Selling Cartoons to Magazines

I've been getting questions about what I do. Questions like:

What's your process?

Or, 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.

The editor doesn't have to disable a firewall, click to see the cartoon, and then print the cartoon if he's interested in it. You mail an envelope full of hard copy cartoons, and all the editor has to to do is open it and there they are; tangible, and ready to go to a meeting.

Editors 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, for instance. 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 the 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 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 established publications 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.

-- The above was a rerun from September 28, 2007.

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