Cartoon syndicates market cartoonists comics

Cartoon syndicates are better understood in good books that describe the back end operations as seen by those who are or were closely involved with such operations.

cartoon syndicatesI’ve mentioned author Dave Astor‘s book here in the ToonBlog in the past and to follow is another excerpt from the book Comic (And Column) Professional that offers Dave’s insights from 1983 (which I think are interesting!):

One March trend story from 1983 was about the increase in stuffed animals, greeting cards, and other licensed products picturing comic strip characters such as Snoopy from Charles Schulz‘s 1950-launched “Peanuts” comic strip and that fat cat from Jim Davis’ 1978-launched “Garfield” cartoon strip.

Syndicates are cartoon marketing specialists

Syndicates make a good chunk of their profits via licensing, and a few cartoonists become rich indeed. Schulz – and later his estate – often earned more than $20 million a year.

“What are the syndicates?” my friends would ask in 1983. The simple answer is they’re non-Sopranos companies that receive submissions from cartoonists and columnists eager to see their work in newspapers.

Syndicates sign a handful of these aspiring creators, then market and sell their features to as many newspapers and other media outlets as possible.

Cartoons that are syndicated can generate a lot of interest

When I say a handful, I mean only a handful! A large syndicate might receive 10,000 submissions a year and sign fewer than a dozen.

This means syndicates are “gatekeepers” that choose the best content to offer newspapers and other clients. But there are many excellent submissions that syndicates don’t choose, perhaps because these features are deemed to controversial, not mainstream enough, etc., to sell to a wide pool of newspapers based in locales ranging from liberal to very conservative.

This is why some people feel syndicates choose only the best of the content that’s sort of “white bread.”

Syndicates also collect feature fees from their media subscribers, and then give most creators roughly 50% of that money. Small circulation clients usually pay less than $5 per week.

While at the other end of the spectrum, larger newspapers will pay upwards of $50 per week. for a comic or a column. So, selling a comic strip to the huge New York Times would be a real coup, Oops – bad example, given that the Times doesn’t have a comics section…