Novel in the truest sense of the word
Satire at its best

JoeTheAuthor wrote 1423 days ago

Great title pulled me right in! What a great concept...and, I might add, wonderfully executed. Shelved for all the wrong reasons...LOL.

Burgio wrote 1434 days ago

This is a great book: laugh out loud funny. I’ve already done most of the things talked about here: failed to get a promotion, failed at a successful dinner party and how to be a good public speaker . . . and now I know why. Haven’t tried to interfere with Gorongo 6 politics as yet but will keep this handy if that ever becomes a possibility. A small thing: Wollenfailure should have failed at hanging himself because he shot the rope. Good read. Funny Stuff. I’m adding this to my shelf. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

zan wrote 1437 days ago

How to Fail
Shaun Clayton

Delightful and hilarious! Pleasure placing it on my shelf.
(Small nit - the second to last line of your long pitch where you write "based off his words" did you mean to write "based on his words"?) Good luck in finding a publisher Shaun. I enjoyed your writing immensely.

E A M Harris wrote 1437 days ago

This is a great idea and is well developed. I love the way you give Phineas a life, friends etc instead of just making him an anonymous author.

I wish you luck with it - it deserves to be out there giving us all a chuckle. Backed.

(Long Lying Below)

Elizabeth Wolfe wrote 1438 days ago

Much needed humor, wonderful pitch! BACKED -Elizabeth Wolfe (Memories of Glory)

Marija F.Sullivan wrote 1439 days ago

This is very witty and I well written. I will back it with pleasure,

- Weekend Chimney Sweep
- Sarajevo Walls of Fate

A Knight wrote 1439 days ago

Inspirational and meditative writing here, and you don't drag the reader down into philosophy or self-pity. You have struck up a perfect balance of thoughtful and evocative exposition and explanation.

Backed with pleasure.
Abi xxx

DMR wrote 1440 days ago

Delightful ! your writing is so clear and very easy to follow.. love the premise and the stories of how to fail are wittily told.. this is a Keeper! Backed and best wishes
Good Blood

Robert Sherwood wrote 1441 days ago

i enjoyed reading this book very much. A great satire of self-help books. Please write more like this one. I am backing this book, please take a read of my book as well. I think you will like it.

mariecapri wrote 1441 days ago

Hello Shaun. This is really funny and your voice is perfect. I hope you fail to fail with this. Best of luck! mariecapri (Cosmic Linx)

delhui wrote 1441 days ago

Dear Shaun -- I skipped about to see if the rest of the book was as entertaining as the first chapter and found to my great delight that your wit carries all through.

One small request: please look at chapter eight where you talk about Bigfoot and repeatedly use "it's" as a possessive, but that is the contraction of "it is"; possessive usage is "its". A small detail in a fine work.

Thank you for the pleasure of reading your tale, and while I do not plan to take any of your advice, I am happy to back your work. -- J and B, The Long Black Veil

mvw888 wrote 1442 days ago

I am fortunate to have found two very funny books this morning, definitely not a regular occurrence here on authonomy. This is hilarious, really. I love the character you have created in Phineas T. Wollenfellow, and I like when you step back in Chapter 2 to introduce yourself as a co-author and basically, somewhat rational voice. I almost choked on my water with "Doctors have accused me of naturally secreting 'anti-pheremones'!" You have some great bits here, and your tips to the office worker for failure are classic. Great job.
The Qualities of Wood

Jonathon Bellall wrote 1442 days ago

Fancy a read swap Shaun? If so, please have a look at Parallel Lives, and I will have a gander at How to Fail. All the best, Jon.

Amylovesbooks wrote 1442 days ago

This is hilarious. I don't even know where to start. Lightning bugese and the ways in which to fail at public speaking have got to be my favorite bits, but this would make an excellent coffee table book. Still laughing...

Love Match

A. Zoomer wrote 1443 days ago

excitinger, excellentcior, I love the idea and I want to see it executed well. Seriously there is so much to learn from failures. You have chosen to write Failure for Dummies effectively. What about e sequel?
Failing to sit straight on my shelf, I have put the book on its side.
A Zoomer
Going Out in Style

Telegraph wrote 1443 days ago

Awesome read. A different take on self-help and self-destruction. Unique in syle and craft. C W

sjbal wrote 1443 days ago

Hi Shaun,
This is very good indeed. You have a very well judged sense of humour and you use it well within your writing. A very enjoyable read - Shelved.
Good luck,
James (The Lycetta Legacy).

lynn clayton wrote 1444 days ago

As someone who's never read a self-help book, this is for me. Hysterical and a perfect present for those navel-watchers. Might take them out of themselves a bit. Brilliant. Backed. Lynn

lizjrnm wrote 1444 days ago

This is funny and so unique - easy to back as it is truly one of a kind here. BACKED with pleasure.

The Cheech Room

Kidd1 wrote 1444 days ago

Hilarious! Backed.

I hope you will give mine a read and back it if you like it.
Golden Conspiracy

drachat wrote 1444 days ago

This is definitely a different take on a "self-help" genre! Very funny.

It is on my list to add to my shelf; have several books ahead of yours but look for it in a day or so


soutexmex wrote 1444 days ago

Welcome aboard, Shaun. This website will improve your writing craft, if you allow it. You have to think of your pitches as your sales tool to grab the casual reader's eyes. The short pitch works. With the long pitch, break it down into smaller paragraphs so it reads faster. End it with one succinct question to pique interest. Perfecting your pitches is how you climb in ranking to gather more exposure and comments to better your novel. The writing is good so I am SHELVING you.

Though I have been a very active member for over a year, I can still use your comments on my book when you get the chance. Every little bit helps. Cheers!

The Obergemau Key

eloraine wrote 1444 days ago

Fun, funny and great, backed with plesure. E.Loraine Royal Blood Chronicles book one

PATRICK BARRETT wrote 1444 days ago

There is a lot of very good comedy on authonomy and you will join its ranks very easilly. I wonder though, if the idea will stretch to a whole book? Paula Barrett (Cuthbert-how mean is my valley)

David Kidd wrote 1444 days ago

Your book is very amusing. You might find my poetry book 'POEMS FOR WEDDING RECEPTIONS and poems definitely not for wedding receptions' funny too, and you will find my book 'The Remnant' serious, but thought provoking if you give it a serious read. You are backed again.

SusieGulick wrote 1444 days ago

Dear Shaun, I love all of your tips. :) The 3 tips with the muffins was the best ever. :) Before I began to read your book, I was prepared by your recap/pitch,which was very well done. Your story is good because you create interest by having short paragraphs & lots of dialogue, which makes me want to keep reading to find out what's going to happen next. I'm "backing" your book to help it advance - this will help yours & mine move up on the charts. :) Could you please return the favor by taking a moment to "back" my TWO memoir books, "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" & my completed memoir unedited version? "Tell Me True Love Stories," which tells at the end, my illness now & 6th abusive marriage." Thanks, Susie :)
p.s. Remember: Every "backing" you do gives your book points & the other person's book. :)