Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gag Cartoon Markets

I was away, doing some yard work with my Dad in Pittsburgh this past week.

(From left: me, a trestle that was once full of wisteria (called "hysteria," since it had overtaken the trestle), and the lovely puss of Misha the dog. "Pat me! Pat me!" he's saying. Awww. How can one resist?)

(My dad's routine for relaxing Nellie the dog.)

It was great to see family and it was also pretty great that I got a couple of checks in the mail at home while I was away. That's always nice, especially since last week I was doing more pruning and cutting and putting in window wells and raking and hedge-trimming than cartooning.

"I wish I got checks in the mail," commented Dad.

Don't we all!

OK, let's segue to cartoons ....

When I first started cartooning seriously (i.e., I had quit my regular job and I NEEDED MONEY!!!!), I read those Artists Guides books and they were of little help. They did not have all of the markets in them, and sometimes their information was just plain wrong. And some of the markets paid in copies of the magazine. Yikes!

So I went to the book stores and libraries, and I looked for anything that had cartoons. I then mailed cartoons to the Art Director at these magazines. Some of my early markets that I mailed to:

The New Yorker

Wall Street Journal


USA Weekend

Now, I started doing this a while ago. I would mail out a batch (10-15 cartoons) with a SASE every 4 weeks. The New Yorker I mailed to every week.

This is how long it took to get published:

The New Yorker (Rejected since 2000 -- but I'm still trying)

Wall Street Journal (Took 6 months to make my first sale)

Barron's (Two years to make my first sale)

USA Weekend (No longer publishing freelance cartoonists)

Yeah, obviously there are more markets than this! I'm not mentioning all the family magazines and other business publications. I persisted, and began selling. Within a couple years, I was mailing cartoons to places that did not use cartoons.

(Above: a cartoon for BBC Music Magazine)

I mailed off a batch or 2 to BBC Music Magazine, and I was surprised when I got an e-mail from the AD. They wanted to buy my cartoons regularly. For about 3 years, BBC was a steady client, until there was an ownership change in the magazine.

And then I sent some cartoons to some glossy poetry and prose magazines. The one above appeared in one. Now they're a regular client.

I won't tell you the name of the client. But, heck, you can go to the newsstand and see some of these markets I'm talking about. And I noticed I had a lot of cartoons: dog cartoons for dog magazines, women in business cartoons for business women magazines, etc. So I started to craft my batches for these new markets. And I persisted.

Now I'm in the above book, and I also have cartoons in magazines and at Web sites and I'm in calendars and text books.

If you do good work, other people will respond to it. And the quality of your work may inspire an editor to take the leap and add your cartoons to their content. Most editors will not feel your work is right, but there is a certain number of markets that will become new revenue streams.

And then you can go and visit your family for a couple of days, safe in the knowledge that your cartoons are in dozens of magazines' editorial offices while you rake some leaves and poke around (in my case) Pittsburgh. And maybe you'll be getting a check while you're away.


Unknown said...

Hi Mike.

It's great that you've been able to make a living as a cartoonist. I sold a few cartoons long ago (sold with my first batch in fact) and now I'm picking up the pen again. My question: what do you think of today's market situation? From what I'm seeing, magazine markets are dwindling fast, but most cartoonists don't seem too concerned. For my part, I think of cartooning as an interesting hobby, but I'd also like to make it pay. Since your article was written way back in 2006, I'm interested in your current perspective. Any insights appreciated. Thanks!

Mike Lynch said...

Sun, that's a good question. A major magazine market tends to drop out every 18 months now.

Diversification is the best thing to do. I send cartoons to places that don't use them, for instance. I just sold a cartoon to a textbook, I have a cartoon in a calendar this year, I've been working more and more for paying clients on the Web, drawing cartoons and illustrations.

This would make a good topic for another blog entry. Thanks for writing, Sun.