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Mikhaela Reid retires from editorial cartooning

News from Mikhaela Reid, who announced on her blog that she’s hanging up the pen and ink – at least in the alt-editorial cartooning market.

The political cartooning market sucks (and I suck at marketing.) This is really no secret. I started out in 2002 with one paying client, the Boston Phoenix. Over the years I picked up and dropped more, and at my peak I was appearing regularly in six or seven print papers. In the past two years, as my clients eliminated or cut their political cartoon content, that number dwindled down to two, and finally, just one (the Metro Times). I made some marketing efforts, pitched to editors, sent out packets–but got little to show for it. I did have a few fabulous web clients, but my cartooning income had halved, then quartered itself.

When I first began freelance political cartooning I had hopes of somehow making it a full-time career, but after a few years it became clear I would always need a full-time job in addition.

The relentless deadlines. There are no vacations or sick days in freelance weekly alternative political cartoons. When I had pneumonia in 2003… I had to draw or risk losing my papers. When I had severe carpal tunnel problems in 2008, my husband Masheka had to illustrate my cartoons for me. I had to draw a cartoon the morning for before my wedding and while on my honeymoon. Sometimes you need to take a break–but you just can’t. (And yes, I know I could have drawn some extra cartoons and saved them up for a rainy day, but still!).

Community Comments

#1 Paul Combs
March/29/2010
@ 12:29 pm

Best of luck, Mikhaela! Trust me, there’s life after editorial cartooning.

#2 Keith Brown
March/29/2010
@ 3:45 pm

I have a question for anyone who would like to answer. I have been fortunate enough to land a gig as the sunday editorial cartoonist for a small Mid-Missouri news paper, the Sedalia Democrat. Circulation approx. 15,000. While I very much appreciate this opportunity I’m not going to do it for free. Can anyone tell me what should be the going rate for to charge a publication such as this?
Thanks in advance.

#3 Woodrow Barlettani
March/29/2010
@ 7:01 pm

the local paper I am printed in, twice a week,pays me a hundred ten a month , use to be two hun, but printed papers are in transition , for getting advertising dollars, , the object is and always has been, get in as many papers as you can, and we are stuck at being cheap. Small curculation papers could get “Peanuts” for nine dollars a day, but it was in thousands of papers every day.Disney and Schulz had the secret, don’t sell the marketing rights, in case you have a Mickey Mouse or Snoopy.I am going into forty two years of paid cartooning and a hundred-ten is where I am again,it goes up and down… I did sign painting and that can help and keep you in the Art. Try not to do it for free,but….Ta Da !

#4 Mike Peterson
March/29/2010
@ 7:16 pm

Free is not acceptable. You have to charge SOMETHING.

When I was editing a twice-weekly paper with a circulation of about 5,000, I was embarrassed to pay a cartoonist $20 a pop. It made me feel like a jerk. But I didn’t have a greater budget and I would not have let him do the job for free. That was consistent with what we paid freelance writers.

The Democrat should be able to pay you $50. They have to pay your something.

#5 Keith Brown
March/29/2010
@ 7:57 pm

Thank you all very much. Very helpful. It sounds like I have made a fair deal with the paper then.

#6 Stephanie McMillan
March/30/2010
@ 6:16 am

Mikhaela, your cartoons will be missed. Good luck with your new endeavors!

#7 Paul Fell
March/30/2010
@ 8:26 am

Keith:

I wouldn’t take any less than $50. How frequently will your work appear? I’d tell ’em $100 per cartoon for once a week, $75 for twice, and $50 for three times a week.

If they offer you something like $20, tell them no thanks. If you work for chump change, that’s all your cartoons will ever be worth.

Since you’re in Sedalia, you should drive over to Marceline in Sept. for the Disney Hometown Toonfest the third weekend of the month. You’ll have a great time, spend very little money, and meet a whole bunch of fellow cartoonists. This year’s speakers are Stan Goldberg, Marcus Hamilton, Guy Gilchrist (who says he’s bringing Rin-Tin-Tin along) and John Hambrock.

The Toonfest web site is http://www.toonfest.org

#8 Ted Rall
March/30/2010
@ 9:46 am

Mikhaela is a good friend and I wish her all the best, but this is terrible news for cartooning. It’s never good when talented people leave the field due to the lousy money situation, but even worse when women–who are so rare among editorial cartoonists–decide it’s not worth it.

Somewhere out there is an editor who should have hired Mikhaela.

#9 John Auchter
March/30/2010
@ 10:11 am

It’s our collective loss, Mikhaela. Sorry to see your editorials go, but your decision is, alas, thoroughly understandable.

#10 Clay Jones
March/30/2010
@ 12:04 pm

It took me seven years to get my first cartooning job and that was when the economy was much better. Also, if you don’t like hate mail then this may not be the gig for you.
I think Mikhaela will create some great books so I’m not too saddened by her retiring. She should definitely go where her heart pulls her and I don’t think that’s editorial cartooning.

#11 Keith Brown
March/30/2010
@ 2:36 pm

http://www.sedaliademocrat.com/sections/slideshow/?id=2631448

#12 Keith Brown
March/30/2010
@ 2:40 pm

Paul,
Thanks for the info and I love your work.
Someday I hope to produce work with that type of quality.Thanks to everyone who has posted a response to my question. It’s very helpful.
I’ve had the gig for six issues now.
Naturally these toons are about local issues and the context might not be obvious,but you can see them at:
http://www.sedaliademocrat.com/sections/slideshow/?id=2631448

Any comments, advice or criticisms appreciated.

Thanks again,everybody!

#13 Mark McComas
April/6/2010
@ 11:46 am

Good Luck in retirement, Mikhaela. I know about the deadlines and the lack of money. In real money, I get less today for an editorial cartoon than I got in 1989, but then the newspaper business wasn’t on the rocks in ’89 like it is now. The paper I free-lance for no longer participates in the statewide competition for better newspaper awards, either. I won first place several times, but I won’t see that again. The entries cost $4 each and it was a place to trim the budget, so no entries.

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