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Tips for Aspiring Cartoonists
by Jimmy Margulies

Cagle's blog recently
featured a response to
the many inquiries he
receives about getting a
job as an editorial
cartoonist. He answered
the broad categories of
questions he receives,
and I wanted to add
some thoughts to one of
them... the individual
who seriously wants to
get into this business
either after college, or at
some point later in their

Because of the
difficulties in getting into
this business, the
decision to become an
editorial cartoonist
cannot be a casual one. It
requires an obsessive
desire to succeed, and
the persistence to see it
through, despite the
likelihood of rejection
and other such
frustration and
difficulty. So if that has
not discouraged you,
read on.

Making it in this field
requires not just the
talent necessary, but
also the ability to hold
the goal of a job in your
sights, regardless of the
obstacles you must
overcome. Persistance
does pay off.

Approaching a
newspaper to get a job
as an editorial cartoonist,
the foremost thing I can
suggest is LOCAL
Newspapers want local
content, and they cannot
get local cartoons from
syndicates. Local
cartoons do not
necessarily mean
critizing an advertiser
who is the publisher's
golfing buddy, local
cartoons can mean
statewide issues.
Whatever, this is the
strongest argument you
can make as to why a
paper should hire you.

Back in the nineteen
seventies, Brian Basset
snagged a job at the
Seattle Times by coming
into town, setting up
shop at a friend's pad,
and drawing a week of
local cartoons which he
brought in to show.
With the Internet, you
can follow the news of a
paper you target online
without having to
physically be in the
town, and then send the
paper your efforts. a
great site is American
Journalism Reviews,
www., which has
a link to every daily
paper in the country
which publishes online.
But it is always better to
show up in person.

Sending examples of
your work by mail is
one approach, but face
time speaks louder about
your interest and
ambition. Call the editor,
editorial page editor,
managing editor, art
director, or anyone else
at the paper who will
agree to see you. Once
inside the building, if
they are impressed with
your work, ask to see
someone else higher up,
if they don't offer first.
You may have to travel a
distance to do this, but
getting a job requires
time and effort.

It is usually thought that
only large papers can
have their own
cartoonist. For the most
part this is the case, but
not always. The
Tallahassee Democrat,
49,000 circulation
created a big stir when it
hired Doug Marlette.
Other small papers with
cartoonists include The
Rome News-Tribune in
Georgia (Mike Lester)
with a 17,000
circulation, The
FreeLance Star, at
47,000 where Clay
Jones works, Chris
Britt's paper, The
Springfield State Journal
Register, at 57,000, and
The Bangor Daily News,
at 63,000 where George
Danby works. So don't
write off the possiblity
of approaching a paper
of this size--it does not
hurt to ask.

Another type of paper
to target are those in
state capitols, which
don't have a cartoonist.
An essential resource for
this job hunt in The
Editor and Publisher
Yearbook. Part 1 of this
two part annual
directory lists every
daily paper with names,
phone numbers,
circulation number, etc.
Theoretically, papers in
state capitals feel more
of a responsibility to
cover state politics, and
having local cartoons
would bolster that

Sometimes the job hunt
requires the proverbial
foot in the door that can
lead to bigger and better
things. IF a job offer is
not immediately
forthcoming, you can
offer one local cartoon a
week, or cartoons as the
issues dictate, just to get
published regularly.
Even if your local paper
already has a cartoonist,
there is a good chance
this person has a
syndication obligation
which prevents them
from doing a lot of local
stuff. If this is handled
tactfully, your work can
co-exist with the
established cartoonist. I
know that in Phoenix,
Brian Farrington has a
deal like this where
Steve Benson reigns
supreme, and in San
Diego, Pam Winters
contributes although
Steve Breen is the
cartoonist mainstay.

I have also suggested to
people who have asked
for advice to set up their
own state cartoon
syndication, based upon
what I have done in New
Jersey. Admittedly,
having a base at a
newspaper as I do,does
offer an advantage, but I
must emphasize that
part of the reason this
was a very easy sale to
make was the great
desire for local content.
Offer papers one or two
cartoons a week
regularly for a modest
fee ( $5 a week for small
papers, $10 a week for
medium papers, And
$15 or more for the
larger ones) This allows
papers to publish your
work, without having to
pay a full salary, and at
least gets your work to
appear regularly. I am
confident the success I
have had doing this in
New Jersey can be
duplicated elsewhere.

Try to keep abreast of
the newspaper business,
through Editor and
Publisher magazine, and
if you see mention of a
personnel change at a
paper, that is a good
opening to approach
them. Write to the new
editor, editorial page
editor, etc.

Many newspapers are
published by chains.
While an individual
paper may think it is not
big enough to have their
own cartoonist, why not
share the efforts of one
cartoonist among their
various holdings?
Something else to try.

