The Cartooning Business

Quitting my day job -- which was years back now -- required a leap of faith. I didn't know a soul in the pro cartoonists "industry" when I started out.

My routine was I'd draw up 20-30 cartoons a week, throw half of them away and then mail out the good stuff to the art director listed in the masthead of the magazine or newspaper I had targeted. Every week I would do the same. It was not that "creative," it was not "fun," but it was something that I thought I had a knack for.

And it was hard work. It took many months before I got my first sale.

"Did you ever think you'd get to your hundredth cartoon?" asked Bob Mankoff, leaning back in his chair. He was holding one of my cartoons, staring at a small, penciled 3-digit number in the corner. I was in his office, on one of those "look days," when invited cartoonists are allowed past the Conde Nast security phalanx, and get to have a sit down with the New Yorker's cartoon editor. I think I had drawn under a thousand cartoons at that point. Anyway, that penciled number was probably in the 500-700 range.

"Well, I knew I had ideas for maybe a dozen cartoons the first week I started drawing single panel gag cartoons, but that second week ... well, that was harder. And it's not gotten necessarily easier." I had been submitting for maybe 3 years when we had this conversation. And my visit with him ended like so many other visits to the New Yorker; with him holding some of my cartoons and inviting me to, "Come back next week."

And so I do. But so far, no sales at the New Yorker.

But my work sells to other markets, and so that's good.

I've always thought that my stuff sells because it's funny. I think that because there is no other reason to buy, right? That's what the editors want. Why would an editor buy without an eye to content?

Then again, I just got 15 cartoons rejected today -- 15 real good, rejected, homeless, non-money-making cartoons. Heck, one of them should have sold. At least one!!!

"How do you know for sure," asked a student cartoonist,"that they're even looking at your submissions?"

Well, you don't know. You just have to depend on the kindness of strangers, and have faith that your good work -- like the fizz of a Guinness -- will float to the top.

(Above: Our Sam the cat poses next to a couple of submissions packages to be mailed this day.)

-- The above was a rerun from February 2, 2007.

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