During the first couple of years I was sending cartoons to magazines, I was fortunate to be part of the Berndt Toast Gang, the legendary group of cartoonists in Long Island. Many hours of shop talk with fellow pros really helped me.
Some years ago, during a Berndt Toast Gang get together, I was sitting at a table having lunch with some cartoonists. Valerie Costantino was there, and we were, as usual, having an intense conversation about gag cartooning. Valerie was always intense about cartooning, and it showed in her quick, confident cartoon style. She was selling gag cartoons to all of the top markets.
"What do you do when you don't hear back?" was the question.
What should a cartoonist do if a month has gone by, and there's still response to a gag cartoon submission? No rejection note, no email, no phone call, nothing.
Do you wait, do you call, send a polite email? What?
I told her I wait 30 days, and if I don't hear anything, I assume that there is no sale.
There was some debate around the table about this.
My feeling is if you are sending cartoons to magazines, then you need to be a shark: constantly moving. If my batch of 10 cartoons does not sell at, for instance, the Wall Street Journal, after 30 days, then it's time to mail that batch to another business market.
I miss Valerie, and those conversations with her about markets and how we conduct our business. Cartooning is the only profession I know where you're pals with your competitors!
Valerie passed away ten years ago. She had been battling cancer for years. She did it bravely and quietly. She preferred to talk cartooning over her health. I think of her when I get asked questions about markets. Valerie was one of the many great cartoonists in the Berndt Toast Gang.
We used to go up to the New Yorker offices together. In 2004, her new comic strip was ready to launch with the Washington Post Syndicate, and she had cartoons in Reader's Digest and Harvard Business Review. I think it was just a matter of time before she got into The New Yorker.
My point, as I reminisce with you, my friend, is that we do not know how much time we're going to get. If you're going to cartoon, get on with it. Val sure did.
This is an edited version of a blog post I wrote on April 9, 2009.