One more thought.
When people say "no"
... not all rejections are
the same. If someone
says no because they
don't have the budget
now, but would like to
have a cartoonist, that
means you should
tactfully keep in touch,
by sending new updates
of your work. The "no"
is not for all time.
Things change. Don't be
easily deterred.

While I cannot guarantee
that any of this will
work, the harder you
try, the luckier you get.
I often get asked this simple question: how one becomes a cartoonist? Well, I'm here to help. But first,
let's be clear that editorial cartooning is an act that combines satirical illustration with politics, news
events, or social issues. If your desire is to become the next Charles Schulz then go elsewhere, he was a
comic strip artist.
such a goal, I would advise him or her that it's always important to have a fallback plan.Your chances of
being elected to serve as a politician for a population of 125,000 is more likely than being hired by a
newspaper with a circulation of 125,000.
I've received many questions from people who are eager to find out how someone gets to the
enviable position of full-time editorial cartoonist. While I would never dissuade anyone from trying
to achieve
medium sized dailies (100,000-125,000 circulation), and we're talking Canadian here, will pay their
cartoonists a salary between $50,000 and $70,000. Extra income comes from freelance and
commissioned art from other publications and organizations. (These days, newspapers under the
circulation of 50,000 will rely on bulk cartoons from the syndicates.)
Let's not beat around the bush--every budding editorial cartoonist wants to know how much
money a professional makes. While it depends on how prestigious and big the newspaper is, the
majority of
Introducing the Seven P's to Professional Editorial Cartooning...Ok, maybe what follows is a poor
attempt at alliteration...Work with me here, I'm trying to be informative and entertaining at the same time.
Anyway, I'll try and share some of my own experiences to advance the truth behind the so-called 7 P's
philosophy. The Seven P's:
Passion, Practice, Production, Promotion, Persistence, Publication,
Passion: You need to like a few things to cause you to want to be a political cartoonist. Firstly,
you really ought to hold a deep appreciation for news. Naturally, interest in a subject will take you
on a
quest for expanding that knowledge. I've been a news junkie all my life, or at least beginning at age 7
when I recall being concerned that a peanut farmer had been just elected President of the United States.
One also needs an appreciation and a certain level of competence in the ability to draw. Every kid
draws. Inspired by the great artists of satire, many professional cartoonists spent a good chunk of their
youth doodling while their schoolmates were playing sports and making out.
Practice: Eventually the time will arrive when a budding cartoonist will combine his/her interest in
news with an ability to draw. For me it wasn't until my University days when the two prime
were married. The marriage eventually leads to the birth of cartoons. Crude, untested creations will
enter the world. Refinement will naturally follow with practice. I never received formal art instruction,
except during my early teens, when I attended a couple years worth of Saturday morning classes at a
local Art School. I believe that for the most part, my ability to draw has much to do with self-education,
especially with on-site illustration of relics I found in museums. A 2-year stint, while working as a
butcher in London, England,
allowed me the opportunity to take a sketchbook to some of the finest museums in the
world. Security doesn't care if you're standing next to some old piece of marble in the form
of a Roman emperor's bust, and drawing the hell out of it (as I called it). I now have a
couple of nice books filled with the illustrations of those times. At the same time, I kept a
big black book filled with page upon page of photos and various clippings of things to
inspire me, and to refer to when I was creating a cartoon. Eventually one amasses so many
reference clippings that it becomes impossible to conveniently display everything in a single
book. This is when the
aspiring cartoonist develops what is known as a morgue: a filing system to store reference photos
ranging from people's faces, to costumes, to animals, to everyday things that aren't necessarily easy to
draw. I still have my neatly organized file of several thousand newspaper and magazine image clippings.
Recently, however, I have found a convenient way of amassing reference images on a password
