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Universal Press now accepts electronic submissions

In an effort to be more efficient and give aspiring cartoonists and columnists a break on postage, Universal Press Syndicate is moving toward an electronic-only submissions process.

An electronic submission process has several benefits, says John Glynn, vice president of rights and acquisitions for Universal Press. Creators will save money on postage and time packaging their submissions, and the speed of delivery will allow for a quicker response time.

“I think it will streamline the process and help us track submissions on a more timely basis, not to mention saving the sender on postage,” says John.

Comic submissions should still include 24 to 36 samples and a letter explaining the purpose and scope of the material. Text feature submissions should include six to 10 samples of the proposed feature with a recommended length of 500 to 600 words. Submissions should be sent via e-mail to upssubmissions@amuniversal.com.

Response time for digital submissions is four to six weeks. Print submissions will still be accepted until October 1, 2009, although the response time will be in the two to three month range.

Community Comments

#1 Ben Rankel
April/15/2009
@ 9:32 am

Seems like a last gasp at trying to stay relevant.

“Now we’re accepting electronic submissions! We can syndicate comics lacking in humour or edge and then make them obsolete and obscure at a much faster pace.”

Sigh.

#2 Bill Hinds
April/15/2009
@ 9:41 am

Seems like a logical move that benefits cartoonists who still want to be syndicated.

I hate to respond to the snide remark, but when it comes to comic strips with humor and edge, I think Universal Press has always led the field.

#3 Larry Levine
April/15/2009
@ 10:19 am

I think this is a great idea, though the USPS may not agree.

#4 Mark Tatulli
April/15/2009
@ 10:36 am

Although I may be partial here, I would have to agree with Mr. Hinds.

#5 Wiley Miller
April/15/2009
@ 11:23 am

“Seems like a last gasp at trying to stay relevant.”

Perhaps you could enlighten us with your expertise on just what you mean by that?

#6 Paul Fell
April/15/2009
@ 11:37 am

Web Comics! Web Comics! Web Comics!

Sorry… I just HAD to do that.

#7 Mike Cope
April/15/2009
@ 11:57 am

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be better as I’m right in the middle of preparing a fresh submission. John was one of the few editors who gave me some thorough feedback last go, and his response time was very reasonable.

#8 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 11:57 am

Why in the world ALL syndicates would not have been doing this YEARS ago is beyond me.
An email in, and a quick email rejection right back. Saves everyone a lot of time and trouble.

#9 Frank Roberson
April/15/2009
@ 12:06 pm

As someone who has a dream of being syndicated, I think this is great! I do still think a follow-up “mail in” submission is wise…

#10 Vince LoGreco
April/15/2009
@ 12:08 pm

I had been giving thought to having Whiskey Falls syndicated, and this comes at a perfect time for me to submit!

#11 Rick Ellis
April/15/2009
@ 12:21 pm

I don’t know about anyone else but I like the feeling of being rejected through the USPS. Email is sooo impersonal.

#12 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 12:36 pm

Rick,
Send me your email address and I’ll reject you :)
Dan

#13 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 12:50 pm

WOw,
I used the address you gave for submissions and the hotmail postmaster rejected it.
I’ve discovered an even newer way to get rejected, faster, too!
Woo-woo!
Dan

#14 Phil Tography
April/15/2009
@ 1:01 pm

to quote the lil kid from The Incredibles, “That is totally wicked!” Now I really have no excuse, for not submitting material to the syndicates.

#15 Larry Levine
April/15/2009
@ 1:03 pm

Should submissions be attached files or in the actual email? I don’t want to end up in the spam filter.

#16 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 1:05 pm

So, I did it again and I STILL got the thing bounced back. AH, forget it!

#17 Phil Wohlrab
April/15/2009
@ 1:10 pm

I think I’ll wait 2 months for the tidal wave of crap to go through the system… besides.. I have no cartoon to submit. ha

#18 Phil Wohlrab
April/15/2009
@ 1:17 pm

because I want them reading MY crap!

#19 Mark Tatulli
April/15/2009
@ 1:21 pm

“I donâ??t know about anyone else but I like the feeling of being rejected through the USPS. Email is sooo impersonal.”

