Susanna McLeod - Giggling Your Way to Publication

3 October 2003

   So, you’ve been sketching and drawing like crazy, making googly eyes, bouffant hair and animals that talk. You’ve gotten the pen work down fine. Your characters are looking more in tune with your ideas every day, and your gags are funnier than the ones in last week’s newspaper. The only problem is: how to get those hilarious cartoons to be seen and enjoyed by your soon-to-be-adoring public.

    The usual method of getting comics noticed has been to create a collection of comics, including Sundays, and submit the bundle of your dreams with tense anticipation to the big syndicates. Saying your prayers, clutching a furry rabbit’s foot, crossing your fingers and your eyes for good luck can’t hurt. The syndicates each receive thousands of cartoon submissions a year by hopeful cartoonists. For example, King Features Syndicate receives more than 6,000 strips and panels to examine. Out of that huge number they choose three new cartoons to publish. Sounds kinda sad, doesn’t it? But have hope, oh devoted doodler! There are a couple of easier ways to get your cartoons out to potential fans.

    If internet readers are the target audience for your work, perhaps “Comics Sherpa” would be just the ticket. For a small fee, your comics can be listed with both popular classic strips and new creations. You can add new comics as often as you want, plus your work gets the same service as the classics – e-mail subscriptions and e-postcards, too. Described as “Your Guide to Undiscovered Comics,” your site would be fully managed by the ucomics.com group. Readers vote on your work and also give feedback that could help you improve your strip or panel. The fee is $9.95/month for six months or $99/year (US dollars) with the small catch that you must “Promise that if we make you a star, you'll give us a chance to match any distribution offer you receive.”

    Have a look at the Comics Sherpa offer at: http://www.comicssherpa.com/site/index

    Another way to get noticed by a syndicate is through the FineToon Fellowship offered by the Washington Post Writers Group. The Group calls for cartoon submissions once a year, then narrows the list down to four winners. (They accepted submissions from May 1 to June 30th this year – lots of time to get a good cartoon worked out to submit next year.) The chosen cartoonists then sign on for a one-year development contract with the Washington Post Writers Group. It includes a $5,000 stipend. The cartoonists’ obligation is to provide ongoing samples of their comic as it develops and to give the Group first option on syndication. Winners also attend three seminars during the year to learn about the business of cartooning. For the 2004 contest, just over 400 submissions were received. Pretty good odds, eh?

    Matt Janz, creator of “Out of the Gene Pool,” was a recent FineToon winner and now a syndicated cartoonist:   (His cartoon has been renamed "Single and Looking.) http://www.postwritersgroup.com/comics/singleandlooking.htm

    If you choose the customary method of submitting to the large syndicates, there are several standard guidelines to follow:

  •    Send your best cartoon work. Show your true skill in drawing and humour.
  •    Keep your art and lettering clean and legible . Work in any size you prefer as long as it
       can be reduced to the desired size without distortion.
  •    Use pens or ink for good, crisp reproduction.
  •    Make sure your ideas are original.
  •     Send only copies of your hard work. Never send the originals. Attach your name and
       address to each page.
  •     Most syndicates require four to six weeks of daily toons (that’s 24 to 36 pieces)
       to be able to properly judge skill and consistency. Some syndicates request a Sunday or two,
       also.

    Along with your comics, send a letter describing your comic and a few words about yourself. In the case of ucomics.com, you may send a URL to show your work on the web. Enclose a business-size SASE for a response from the Syndicate, or if you wish your submission returned, send proper packaging and postage. Be patient. It may take six weeks to several months before there is any response.

    If you get a rejection letter, (and most aspiring cartoonists do) keep trying. Some of the best-known cartoonists struggled for years before they were accepted.

    Good luck! Syndicates are always searching for the next best cartoonist. It just might be you.

© Susanna McLeod 2003
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)