Adventures in Cartooning - Week 1
"Adventures In Cartooning" is a series of articles about one man's journey to become a full-time cartoonist.
Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of hubs where I'm going to share my journey into making a living as a cartoonist.
There will be comic strips.
There will be cartooney sketches and works in progress.
There will be earnings reports (I HOPE!!!).
And, of course, there will be snapshots into the daily life of a cartoonist, along with tips and insights into how to become a cartoonist in the Age of the Internet (it's hard, by the way).
Just to be clear...I'm not a full-time "professional" cartoonist just yet. I'm on my way, but I have a long way to go.
Still, after a lifetime of dreaming about it, I finally took the plunge and contacted an online publisher last week to pitch my services. What happened? Well, I FINALLY sold my first comic strip this past week, and let me tell you, that was a dream come true.
It felt better than sex (sorry, Babe).
It felt better than burritos (sorry, Roberto's).
It even felt better than alcohol (sorry, Jack).
There's nothing like financial compensation to confirm your abilities and make you feel like your dreams aren't just childhood fantasies. I can now say that I am...*ahem*...a "PAID CARTOONIST"!
I love it!
Nothing boosts your motivation like actually getting paid for your work!
I highly recommend it! =)
So, after toying with the idea of becoming a cartoonist for my whole life and occasionally doodling something for my kids' school projects, it's now official.
I am a cartoonist.
Here's what went down this week...
- Cartoons drawn this week: 7
- Cartoons sold this week: 1
- Earnings this week: $50
My Weekly Earnings As A Freelance Cartoonist...
Back To The Drawing Board
This past week has been a lot of fun for me.
After a fairly long hiatus, I finally got back into drawing cartoons and chasing my dream of making a living as a cartoonist. I had a fairly productive week, but I have to admit, out of the seven comic strips I made this week, five of them were basically just remakes of old cartoons I drew a couple of years ago for an old blog.
But, progress is progress. The remakes are definitely improvements over the originals, and it's nice to have a head start on building up a buffer of cartoons that are ready and waiting to be published.
Here's one of the remakes below...
An Old Dinkledorfs Comic...
And The Remake...
Cartooning for Fun...and Profit?
I don't just want to draw comics.
When I was a kid, that's what I thought about: drawing cartoons and comic books. It was pure and cool and innocent and beautiful. I didn't think about the money. I didn't think about how to break into the industry. I didn't try to promote myself or my work. I never even asked, "How do you become a professional cartoonist?"
I just drew stuff.
But today, I'm 41.
I have a wife and two teenagers and a missing 3-legged cat (seriously).
I have bills.
My life is half-over (if I'm lucky!), and I want to spend my working hours making money while doing something that I love. It also turns out that I'm not all that great at making money in more traditional ways like normal people, and I'm feeling a little bit stuck. So why not, right?
Well, making a living as an artist has always been a great challenge. Most of the greatest artists throughout history lived and died in poverty and only became "successful" after they died!
That's not exactly what I'm shooting for, here.
So it's always been hard to make a living as an artist. Very specifically, it's always been hard to make a living as a cartoonist, and there's a pretty unanimous consensus in the industry that it's now harder than ever before here in the Internet Age, with so many publishers going out of business and BAJILLIONS of talented artists flooding the market with cartoons and lowballing each other.
And don't get me started on the plagiarists and content-stealers!
Digital Technology And The Internet Are Killing The Print Industry
You know this already.
Newspapers are folding left and right.
Books stores are shutting down all the time.
E-books and e-zines and e-newspapers and "free content" are here to stay.
Print industries are dying, and cartoonists' careers are dying right along with them.
A couple of years ago, I got myself all fired up to chase my dreams and become a cartoonist and get my comic strips into the newspapers. That's when I created my strip, "The Dinkledorfs" with the hope of getting syndicated. But as I researched it, my hopes began to die pretty quickly. Many of the best cartoonists in the world can't even make a living at it anymore, so how can I expect to do any better?
That's a good question.
I'm still working on the answer.
But I know that STEP ONE is to draw those cartoons, so that's what I've been focusing on this past week, and that's what I need to continue focusing on next week too.
But beyond improving my skills at telling jokes through drawing, I think that STEP TWO to becoming a successful cartoonist these days is marketing and self-promotion. You can't just do it the way they've been doing it for the past 50 years or whatever. You can't just try to follow in the steps of Charles Schultz (Peanuts) and Jim Davis (Garfield) and expect to make it.
Sure, there are still newspapers out there, and those papers get their comic strips from the big syndicates (companies who act as brokers between cartoonists and newspapers), but I'm convinced that self-publishing is the more likely path to success in cartooning. I will still submit a batch of comic strips to the syndicates when I have at least 30 unpublished strips saved up, but I'm not going to hold my breath. And I'm not going to spend the next several years chasing after the syndication/newspaper pipe dream, either.
I plan on publishing my comics on my own blog, and perhaps I'll even consider self-syndicating them to bloggers and online publishers.
Since that could take a year or more to start earning money, I'm also pitching unpublished cartoon strips to publishers to get some income in the meantime.
I won't go into a lot of detail with my plans right now though, because I'd rather focus on telling you what I DID rather than what I PLAN TO DO.
In that vein, here's what I did this past week in terms of marketing my cartoons...
Marketing My Cartoons
First, I knew I needed to make a list of potential clients that I could reach out to and see if any of them would want to buy cartoons from me.
But how do you do that?
Well, of course you can and should consult one of those Artists' Market-type books (like the one above) for the current year and write down a big old list of print publications who buy illustrations from cartoonists. Being a physical product, there's still good money to be made in the magazine and book markets, so I want to try freelancing for some of them.
I didn't do that yet, though. I'll probably do that in a few weeks.
What I did this week instead was to google "websites that pay freelance writers" and see what came up. Many of you have already done this yourselves, as have I, having been a freelance writer on and off for the past four years. So you know the kind of blog posts that pop up, listing all these websites that pay for articles (many of them are crap, by the way -- if you're a halfway-decent writer, please don't feed the content mills).
I figured that if these sites are paying writers, then that means they have an actual budget with real money, and they understand that content creators deserve to be paid for their contributions.
So I searched through several of those lists, searching for websites and blogs where my cartoons would fit, and I compiled my own list of about 30 or so such publications. I then sorted through the list and grouped them all by subject matter. Here are the main topics covered by the sites I chose:
- science fiction/fantasy
- Internet marketing
I currently have two active cartoon strips ("The Dinkledorfs" and "Attack of the Words") that would fit into two of those categories (writing and family life), so I'll begin by focusing on those markets. I won't go into a ton of detail here about what I plan to do next week or next month. I've blogged in that manner in the past, and at this point I'm tired of blabbing about what I'm PLANNING on doing.
This series isn't about what I hypothetically MIGHT do next week or next month or next year. It's about WHAT ACTIONS I ACTUALLY TOOK, one week at a time.
That's what matters most; that's what actually gets you to your goals. Talk is cheap. Am I right?
So enough about what I PLAN to do. That's what I ACTUALLY DID this past week. I hope you'll join me again next week for more "Adventures In Cartooning".
But before you go, please participate in the super-necessary reader poll below and also share your thoughts in the comment section below that...
Super-Necessary Reader Poll
Okay, who's coming back next week for more "Adventures in Cartooning"???
"The Dinkledorfs" by Chris Desatoff
All text and images copyright Chris Desatoff.
Chris Desatoff is a cartoonist and blogger living in Las Vegas. Visit his blog at ChrisDesatoff.com.