How is an email rejection any less impersonal than an over-xerox form letter and signature? I’ve gotten ’em all, many, many times. Once I even got back someone else’s submission.

Why would you even care about the quality of the rejection? Aren’t you looking to be accepted? It seems as though you are expecting to be rejected, and so you want a rejection that you can live with and feel good about. That’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

#20 Phil Wohlrab
April/15/2009
@ 1:29 pm

I don’t get wearing rejections as a badge of honor. I always took it as them telling me, ever so politely that I’m an amateur and my work isn’t worth the paper it’s drawn on. Of course now that is no longer true because I now draw on Cintiq. Heh

#21 Rick Ellis
April/15/2009
@ 1:32 pm

Mark,

It’s a tangible thing.

#22 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 1:42 pm

Your rejection may already be in the email.
You may already be a weiner.

#23 Cedric Atizado
April/15/2009
@ 1:43 pm

Just curious, but does anyone know what is the current rate of submission/acceptance to syndicates?

I have no intentions of it, but I know a guy who is in the process of preparing his first syndicate package and I’m just curious what his chances are.

#24 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 1:45 pm

Seriously, though. At least the cost of rejection has gone down 41 cents. What’s more, every cost of stamp increase, the price of rejection will even go down more. That’s a good thing, right?

#25 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 1:49 pm

Cedric
There’s a snowball’s chance. In this global warming climate, that could be even downgraded to a snowflake’s chance.
It’s still better than winning the big lottery except the response time is still slower.

#26 Patric Lewandowski
April/15/2009
@ 1:57 pm

i’m trying to figure out what their end system is…. what the file types they’d like would be, like 1 pdf containing all the samples, or seperate jpgs or gifs, or resolution, or…. and the article didn’t specify attachments or size limits to emails. hmmmm.

but still… 4 to 6 weeks? i would think the email system could really speed that up a bit more. i mean, it goes in to the inbox, guy 1 looks at it. rejects it. bam! email. 10 minutes, right? unless it makes it on?

i imagine it will take 4-6 weeks to get the system working that well in reality.

#27 Nate Fakes
April/15/2009
@ 2:46 pm

Good ol’ syndication! Obviously the most easily traveled career choice! (sigh)

#28 Dave Stephens
April/15/2009
@ 3:14 pm

Last I checked (many years ago) I think the rejection outright rate was about 10,000 “Heck NO’s to every one “Well, maybe.”

And of the maybes?

80% failure rate within first 2 years… Something like that.

Anybody with better data? My memory is lousy for such things.

#29 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 4:08 pm

This is why being a weatherman is so great. You only need to be right 30% of the time and still keep your job. Better yet, be a major league baseball player…getting a hit only 3 times out of ten and you could wind up in the Hall of Fame. The only failure rate worse than syndication is sky jumping…one mistake and your done. This may explain the high rate of cartoonists who fail at becoming syndicated that later become parachute jumpers.

#30 Josh McDonald
April/15/2009
@ 4:08 pm

They ask for PDF attachments. Details are here:
http://www.amuniversal.com/ups/submissions.htm

#31 Norm Feuti
April/15/2009
@ 4:17 pm

Sort of on the same subject, what have the syndicates launched so far this year?

Other than Dan Thompson’s Rip Haywire (which launched back in January) I can’t think of any.

In recent years, the major syndicates haven’t launched more than a few strips a year … I wonder if that number is going to go down even more.

#32 Stacy Curtis
April/15/2009
@ 4:31 pm

“I donâ??t know about anyone else but I like the feeling of being rejected through the USPS. Email is sooo impersonal.”

I think this may be the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks.
And I’m completely serious.

#33 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 4:51 pm

Stacy
I agree.
Whip me, beat me, reject me through snail mail.
There’s something about the anticipation of rejection by mail with an SASE.

#34 Alex Hallatt
April/15/2009
@ 4:57 pm

Up until the GFC, King Features were getting about 5000 submissions a year and launching 3 comics. This year, they won’t be launching as many comics, I’m sure.

