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Weekly paper charges cartoonists for submissions

City Paper, a weekly in Philadelphia, is charging cartoonists to donate their cartoons AND pay $5 to submit cartoons for the annual Comics Issue. The collective $5 is then divied out to those cartoonists that are published.

According to Jim Romenesko, the plan didn’t go over so well.

I saw the one comment from a cartoonist who wanted his $5 back [I’ve posted it below]; what other reactions are you getting?

Well the initial reaction, when the contest was first announced, was decidedly negative. Pretty much all the complaints were about the entry fee. Once we announced we?d enlisted Mr. Baxter, however, at least some of our detractors appeared to be satisfied. Since the
issue came out, the only negative responses I?m aware of were left as comments, both from people whose comics didn?t get chosen for print, for whatever that?s worth. I do agree with the one who wishes we?d printed more comics. The one who?d like his/her $5 sent back is out of luck.

One last thing: We use the $5-per-entry/winners-get-the-money model for our annual fiction/poetry contest and everybody seems to like it, so that?s why I thought it would work with comics. I was wrong. The comics world is a different animal.

Community Comments

#1 Stephen Beals
December/9/2011
@ 9:20 am

Newspapers are on the cutting edge of bad ideas, aren’t they?

#2 Tom Pappalardo
December/9/2011
@ 9:21 am

As usual, I blame the poets.

#3 David Jones
December/9/2011
@ 10:22 am

Heck, I’ll do anything for some exposure! Where do I send my five bucks and strip to???

#4 Mike Lester
December/9/2011
@ 11:34 am

What’s the problem? My only question is how much for the cover?

#5 Aaron Taylor
December/9/2011
@ 11:57 am

Speechless.

#6 Phil Judd
December/9/2011
@ 1:46 pm

$5.00 for space in a big paper? Advertising would hundreds! What a cheap way to get in to a paper and get some exposure…you can always right it off on tax as an expense…I think it’d be money well spent…most competitions have a fee now days… maybe not cartoon ones….

#7 John Hover
December/9/2011
@ 2:13 pm

I think the cartoonists donating their comics should be enough in my opinion…

#8 RYAN BROWN
December/9/2011
@ 3:18 pm

To the great staff at City Paper, just click on my name and it’ll send you straight to my Sherpa comic strips I post just about every day. Take several looks and if you think it’s worth 5 bucks holla at me.

#9 J.R. Freeman Jr.
December/9/2011
@ 3:26 pm

yeah, poetry contests are another way “publishers” get free content &/or cash for giving someone the “opportunity”… in that way, I don’t see how screwing cartoonists & screwing writers is all that different: they both stink!

#10 david essman
December/9/2011
@ 4:16 pm

@stephen the idea of charging people to submit their content isn’t cutting edge, film festivals have been doing it for years.

#11 Mike Peterson
December/10/2011
@ 4:18 am

Not that I’m necessarily in favor of the idea, but let’s read before we post, eh?

The $5 entry fee was put into a pool that was then divided up as pay to the cartoonists whose work was chosen, with $100 to the top cartoonist in the lot. So nobody is being asked to donate their work, nobody is being published for “exposure.”

Would I create something special for this issue, and also send in $5 to have them consider it? No. Would I take something I had already done, that I thought was pretty good but which hadn’t sold, and send it in with five bucks?

I don’t know, but, if they use it, I get my five bucks back plus more. If they don’t use it, I’ve still got the rights to the piece, which I can try to sell someplace else.

Not a great business model, no, but hardly the Apocalypse.

#12 Jason Nocera
December/10/2011
@ 9:05 am

Don’t you feel it cheapens the artform and the profession as a whole, by forcing the cartoonist community to pay for it’s own livelihood?

#13 Mike Peterson
December/10/2011
@ 11:30 am

A lot of it would depend on the quality of what comes out of it. Having not seen this particular publication, I don’t have an opinion in this case.

But if some editor at a magazine who really understood and liked cartoons absolutely could not get a budget to do a special issue, and proposed this sort of whip-around to do a once-a-year issue that gave new cartoonists a platform to show their stuff and make a little money, that might not be so bad.

Not every month. Once a year. Not $20. Five bucks. And no handling fees — every dollar in goes back out to the cartoonists. The magazine eats the cost of production entirely. And, the rest of the year, the guy is as supportive of cartoonists as his budget will allow.

I wouldn’t expect those with New Yorker credits to want to participate, but I’d hope that some good new talent showed up. For five bucks, what the heck. Better chances than the lottery and, if you didn’t get in, at least the money would go to another cartoonist.

