Thursday, August 23, 2012

Number of Submissions/Cartoon Style

I'm on the road today, meeting with my fellow RACONTEUR cartoonist contributors. Here's an entry from 2009:


Time to open the email letter bag of cartooning questions. One email is about the number of gag cartoon submissions to send to an editor, another has questions about cartoon styles and, lastly, a question about selling to Playboy. My thanks in advance to those who have written in, asking me to answer them.


Here's a recent email about magazine cartooning:

How many cartoons do you really have to send to a magazine. I have read your blog's 'How to Submit to Magazines' and you mention between 10 and 20.

I've also read Randy Glasbergen's how-to-cartoons book and he says no fewer than six. Another book says between five and ten.

Now, I'm not submitting to any big magazines, like the Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post or anything like that--just little $25 ones.

And basically, I want to know how few cartoons can I get away with. I know I'm going to be rejected first off, and I hate the idea of doing up 10, 12, 15 cartoons for nothing. And I'm still practicing my art and it takes me forever to actually finish a complete drawing.

Will a magazine really dismiss a submission if they open it up and find only six or eight cartoons? Do I really look bad to editors if I send only that many?

You must be one of the few people out there who have recently decided to draw magazine gag cartoons. Congratulations and much good luck.

Please consider speeding up production. Taking forever to finish a cartoon is not going to make you a professional. You need to be able to come up with a lot of ideas regularly. I come up with 20-40 ideas a week, toss out about half of the weak cartoons, and draw up the rest. There is no magic, just the work of sitting down and drawing and drawing, until you can draw faster and faster.

I urge you not to limit your submissions. Consider all of the potential markets you want to cover. Make a list. The places that pay the most go on the top of the list; you send them the cartoons first. If there are no buys, then 30 days later you send the cartoons to the next lower-paying market, and so on, down the list.

I would not count on rejection. Yeah, it's likely, but you never know. A friend of mine got a sale the very first time he submitted to The New Yorker. So far as wanting "to know how few cartoons can I get away with" sending; gee whiz, you are working against your own interests. Editors want to see regular, quality material that's appropriate to their readership. If you can only get 6 or 8 out there every couple of months, that may not be a good sampling of your potential. An editor would look at it, but when you compete with someone like me or my pal Mark Anderson, you would have your 6 chances against our 10 or 20 chances.

Okay, here's some technique questions:


How do/did you decide on what style, medium and/or technique to use for rendering your cartoons? I ask because I have cartoon ideas but have trouble choosing what style I want to use. My style is always changing. It seems to depend upon what happens to be influencing my creativity that day. On some days my drawings are loose and free. On other days they are crisp and tight. Sometimes the lines are smooth and bold. At other times my lines are fun and artsy and sketchy. I've tried working with micron pens (crosshatch for shading), brush pens (grey scales for shading), pencils, china markers, ball point pens, and so on. I just can't decide which I like best. And the feedback I get from others doesn't help me narrow down my options much either because responses are split pretty evenly.

So, none of this is problematic until it comes time for me to submit a cartoon to a publisher. It is clear that at this rate -- until I can decide upon a style -- I'll never submit anything. That's no good.

If you are in art school or drawing as a hobby, it's fun to talk about technique and try new materials.

You're right: it's no good to NOT begin presenting your work commercially because you are too unsettled about your technique to get on with it. If you want to draw for a living, you need to create work to submit.

I think it's okay to be unsettled. The work that you create changes through the years regardless. Mine did. Two examples:

I use Pigma Micron Pens on 24 lb. laser printer typing paper because the pens are permanent and the paper is decent and inexpensive. I usually do not pencil. This saves me time and makes my lines look like drawing lines, not lines that art statically tracing pencil lines.

Above: "The Pens on My Desk"

So, just as it's never the right time to move, to marry, to have a child -- it may never be the right time to pick a style. But, as you can see from the above links, a style can and will change.

One of my favorite quotes about style is from the late gag cartoonist Lo Linkert, who scoffed about style and advised to simply "draw fast" and the style will emerge naturally. I wrote more about Lo Linkert (1923-2002) during a guest blogging-stint at the Andertoons blog here.

Here's a quote from Mr. Linkert:

“So if you want to be a cartoonist, be sure that there is nothing else in the world that you want to be, work hard and practice self-criticism to the utmost. Make sure every new cartoon you draw is better than the last one. Be sure that it will seem funny to most people. You can’t please them all. Work fast because speed gives you a distinct style. Slow lines look stiff.”
Do we have time for one more? I think so.

Here's another:

Selling to Playboy Magazine

I would like to know if you could offer any advise on my work or how to get my foot in the door with Playboy Cartoon Dept.

It took me years and many cartoon submissions before my first sale to Playboy, which is a coveted gag cartoon market.

Consider what the editor wants and imagine what they have seen already. Beware of cartoon ideas that are tired, or too easy. See what they are buying, read the magazine. Playboy publishes a variety of cartoons -- not just the sexy ones (as you know if you have read the mag). Persist.

Thanks to those of you who have written in. I don't know if these are the answers you are looking for, but I hope that they may have helped somebody.

Serendipitiously related: My pal graphic novelist Brian Fies gives Newbie Advice.


The above is a bloggy rerun from August 12, 2009.

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