Another great thing about email submissions is that it saves on a lot of ink & paper and energy moving all that paper around. Newspapers are usually printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper. Comic strips submissions usually aren’t.

#35 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 5:11 pm

I would like to hear someone’s reasoning as to why the syndicates didn’t do this YEARS ago. Are they that far behind the times? I’ve been sending work via emails for years.

#36 Larry Levine
April/15/2009
@ 5:39 pm

Tribune Media Services has been accepting email submissions for a couple of years.

#37 Oliver Knörzer
April/15/2009
@ 6:07 pm

Iâ??d like the money, but I prefer not to sell my soul to a syndicate. Iâ??ve seen one of their contracts. Ugh.

But this will make things easier for everyone who applies, so itâ??s a good, yet late, move.

#38 Wiley Miller
April/15/2009
@ 6:19 pm

“Iâ??d like the money, but I prefer not to sell my soul to a syndicate. Iâ??ve seen one of their contracts. Ugh.”

What you need to understand is that all contracts are negotiable. If a syndicate is interested enough in your work that they’ve offered you a contract, that means they think your strip is marketable. You’re not being hired for a job, nor are you being sold into slavery. It’s a partnership, and you negotiate the terms to make it equitable. Obviously they’re going to offer a boilerplate contract up front that’s beneficial to them. But it’s not a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

Another thing… a syndicate contract is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s just the very first baby step on a very long, hard road. Believe me, you’re better off not being syndicated than being under contract with a bad syndicate. Choose which syndicate you want to be with.

#39 Garey Mckee
April/15/2009
@ 6:43 pm

“Why in the world ALL syndicates would not have been doing this YEARS ago is beyond me.”

I totally agree with Dan’s comment here and have often thought the same thing. Hopefully the other syndicates will follow. In this day and age of digital everything, it seems to be the only way to go.

#40 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 7:50 pm

I totally agree with Gary’s agreeing with me (say that in the voice of the lemur king from Madagascar and it sounds kind of funny)
As a matter of fact, everything you read from me, read it in King Julius’ voice.)

Anywho, a big company name that shall be unnamed until the not too distant past didn’t even have (yet I think the reality was – didn’t USE) email. The word on the street was that one of the string pullers of this corporation didn’t believe in it. You may think I’m pulling your lemur tails, but I am not.
“Didn’t believe in it”!
Listen to this you non-believers of the email….it is TRUE. Email lives! Do not believe in not believing in it? You cannot touch it. This is true. You cannot lick a stamp and affix it to the email, but it is no Santa Claus. And stop with the touching of the feet!”

#41 Howard Tayler
April/15/2009
@ 9:13 pm

@Dan, #40: I’d just like to publicly thank you for making me read your post in King Julian’s voice. That was awesome.

#42 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 10:19 pm

Howard…kudos to you
HAHA!
(in the king lemus voice)
I thank you all for your support of my doings and please to be one with the laughing whenever you decide to smile at my words.

#43 Dan Reynolds
April/15/2009
@ 10:20 pm

“lemur”,

#44 Ben Rankel
April/16/2009
@ 12:41 am

“Last I checked (many years ago) I think the rejection outright rate was about 10,000 â??Heck NOâ??s to every one â??Well, maybe.â?

Could always just buy a domain and self-publish as a webcomic. Most people will make about as much money as being rejected by a syndicate, but more people will read your stuff! ;)

#45 Stacy Curtis
April/16/2009
@ 2:33 am

Please tell me you didn’t just say “webcomic.”

Quick.
Run!

#46 Jesse Cline
April/16/2009
@ 6:14 am

Oy vey.

Here’s an idea; why not attempt both print and online? Dog Eat Doug and Perry Bible have done well by diversifying, as have a few others.

#47 Wiley Miller
April/16/2009
@ 6:19 am

“Could always just buy a domain and self-publish as a webcomic. Most people will make about as much money as being rejected by a syndicate, but more people will read your stuff! ;)”

If this was even remotely true, why would anyone still be in syndication?