protected Internet photo album. Google is a wonderful tool for collecting any image imaginable.
Television also provides a nice source of reference imagery. Armed with a DVD player or a good quality
VCR, with crystal clean pausing, there's unlimited stills for which one can refer to. With all the sources of
imagery out there, there is really no shortage of stuff to refer to when drawing. Practice at this point for a
truly aspiring cartoonist must be an everyday experience.
Production. The time comes when confidence from practice leads to production of titled works,
of personal style, of potential to promote. Keeping in mind that the next stage of the Seven P's to
professional editorial cartooning is promotion. One needs to show a prospective editor the sort of stuff
you can draw. By this point, with all the self-instruction and attention paid to current events, the focus
must only include that which you have recently created. So when compiling a portfolio of illustration,
avoid including that really great high school dance poster you received so much praise for, or that still
life you did when you were going through the practice stage as described above. Essentially, you're
going to have to bulk up that portfolio with up-to-date stuff. Now is the time to start on Illustrations that
you intend to get compensated for. During this point, I had concluded that I had reached a comfortable
level of confidence in my ability to caricature. This time also coincided with a newly elected provincial
government and the newspapers were
filled with headlines relating to the new policies and undertakings. I had noticed some big dailies
were carrying some pretty mediocre caricatures and spot graphics to illustrate long, text heavy
opinion page pieces. Knowing my own abilities were better or at least equal in quality to the stuff
that was running I
began compiling a batch of caricatures of every provincial and national leader that was receiving the
amount of op-ed attention. When I had amassed a collection of 20, I was ready to promote.
Promotion. That little gray box (right) is the first published illustration of my work in a
big daily.  It was in the Toronto Star, Canada's biggest circulation newspaper. Up until
that point, everything I had drawn for the small community and college papers had
done for token amounts. What had begun with that simple caricature of Canada's
Human Resources (welfare) minister, in the Toronto Star, was the beginning of my
days as a freelance cartoonist. It's ironic, now that I think of it, that during my darkest
days of poverty (which really should  be added to the Seven P's)  it took a picture of
the Minister of Dole to get me $75, the amount The Star pays every time it printed a
cartoon. It was encouraging to see that not all my earnings would come from a low
paying job as a part-
time meat wrapper at a nearby supermarket. But enough about me...let us move on the tricks of
Promotion... By now you should have at least one newspaper to focus on. You would have studied
the newspaper you're targeting to observe if they even use the sort of stuff you're about to offer them.
(Big city libraries usually keep a nice assortment of recent newspapers from all over the place.) The
problem now is finding the person who is responsible for deciding upon what gets printed. Each place
varies from one to
the other but you can usually narrow it down to either the Editorial Pages Editor, or what ever
they call the person responsible for that page right next to the editorial page. (They're
generically known as Op-Ed Editors). Find out whom that person is because that's the person
who'll decide if stuff is
is worthy enough for their tastes, and ultimately, his or her coveted page. Now, the actual contact of the
individual may be done in a few ways, either by email, snail-mail, or telephone. There are merits for each,
but I don't think its necessary to have a face to face meeting with the editor. Let's face it, editors are
journalists and if many had it their way, their whole newspaper would be in text. Just look at some of
those big serious financial newspapers where editors allergic to eye candy have succeeded at keeping
illustrations limited to bar graphs and pie charts. So basically, they don't need to see you personally to
judge whether or not you can draw well. Anyway, they have so much copy to check over to bother with
some aspiring doodler from out of the blue. My advice, therefore,  is to call or email the person indicating
who you are that you think they'd find your drawings good enough to publish and to expect a package
from them very soon.
In creating your promotional package you should include not more than 15 illustrations to show your abilities and

