“Why don’t you publish your comic on newspapers?”on November 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm
Since I’ve been asked this many times over the months, I wrote this long post to answer it in detail:
Yes, I would love to see my work published on newspapers, but since I started doing my research on how to go about it, I’ve been torn; at least as far as newspaper syndication goes. It’s not as straightforward as applying=getting in=yay! Please read on (I know it’s long, but it’s got tons of good info).
The letter posted below was extracted from this link, but I’ve found this same info echoed all across the web in many articles and forums:
In short, the syndication system works as follows: The major syndicates get thousands upon thousands of submissions each year. A total of about twenty strips are chosen for publication by all of the syndicates combined (each syndicate launches about two strips a year). Maybe five or so survive past the first couple years.
And… let’s say you *do* get chosen by a newspaper syndicate. What then? Well, you have to hope a couple hundred papers buy the strip from the syndicate before you can make a living wage (after the syndicate takes its cut). The cost of buying a comic strip from a syndicate hasn’t risen significantly since sometime in the 70s. And newspapers themselves are experiencing plummeting circulation and ad revenue.
Several syndicated cartoonists have not made enough money from their comics to justify them quitting their “day jobs.” In other words, many of these men and women are doing their syndicated comics in the spare time left over after a 40-hour work week! (and to my knowledge, that means doing 6 regular strips per week plus a Sunday strip)
Which brings me to your question: “Is online syndication a viable way to make a living?”
Let me make this perfectly clear: Heck, no.
Well, there are a lot of buts.
Once you use the Web to build your audience, you can start monetizing your strip. Self-syndication is an excellent way of doing this. You can sell strips to magazines and you can approach newspapers about running your strip without the Syndicate playing middle-man. Better still, since you have access to your Web traffic stats, you can prove to the editors of those newspapers that you have a proven track record of building readership.
Self-publishing is another great way of bringing in revenue. Using companies such as Lulu.com, you can publish your own high-quality book and sell it online. They take care of credit-card transactions and distribution and you set your own royalty.
Merchandising is the third way to monetize your comic. Mousepads, coffee mugs, T-shirts, etc. Once you build that readership high enough, you can make some very good money off of these ventures.
And finally, licensing. Movie and TV production studios are becoming very aware of self-published comics. Of the four, it is perhaps the biggest long-shot in terms of reliable revenue, but it exists.
The degree to which you can earn a living wage from your self-published comic is directly related to your ability to produce a comic that will build a huge daily readership.
In other words, it’s about the same as your ability to earn a living wage as a syndicated cartoonist — except, you don’t need anyone’s approval to start building that audience today. And furthermore, as you *do* start to make money from your business, you will be keeping 100% of your profits rather than sharing perhaps 50% with a giant corporation. So, by my reckoning, that makes for a lot faster transition to full-time cartoonist.
There are a few people that have been able to quit their day jobs through self-publishing their cartooning. You could probably count them on the fingers of one or two hands. But I’d hazard a guess that it’s about as many or more than the number of people that have been able to quit their day jobs through syndicated cartooning over the same period of time (I’d say over the past 6-8 years or so).
Another thing: self-publishing allows me to be the sole owner of all my work; with syndicates…eh, things get a bit obscure.
So there you have it. Self-publishing isn’t necessarily much better, but learning about how syndication works has made me think twice about getting the comic out there via that route. I’ll keep researching to see if I can find better ways about it, but like the letter above just suggested, I also hope to start self-publishing the comic strips in book collections of 100 strips each, or so. I haven’t reached that number yet, but when I do, be sure I’ll be working on the first book!
So if you’d like to help me out, help me spread the word on this comic!