#48 Mike Beckom
April/16/2009
@ 6:43 am

I think we should replay the whole webcomics versus print comics argument and use Dan Reynolds suggestion and read it using King Julius’ voice. That’s great! I woke up my kids just now and they laughed out loud. . . after being awakened on a day when they have no school. Never happens. Thanks Dan!

#49 Dan Reynolds
April/16/2009
@ 10:00 am

Read In King Julius’ voice…

“I have a proclamation to proclaim to all of my fellow peoples…
I, your King, have tried numerous numbers of times to send a submission on the elctronic mail thingy and the spirit of the rejection God has smited me. He is a very ANGRY god to not allow me to make with the funny to the peoples who wear neckties and sign checks for the many masses of those of us who wish to be rich and famous and not have our toes touched.”

In other words, the email address Alan gave us or he got from somewhere else does not work.

“And now I will do some relaxing on my royal tail, but do not worry…I will attempt to give you more humorous humor and laughterous bits upon my reawakening at the opening of my royal eyelids.”

#50 Dan Reynolds
April/16/2009
@ 10:07 am

“Oh, and to the Mike of the Beckom clan, who are filled with the small Mike-like kiddies with the opposable thumbs…King Julius wishes you a non-school day full of frivolous non-testing and bounteous merri-making of the non-arresting kind. I will also let you touch the royal toes, but just this once.”

#51 Vince LoGreco
April/16/2009
@ 10:59 am

I agree with Jesse Cline on #46. If I were to be accepted from a syndicate, I would almost certainly keep the webcomic going. I would just like the added benefit of being in print too. I don’t look at it as a versus, but a best of both worlds. That’s why I am preparing a submission to email for the first time since 2004.

#52 patric lewandowski
April/16/2009
@ 12:29 pm

VINCE LOGRECO
April/16/2009
@ 10:59 am
“I agree with Jesse Cline on #46. If I were to be accepted from a syndicate, I would almost certainly keep the webcomic going. I would just like the added benefit of being in print too. I donâ??t look at it as a versus, but a best of both worlds. Thatâ??s why I am preparing a submission to email for the first time since 2004”

See, this is exactly it. I think the syndicates should merely be a distribution point. They should have no stake in merchandise or books, merely distribute the content the creators make. that way, people can make their comic and have their site and it can be placed in various other things too – papers (for a few years), magazines, etc. anything periodical in form.

#53 Josh McDonald
April/16/2009
@ 3:00 pm

“They should have no stake in merchandise or books, merely distribute the content the creators make…”

Isn’t that kinda like doing your taxes yourself, then hiring an accountant to put it in the mail?

#54 Dan Reynolds
April/16/2009
@ 6:10 pm

(In King Julian’s voice)

“Patric without the “K” and the the long name with a ski on it…
The syndicates would never unattach their tight opposable thumb grips on the merchandise thingys..this is where they make their bread and cocoa butter.
Sure it would be a nice ding for those money making items to be legally and regally mine and yours, but, alas, if they gave that up, that would make you responsible for their irresponsibility which means you would be making the untold fortune that they are currently enjoying. Now, where is that Mort? Where did he go, and who is that loves to want to be touching of my feet?”

#55 Cedric Atizado
April/16/2009
@ 6:11 pm

“”Could always just buy a domain and self-publish as a webcomic. Most people will make about as much money as being rejected by a syndicate, but more people will read your stuff! ”

If this was even remotely true, why would anyone still be in syndication?”

I think he means that 99.9% of webcomics make zero money, which is the same amount of money someone would be making if they kept getting rejected by the the syndicates (i.e. none), but at least more people would be able to see it.

I think that much is true.

#56 Jesse Cline
April/16/2009
@ 6:59 pm

“â??They should have no stake in merchandise or books, merely distribute the content the creators makeâ?¦â?

Isnâ??t that kinda like doing your taxes yourself, then hiring an accountant to put it in the mail?”

…hey leave the accountants out of this…

#57 Chris Fournier
April/16/2009
@ 9:51 pm

â??â??They should have no stake in merchandise or books, merely distribute the content the creators makeâ?¦â?

