Friday, September 28, 2007

Selling Cartoons to Magazines

I've been getting questions about what I do. How does something I draw at home, on a board, get into a magazine like Harvard Business Review?

Here's the process:

I send cartoons to HBR maybe once a month. I send a batch of 10-20 cartoons. I mail hard copies, with my contact information on the back of each one. I enclose a SASE. Yeah, I mail paper to them. Paper is better. This is my opinion. The editor doesn't have to disable a firewall, click to see the cartoon, and then print the cartoon if they're interested in it. You send an envelope full of cartoons, and all the editor has to to do is open it and there they are; tangible, and ready for them to go to a meeting.

They have meetings throughout the year. I'm not sure how many, but it's probably between 5-7 meetings a year. I've never attended any of these meetings, but I know from descriptions that a number of editors are involved and decisions on cartoons are group decisions. Maybe the cartoon editor does an initial sort, but the final batches are picked by a group.

I try not to edit myself too much. I try to send cartoons that I feel are appropriate. And I also throw in odd things here and there. Harvard bought a cat cartoon from me this week, and who knew that a business mag would buy a cat cartoon?

I got a question a while back asking about a batch of cartoons I mailed to Wall Street Journal. I can't find the comment (It's lost somewhere on another thread in this blog.), but the fellow had a good question: he was asking about a batch of cartoons I mailed to the Wall Street Journal. He wanted to know if I requested a set price from WSJ for the batch, or if they just bought a couple, and they decided on the price to pay me. It's the latter.

When WSJ (or any other publication in the business of buying cartoons) is going to buy from you, they have a set rate. All the magazines do. You can't negotiate a different rate.

Once, during a Q&A panel discussion on cartooning, someone asked how I chose where to send my cartoons. I said I started with the markets that paid the most, and worked my way down.

Anything can happen during this process: you can not be able to sell to a market despite your best efforts, you may run out of good gags, a publication will suddenly go from buying your great cartoons to not buying them, etc.

The people who give up are the norm. The rest -- the ones who slog through the not-selling, the no-idea, the collapse of markets times -- those are cartoonists.


Gregory Kogan said...

I'm the one who asked about the price... Thanks a lot for your answer.

Mike Lynch said...

Hey Greg. I'm sorry I lost your question -- but glad that this blog was of some use. See ya in the funny papers!

Mark Anderson said...

As much as I rely on the web now, there's really no substitute for getting the call or the letter from a magazine.

BTW, where were you and your blog when I needed this info like 12 years ago?! Huh, pally?!

Spikey said...

Hi Mike, I just recently came across your blog and I think it's great that you have provided so much information about the business side of cartooning.

If you don't mind I also have a question. Once a magazine has picked a cartoon from the batch, do you then send them the original art itself or email them a digital image?


Srini Bhukya said...

Mike, I always wanted to ask you, do you write the caption manually or typeset on computer then take a hard copy?

John R. Platt said...

Hey Mike -- do you send a #10 SASE for a reply or a large SASE to return the entire package? (In the writing world, we transitioned to the #10 SASE years ago, and I've always wondered if it was the same for artists.)

Mike Lynch said...

Thanks, all, for your interesting comments. I'll answer them on the ol' Mike Lynch Cartoons blog ....

J Gilpin said...


Thanks for opening my eyes to a before now mystical process. You are very generous to potentially open up the way for even more competition! I admire your selflessness. Hope I'm not giving you second thoughts!!

Please visit our blog if you have a chance!
Would enjoy corresponding with you!

Kind Regards,

Jonathan Gilpin
Lexington KY Comic Creators Group

cerebrand said...

thank you so much for so clear explanation. it is really valuable for a budding cartoonist like me. you must be very busy with your works and ideas.and with that i just have started a blog and there is a small number of postings yet.
will you please visit my blog and comment if i have that THING in me ?
thanks again.

Unknown said...

Hi Mike, I am a Danish cartoonist and I am sending and selling my cartoons by e-mail to Danish magazines. I would like to try and sell some of my cartoons to magazines in US, but I don’t a SASE that I could in the letter. Can I send cartoons without a SASE or is it possible to send cartoons by e-mail to US magazines?

Brian said...

Thanks for this information. As a cartoonist myself who has been trying to sell my work I didn't know if I should set a price, or if they would have a price...

Thanks! Great info. :)