#14 Jason Nocera
December/10/2011
@ 12:05 pm

Does the magazine eat the cost of production entirely, or is their advertising space being sold within the issue?

Making something once a year doesn’t make it right. It also opens a can of worms that could lead to some editor thinking it’s a great idea that cartoonists love and that should be done more than once a year. Or other editors catching wind of the idea and feeling the same way. Nip it in the bud, I say.

Finally, any talented cartoonist that would somehow be “discovered” (discovered by who??) can and should be discovered by submitting cartoons for free to other publications that pay well.

If you want exposure and discovery, mail out your damn cartoons to publications! If they’re not buying, you’re not ready – simple as that.

#15 Derrick Wood
December/11/2011
@ 2:27 am

I’m with you David, I’ll stick a ten in the envelope if they make mine a little larger than the others…

#16 Mike Peterson
December/11/2011
@ 5:01 am

Jason, I was assuming the “big comic edition” would have more pages. If they could sell more ads, that would take care of the additional cost. My point is that they would not be allowed to siphon off money from the pool if they came up short.

If they came up short, they wouldn’t do it again the next year. I’ve been at that meeting.

So, here’s a trio of questions:

1. If a bunch of cartoonists all pitched in to create a special publication, would that be unethical?

2. Would it be unethical if they all pitched in, but — let’s say to keep costs within reason — agreed to let someone else choose which cartoons made it into the final product?

3. Would it be unethical if some magazine offered to make the selections, handle the layout and absorb the cost of printing and distribution?

I’m still not saying it’s a great business model, but if my choices are to pay $500 as part of a cooperative and be guaranteed that my stuff will make it, or to throw five bucks into the pot and see what happens, I guess I’d say that the other guys in the coop would have to be much better than me for me to want to join up. For five bucks, wotthehell.

#17 Jason Nocera
December/11/2011
@ 8:39 am

MIke, this is really just a cleverly disguised way of newspapers getting content for free. They’re not paying for the cartoonists. It’s just simply reshuffling money around among a group of cartoonists.

If a bunch of cartoonists want to self-publish their work, I think that’s something entirely different than a mainstream publication asking for content for free.

I thought we all agreed that giving away our work for free was bad? This is the same thing, they’re just using our money and pretending it’s theirs.

#18 Jason Nocera
December/11/2011
@ 10:27 am

Dang it, Mike, you’re getting me all fired up now – let me just add a few other thoughts:

Cartooning is a profession. Getting paid shouldn’t be like “winning the lottery.” We provide valuable content and should be paid for it.

In this instance, you’re focusing on the one cartoonist who got paid $95 but what about the other 19 who lost $5.00?

Adding to the “giving away content for free” model – this is exactly the same to the newspapers if they said, give us $5.00 for submitting, and once you submit, we’ll give you your $5.00 back. That’s getting it for free – just in this case, they’re saving on writing checks, because they’re giving the money to only a few individuals.

Lastly, for those of you posting that you would gladly pay more to get printed – why don’t you just pay for online advertising? You’ll be able to target people who love comics and I bet it would be more effective. Give the ten bucks to Project Wonderful or to a popular webcomic that sells advertising. You’ll be supporting the artform and getting traffic – win-win. It’s more likely people online will click your ad than read a newspaper, remember your name or URL when they get to a computer, and type it in.

#19 Mike Peterson
December/11/2011
@ 8:25 pm

Jason, if you can get over 135,000 gross impressions for five bucks somewhere else, tell me where and I’ll buy a couple of ads there.

Of course, that’s also an argument that City Paper ought to have a sufficient budget to pay decently, but welcome to the real world. Freelance writing today pays pretty much what it did when I was starting out in the early 70s and it sucked then. I’m embarrassed by what I’ve had to pay freelancers when I was editing small papers with small budgets.

My first couple of publications beyond college were book reviews where my pay was that I got to keep the book. I did maybe three or four of those and a couple of pieces for the Straight Creek Journal that didn’t pay at all. I don’t regret them now because that was how good I was at that stage. I outgrew them pretty fast, but everyone starts somewhere.

As I said before, I’m not sure this idea is a great business model, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world. Play along or don’t. Makes me no never mind.

#20 Tony Piro
December/12/2011
@ 1:35 am

@Mike You can get about 250,000 impressions on the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for $5, plus it comes with a direct link to your site.

#21 Mike Peterson
December/12/2011
@ 4:25 am

Yeah, but all of those would be people who were really interested in comics … wait a minute …

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