I really don’t agree with this statement at all. Let’s face it, a good portion of what a syndicated cartoonist can earn is based on merchandising/licensing/distributing their product to the mass market.

Can you honestly say that you have the contacts, vendors and business sense to make a good little fortune merchandising your product yourself? Let’s not even throw in the amount of time it takes to source those vendors, negotiate rates, and bang your head on the door selling your product to clients who have never heard of you.

I’ve been there, done that, didn’t make a small fortune and still had the headaches.

If you want rejection, forget syndication, try banging the same door over and over trying to push your product on to someone who has no idea who you are. That’s frustrating.

I’d rather leave it to the syndicate to handle all that. They have the contacts, the clients, the time, and the expertise. I’m cool with giving them a piece of the pie.

I want to spend my time on the product!

#58 Wiley Miller
April/17/2009
@ 6:34 am

“Letâ??s face it, a good portion of what a syndicated cartoonist can earn is based on merchandising/licensing/distributing their product to the mass market.”

No, that’s not true at all. The vast majority of strips have absolutely no merchandizing value at all. New features are chosen by syndicates first and foremost for their perceived marketability in selling them to newspapers.

#59 Vince LoGreco
April/17/2009
@ 11:08 am

I have two strips running on my site at the moment. One isn’t sized properly to be printed on a standard funnies page. The other is. If I got accepted, I would still handle books and merch for OH-NO and let the syndicate handle Whiskey Falls. They could get my book into more hands than I can and I could still sell signed and doodled copies at my site. I just think it’s worth a shot. Either way I will still be happy.

#60 Chris Fournier
April/17/2009
@ 1:54 pm

I agree with you Wylie in that not all cartoonists work lends itself to merchandising, however, those that are can make a lucrative amount of money by doing so.

Not everyone has a strip like Peanuts, Dilbert, or Garfield that can translate into books, mugs, tees, animated features, etc but for those three wouldn’t it be safe to say a good chunk of money is made on merchandising those properties.

My point is simply that if a cartoonists work can lead to licensing then it has the potential to be lucrative and rather than spending my time trying to sell my own product on mugs/tees/books/etc I’d rather let the syndicate do that if they felt there was potential.

#61 Cedric Atizado
April/17/2009
@ 3:28 pm

I think that the syndicates and publishing houses that will gain the most in the next decade will be those that have tiered structures of what they offer to creators.

Right now it’s all or nothing. You either let others handle everything (marketing/ publishing) or do all of the stuff yourself. There are a few comic companies that allow this ‘a la carte’ model, but I haven’t heard of any newspaper syndicates doing so.

I agree with people when they say that some properties are not viable to merchandise from a syndicate’s perspective.

But what’s missing from that statement is that what might not be profitable for a corporation, might be profitable for a single individual willing to market his own work.

#62 Dan Reynolds
April/18/2009
@ 11:08 pm

Wiley
No merchandising value at all?
Then I want my money back from the books you wrote that I have sitting on my bookshelves. How about the day by days you’ve got in the book stores? In fact, I have a library of cartoon books by all kinds of cartoonists. I miss the days of the 80’s to mid- 90’s when there was a lot of great books, merchandising to buy.
This IS what the syndicates should have in mind when determining the viability of choosing this or that cartoon for syndication. It HAS to be more than what newspapers will buy this as the days of newspapers is on the decline. You can’t ride the rails forever. The car is now available. TIme to move, as some have, down new roads, in new directions.

#63 Wiley Miller
April/19/2009
@ 6:39 am

Dan, I think you need to re-read what I wrote.

#64 Dan Reynolds
April/19/2009
@ 5:49 pm

I read what you wrote. Maybe I missed the part in invisible ink. Did you say something different than what I responded to?

#65 Wiley Miller
April/19/2009
@ 7:18 pm

You just have a rather bad habit of taking a general statement and taking them to extreme, absolute extremes, Dan, and turning them into arguments where none exists.

