Syndication: The Nature of the Beast

5 Feb

It’s funny how I grew up always wanting to be a syndicated cartoonist, and then by the time I was actually decent at drawing, the market totally flopped.  I compare it to the likes of if steam trains were around, and if I was a kid wanting to grow up and be a steam train engineer.  But by the time I grew up to become one, everything switched to diesal.

But, unlike steam trains, syndication is still around.  I still ask myself to this day if it would ever be something to strive for.  I think syndication is STILL considered “making it” in many peoples eyes.  Then I also think of how the syndication game is played.  You have editors, you have a dying market and there’s not much pay anymore.  Plus, the material you put into a possible syndicated comic strip has to be so squeaky clean, that you can see your reflection in them almost.

However, syndication DOES offer a little bit of consistent income – or a lot (if you’re Garfield).  You DON’T have to worry about your own marketing, selling, website, etc.  That’s all taken care of for you.  Your main concern would be making the comic strip.  Everything else is done by them.

With webcomics and other areas, cartoonist are like used car salesmen.  If you don’t sell a car, you don’t get paid.  So, you have to know marketing, selling and websites if you want to make it as a web cartoonist, or when pitching comics to magazines or other media. Drawing and writing is the easy part.  80% of the rest is your business knowledge.

All this gets my brain thinking that maybe I should try to come up with a squeaky clean comic that would be good for syndication.  But even if I do create one, and let’s say it’s good – it’s still out of my hands.  It could easily be rejected by a syndicate just because the timing is not right or the stars are not aligned.  They could just as easily cancel it after a little while – just because.

I like having control over my work and income.  It’s tougher this way, but at least it’s somewhat under my control.  I’ve learned a lot over the past year or so about making it on your own as a cartoonist.  Actors in Hollywood have it a LOT easier (to put it mildly).  It’s tough.

My biggest problem is I DON’T have a lot of business knowledge.  I’m working on that though, but I’ve come to the conclusion now that any cartoonist that does want to make it on their own needs to study business a lot more than art.  That’s the truth of it.  If you have the best product on earth, but you don’t know how to market it – it won’t go anywhere!

Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve learned a lot over the past year or so.  Now, I’m more focused on business than cartooning.  Yes, I still draw daily and write.  I’ve got to keep that going.  But, I’ve also been reading a ton on marketing, sales and setting up business plans.  After all, I’m in the business AS  a business – so I need to know what I’m doing.

Having that said…

I don’t think I’ll be playing the syndication game anytime soon.  I might take a stab at it if I have a few moments of free time, but it wouldn’t be my biggest priority.  Might be kind of fun though to get one of their rejection letters in the mail again.  It’s been awhile!


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