This won't come as a shock to any professional cartoonists out there, but the market environment for our wares is challenging at best, and it's about to get more so. As conventional paths to success disappear and new ones are sought, one of the few remaining, but financially rewarding avenues has been magazine cartooning. While the rates and numbers of venues has been trending down, single sales still range in the hundreds of dollars for some of the premier magazine outlets. This could be coming to an end.
CartoonCollections.com, an endeavor involving ex-New Yorker cartoon editor and fellow cartoonist Bob Mankoff, is actively reaching out to cartoon editors of the premier magazine markets (and likely most others) to sell cartoons through their site. Their offerings include tens of thousands of cartoons from the top creators of the New Yorker as well as collected works from other venues. If you're an independent cartoonist submitting to magazines, you will now be competing with what might be compared to the Walmart of cartoons, thereby putting the small corner purveyor out of business. CartoonCollections.com has made some serious market moves too - they've purchased CartoonStock in the UK, which contains a library of hundreds of thousands of cartoons. Full disclosure - I have worked with CartoonStock for many years and have nothing to complain about. The difference now is that their parent company is blanketing the market space, making a major sales push and reaching out to the editors. Magazines are switching to what appears to be an exclusive relationship with CartoonCollections.com, and, as it appears now, will no longer accept outside submissions from individuals.
Where does this leave the individual cartoonist? There are still many magazine markets that accept individual submissions and will likely remain doing so. Trade magazines, private publications and sales built around long-standing relationships may also remain relatively unaffected - for now. But this appears to be a clear trend of contraction and consolidation which will no doubt affect how we do business in the future. CartoonCollections.com, as I currently understand it, accepts submissions from well-established, single panel cartoonists with sizeable bodies of work. CartoonStock also accepts submissions with basically the same parameters. If accepted, you will be presented with a contract which will include terms similar to those of a standard syndicate contract.
This brief article may have taken a negative tone, but it's unintentional. It's meant to be observational, with the hope that fellow cartoonists are made aware of these impending changes and can prepare accordingly. If you have a relationship with one of these cartoon agencies, there are reasonable prospects for seeing an increase in monthly or quarterly licensing revenue for your cartoons, now that they are actively marketing their subscription programs. For those interested in submitting to cartoonist agencies (not traditional newspaper syndicates), I don't know what their individual guidelines are or their editorial contacts, but I'll provide links to at least a partial list below in case you wish to make your own inquiries.
CartoonCollections.com - Bob Mankoff endeavor, parent company of CartoonStock
CartoonStock.com - UK's largest database of licensable cartoons. Now wholly owned by CartoonCollections.com. Regarding submissions, this is from their site: We are always interested in seeing submissions from new cartoonists. All submissions should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cartoonist Group - Described as the internet's most diverse cartoon art database. Run or owned, I believe, by illustrator extraordinaire Bob Staake.
Artizans - A Canadian-based cartoonist and illustrator group. Here's a link to their SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
Tribune Content Agency - Tribune appears to be a hybrid between a content agency and traditional syndicate. I include it here since what they're seeking is identical to the above content agencies: large bodies of work, established cartoon brand, etc. Here's a link to the SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES
I've wanted to participate in Inktober for a while now - it was started by illustrator extraordinaire Jake Parker, and it's a way for artists to push outside of their normal work bubble. Each day has a new single word prompt, and this is what I came up with for day 1, which is the word, 'ring'. Why Lord of the Rings immediately popped into my head I'll never know, but there you have it.