So let me try to explain it again. Syndicates make their decision on which comic feature they’ll take on based mostly on the marketability of the feature in selling to newspapers. As such, their clients are newspaper editors, not readers and not merchandizing. Obviously, they’d like to have a feature that has licensing potential, and that factors into the equation, but is not the overriding factor. What comes first and foremost is the quality of the feature as a feature. If the comic has cute, cuddly characters that might have potential in licensing, it does absolutely no good if you can’t sell the feature to newspapers in the first place.

That said, licensing, including books, is nearly non-existent in comics now simply because of the decline of young readership in newspapers. The last one to really hit it big in licensing was Dilbert, and that was years ago now.

Did I clear it up for you? There are no absolutes here, just lots of shades of gray.

#66 Wiley Miller
April/19/2009
@ 7:20 pm

Oops… I didn’t edit that first sentence before hitting the submit button. That should read, “taking them to absolute extremes…”

#67 Dan Reynolds
April/19/2009
@ 8:45 pm

Wiley said…
“You just have a rather bad habit of taking a general statement and taking them to extreme, absolute extremes, Dan, and turning them into arguments where none exists.”

I don’t understand why 1. think I’m taking a general statement to extremes, and 2. why you feel the need to talk condescendingly towards me.

First, (and lastly) my response up above was CLEARLY my OPINION about what I, Dan, think the syndicate should do. Please read again what I said…I said “SHOULD”, I didn’t say DOES.

How can I be “turning them into arguments where none exists”, when I’m just expressing my opinion about something. My opinion and a 75 cents will get you a small cup of coffee at McDonalds. Still, I’d like to be able to express my opinion.

I do understand this mode of communication is totally lacking in tone. I’ve tried my best in all my previous entries to be light and playful with the King Julius voice play up above. If you have a problem with something I say, instead of telling me I

“…just have a rather bad habit of taking a general statement and taking them to extreme, absolute extremes, Dan, and turning them into arguments where none exists.”

an email to me might work better.

#68 Bill Kellogg
April/20/2009
@ 12:15 am

â??They should have no stake in merchandise or books, merely distribute the content the creators makeâ?¦â?

This wouldn’t be fair to the syndicates. For most newspaper comic strips, the success of the merchandising and books is largely due to the exposure the strip gets from newspaper readers. If the syndicate brings in the readers, they deserve a cut.

#69 Mike Beckom
April/20/2009
@ 7:16 am

Dan,
If you’re gonna argue with someone, please do it in King Julian’s voice (typing). I hate you, by the way. You’ve got me looking for King Julian on TV now and since it shows twice daily here in SC, I record and then watch later. Kids love it. Wife, not nearly as enthusiastic….especially when I answer her questions and talk to her using ‘king julian’s voice’. I’m thinking your posts have some sorta subliminal suggestions making us all wanna talk like King Julian. … sneaky devil!
-Mike

#70 Mike Beckom
April/20/2009
@ 7:16 am

ps to Dan. . . I think I’m also developing a foot fetish as well. . . .

#71 Jason Nocera
April/20/2009
@ 11:29 am

Dan – Wiley’s not arguing with you about the profitability of merchandising. The point is the whole “horse before the cart” thing. A comic strip needs to be seen (ie; in a lot of newspapers) before you can discuss merchandising. So newspapers come first and then merchandising. And you’re right – book collections can sell well – so obviously a syndicate will make money via book sales (in theory) for any comic strip that can be sold to many newspapers (regardless of whether they can make a plush toy, too).

#72 Dan Reynolds
April/20/2009
@ 3:33 pm

Mike
Good idea. I should always say everything I say from now on in King Julian’s voice. My wife would love that. On St. Pat’s Day, I like to read Irish books to my kids in an Irish brogue and it drive’s my wife crazy.

Jason,
I am in total agreement with the first syndicate THEN merchandise philosophy (if something works out to be merchandise-worthy). In fact, I recently said this exact same thing to someone associate with one of the syndicates.

My complaint, as I mentioned above was the way Wiley went about responding to me…

Wiley saidâ?¦
â??You just have a rather bad habit of taking a general statement and taking them to extreme, absolute extremes, Dan, and turning them into arguments where none exists.â?

Again, I realize there is a tone element to deal with when conversing via electronic messaging, and maybe it’s just me, but it seemed a bit curt.

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