Be sure to put your name and contact information on each illustration because eventually your work could be
added to a stack of other potential publishables and no one has the time to print your address on each drawing. A
cover letter is useful to introduce yourself and the purpose of the cartoons that are enclosed.

While at the same time you're targeting one newspaper, it wouldn't hurt to go after some other newspapers that
you'd think would print your work. Afterall, you're going to be doing quite a bit of photocopying for your target
newspaper, so it can't hurt to up the chances of getting your work published.

Remember what I said about city libraries carrying other city newspapers? Check them out as well. Be careful not
to go after newspapers that are in competition with each other. Things could get messy if competing newspapers
published the same illustration that you drew. (It happened to me once). So keep a good record of the newspapers
you've sent packages to and which illustrations were sent. This way, if you do get published you'll know what
not to send them in your next batch of cartoons.

If you get no response from one paper you can then approach its competitor. Better yet, if you want a quick no
nonsense reaction to your package, include a self-addressed stamped envelope, or a pre-stamped post card that
lets the editor reply by checking of a box that means interested or one that means not interested in publishing your
cartoons. Leave some room for comments, either good or bad. I found that by doing this editors would remark that
they relied on the big syndicates as a source of spot illustration, or they didn't have the money in their budgets to
pay. These sorts of comments pretty much indicate that there's no sense bugging them further. However, those
that stated interest or didn't bother to reply--those are the ones to pursue.
Persistence. Eventually the sales will come but it all depends on how determined one is of
making cartooning the prime income generator. If, for whatever unfortunate reasons, you aren't
receiving the positive reaction you were so confident of getting, continue trying to find the
newspapers that
will. You will likely begin feeling that because of the lack of interest, your ability to draw just isn't at
the playing level that you once thought it was at. It can't hurt at this point to seek out truthful input
from friends and family for encouragement that your work is worthy enough to publish. With
assurance from peers, you'll feel armed enough with confidence to remind an editor of that package
you sent them several weeks ago. A brief phone call will likely give you an indication of how the
editor reacted, or didn't react, to the contents of your work. I've had to deal with aspiring
cartoonists that thought their stuff was just what my paper needed.  I've often been put in the
awkward position of having to tell aspiring cartoonists that "the work is goood...but more practice
and refinement would be needed to come close to anything publishable.
Publication. The feeling is euphoric once you see your work published in a big mainstream
daily for the first time. The sensation should top or at least rival that which was felt when you
had your first illustration published in your a) high school newspaper, b) college student
c) small town/community weekly rag...(you get the idea here - Your debut in the big daily most
likely will be preceded by some kind of lesser circulation exposure.)
Patience. (As if you haven't indulged in enough of this already.) This is the period of time
it takes to move from freelancer to newspaper employee. It could come soon, or it could
take many years. What it all depends upon is how dedicated one is to upholding the Seven
philosophy. A big chunk of patience is the non-illustration activities you'll have to perform in your
quest to become professional. You'll likely have to continue working that joe job that has nothing to
do with political cartooning just to eat or maintain your standard of living.  The other major
component is the
tedious record keeping and ongoing promotion involved in being a freelance cartoonist. The
monetary dividends of your toil will trickle in but perhaps the greatest commodity  attainable will be
the tearsheets, those photocopied newspaper clippings that prove you been published. Gather any
small change since you'll be needing it to cover the costs of photocopying your cartoons that have
been printed in papers hundreds of miles away. It's probably a good idea to regularly visit the local
reference library to keep record of the papers that have used your illustrations. Tearsheets can be
included in your upcoming mailout offerings to show prospective newspapers or fussy editors that
you're a proven contributor to reputable companies.
Clinton and Dole, (left), published
in the Chicago Tribune. A pleasant
cash endowment of $200 in my
callused, ink-stained hands when I
was in the midst of my freelance
The former Provincial Education
Minister (right), loathed by teachers,
condemned by opinion analysts, this
conveyed the arrogance and
pomposity that was popularly felt at
the time.
Big long-running intense issues require spot
illustration. When the city of Toronto was going
through its agonizingly long process of
reorganizing its bureaucratic structure through
amalgamation of boroughs and communities it
was a sure thing that the drawing to the right
would be published. Generic, graphically
recognizable, nobody commissioned me to
draw it, I just had a good feeling that eventually
it would be used.
An international themed tearsheet. Ammunition to use
when pursuing the big international magazines and
newspapers. This cartoon of the late Chinese Premier
was printed in the Toronto Star, which helped during my
promotional campaigns to the big boys of newsprint.
below 30,000
300,000 and up
Pay/ freelance Cartoon
--next to nothing
--maybe $5 to $15
--$30 to $50
--$50 to $75
--$75 to $100+
Oh it's nice to get those cheques you've been so patient of receiving. Perhaps you're
wondering what the going rates of freelance cartooning are. Here's what I figure:
The topic of rates came up at recent gathering of
Canadian Editorial Cartoonists. It was pointed out
that at one particular newspaper (representative of
a trend encompassing all) a freelancer received $30
per cartoon today compared with $25 paid in 1969.
It was proposed that cartoonists mention this to
editors and shame them into raising the rates.
Over time the tearsheets will build up, added packages will be sent out, consistency will be
shown, and editors will start looking forward to your submissions. Once you get to that stage
when you've illustrated every issue and each prominent headlining politician, the time may be ripe
to advance to editorial cartoons.
The fax machine is the most popular means of transferring editorial cartoons. As much as we'd
all prefer to email our work in order to optimize on quality and costs, editorial staffers
simply don't have the time to efficiently sift through and open up individual email attachments
from the dozens of freelancers who send their editorial cartoons on a daily basis. So for the time
being, faxing will increase your odds of getting published.
There's a good chance that the newspapers you've been sending illustrations to already have an
established in-house editorial cartoonist. Consider that he or she is responsible for at least four
editorial cartoons a week, meaning those other days of the week are open to competition
among the freelancers. Get an idea of when those days are  so that you can deliver the most
newsworthy up-to-date product.
So long as you're freelancing the cartoons you create are your property. No editor has any right to
prohibit you from sending already published work to other publications. Commission work is an
entirely different matter whereby the newspaper that requested you to draw something exercises
more say in where else the illustration can be published. If a newspaper hires you, publication rights
will be something that will have to be worked out between yourself and your new employer.
On Becoming Professional

Face it: to become a full-time staff cartoonist you're going to have to wait. (You
can try the Michael J. Fox Secret of My Success sort of progression beginning
from the mailroom, but that's pretty unlikely.) Basically, you have to wait for the
established cartoonists to vacate, to retire, to pass away, or to be bought off with
a severance package. In this day and age when syndicated cartoons are filling the
spots where local cartoonists were so familiar, getting hired is getting more
difficult. Along with the Seven P's, my own elevation to full-time cartoonist was
also about being at the right place at the right time. Being young, showing ability
to draw, and the fact that I was hired by my own hometown newspaper, put me
at the front of the line among the other applicant for the job.  

I encourage anyone who's determined enough to work towards it.
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