Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cover Letters

When I first started to cartoon, I knew nobody and knew nothing about the business. Since I had been unsuccessful in selling a comic strip to the syndicates, I decided I would try for magazine cartooning.

I knew I could find the address of the art director of a magazine by looking in the masthead. I knew to really look at the publication to determine what kind of cartoons they might like. I knew if I worked hard, I could make a go at getting published.

But what about a cover letter? They don't know who I am.

I only did a cover letter maybe the first year that I drew magazine cartoons. I wrote all the usual things, telling editors:

  • my name,
  • that I was a full-time freelance cartoonist,
  • that my work had all ready appeared in _________, ________, and __________,
  • and that I was able and willing to do other stuff, like illustrations, in addition to cartoons.

Heck, the "full-time freelance cartoonist ... willing to do other stuff" description was really just code for "I just quit my day job and am scared out of my ever lovin' mind that I will never see another dime, so I'm willing to mow your lawn, drive the kids to Gymboree, clean out your septic tank, etc."

I tried my best at mentioning places where my work had appeared that might impress. I had done computer graphics work for a number of large companies in NYC. It wasn't cartooning, but I mentioned it.

Along with the cover letter in the manila envelope (cheaper than the white envelope) would be a batch of 10-15 magazine cartoons for the editor to look at, along with a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

I would mail cartoons to magazines for months. Every thirty days, out would go another batch, another SASE and that same old cover letter.

After a while, I got rid of that cover letter. I was getting tired of including the thing, even though I knew that it reassured the reader who I was and what I was doing.

But, my batch of cartoons could speak for itself. It didn't need reassurance.

It took about 6 months before I made my first sale to a national magazine.

My thanks to Richard Blanco for suggesting this idea at the Andertalk forum.


Richard Blanco said...

Thanks, Mike, your advice is always priceless.

Mike Lynch said...

Ditto: fodder for the Mike Lynch Cartoons blog, Richard -- so THANKS!!!