Self Syndicating Cartoons

Self Syndicated Cartoons

self syndicating cartoonsSelf syndicating cartoons in newspapers was taking place in 1990. Years ago I self syndicated packages of cartoons to newspapers across the United States and to papers in provinces throughout Canada.

I had local printers make flyers and brochures that displayed various samples of my panels and listed other newspapers that were publishing my single panel gags. There was no actual set of steady characters I included in a typical panel or comic strip but rather an array of gag ideas that I assembled in package form and showed to editors through the mail.

Tactics I used For Selling Cartoon Packages

I bought mailing lists from list brokers that specialized in offering pressure sensitive labels that were gathered from SIC (standard industrial classification) codes you could choose.

I chose the newspaper industry which back in the 70’s and 80’s was flourishing. This flourishing business prompted me to bypass the competitive nature of newspaper cartoon syndicates and try selling my work directly to those papers I targeted or to whom I thought would be interested in seeing and hopefully publish my work.

Self syndicated cartoons for newspapers

I simply was impatient in sending packages out to editors at syndication offices and waiting for decisions to be made – I felt my work was good enough to stand on it’s own.

The syndicates were also receiving an average of 6,000 separate proposals per yer year from which only a very select few were chosen and upon those that were chosen, there was no guarantee they’d end up in a multitude of newspapers.

It was up to other elements such as timing, the quality of the writing of the gags, how aggressive a syndicate sales man could sell your work and alot more . . . so I decided to promote directly to the editors and publishers themselves.

It isn’t as easy as one would imagine….you need to plan and decide upon a mailing budget, a budget for printing and the additional expense of follow-up telephone calls which I did alot of.

Align Yourself With Authoritative Professionals

UFO Alien CartoonOne person who was pivotal in my attempt to sell my work to the newspapers was none other that Dave Astor who was an editor at a newspaper trade industry publication called Editor & Publisher.

I ran occasional display advertising in the syndication section when I was sending out my packages to act as a form of enhancing the visibility of my campaign.

At the time, advertising costs relating to display ads were not cheap but added to the potential visibility aspect of my approach.

What Dave Astor had done to add even more attention to my campaign was write a small paragraph as to what I had been doing at the time.

That extra added content in a national magazine meant a lot and I was getting various inquiries from newspapers like The Philadelphia Enquirer and publishers who owned “chains” of weekly papers asking for discounts or quotes if they used a same cartoon across multiple papers that belonged to their chain of publications.

It got nerve-wracking to the point of having so much paperwork to keep track of and this was pre-internet when hardcopy paperwork was the norm.

The Erosion Of A Self Syndicated Venture

Robot CartoonI didn’t mind it a bit because I had my cartoons appearing in papers throughout the U.S. and some up in Canada.

One thing I had to keep in mind was that it is an ever evolving business where papers get sold, editors get sick and pass away and a new one takes over.

You’ll also realize publishers and editors who may not be familiar with your work or even like your sense of humor.

Add all of this into the mix of continually promoting my work and trying to actually create new backup material it had gotten to be a burden….and I could see how having access to this thing called “the internet” could have alleviated so much excess “work” at that time.

As time marched ahead, the newspaper business took a hit based on various factors such as the impact of electronic advertising, consolidation of newspapers and the groups that ran them, newsprint costs and more.

Publishers considered content like cartoons and columns as “secondary” to actual news or stories they wanted to run in those papers.

If you are curious to get an insider look at the inner workings of a trade magazine, how a new journalist and editor is hired into an unusual position and gets to meet big name cartoonists like Charles Schulz, Lynn Johnston and Mort Walker then I highly recommend Dave Astor’s book Comic (and Column) Confessional published by Xenos Press that can be found online and you can also find many of Dave’s writings at Huffington Post by doing a simple search on their site. Whether or not syndicating your own material is a feasible way of selling your work is speculative because so many variables exist….timing, your budget, the quality of your idea (writing and artistic appeal etc.) and so much more.

If I were to offer any advice, I would definitely say to experiment and make some initial test approaches with your local newspaper or even those newspapers, both daily and weekly which are in a  100 or even 200 mile radius.

Don’t be discouraged and most of all keep your budget in mind….when I sent packages of my work, I had phone  and fax bills, print advertising costs, mailing costs, bills paid to printing shops and other unexpected costs and this was many years ago and am sure costs have risen exponentially since then.

Good luck and if you noticed some of the editors begin to respond by actually publishing your work, then build up momentum by intensifying your efforts.