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Lee Norling: What It Takes To Sell Your Comic Strip

For the unsyndicated comic strip aspirant, there’s a good thead over at Toontalk posted by Lee Nordling on how to increase your chances at getting syndicated (see thread “A pop quiz: ‘What It Takes To Sell Your Comic Strip'”). It’s worth your time.

Lee Nordling:

The following quiz was used as the structure for a workshop at the 2002 Pro/Con that ran during the San Diego Comic-Con. I was joined by panelists, Gordon Kent (writer of the ?Rugrats? comic strip, and co-creator of the ?Pink Panther? comic strip) and Stuart Rees (cartoonist and legal counsel specializing in the comic strip medium), and we discussed how a cartoonist can put him-or-herself into that upper echelon of comic strip creators who actually get considered for newspaper syndication. The version you’re about to read distills the general consensus of answers that were arrived at by the panel, but by no means represents the opinions of all the panelists.

BTW, Lee Nordling is the author of “Your Career In The Comics” a book I highly recommend if you’re considering getting into the comic strip business. Lee was also planning on creating a comic strip syndication seminar to help the unsyndicated masses learn more about the business.

Community Comments

#1 Karean Hathorn
December/11/2008
@ 10:32 pm

I needed information, in regards to the comic strip business. I “doodle” drawings in
my spare time, and the employees at work, think they are great. I had comments that
they are good enough to get published. These
are “single” comic strips with a daily theme.
For example, one drawing could be about the
holiday, another one I call “TIME CAPSULE”
that illustrates something from the past, like characters from a 50’s or 60’s tv show,
or music group.The themes change, it can
be about anything, such as a “inmate” or
“kids” or animals, all with a humorous
saying added to it. Some people say I should try to put then in a book format, then ship them off to a publisher. I needed some information from you, as to how to get started and who to contact.

#2 Karean Hathorn
December/11/2008
@ 4:32 pm

I needed information, in regards to the comic strip business. I “doodle” drawings in
my spare time, and the employees at work, think they are great. I had comments that
they are good enough to get published. These
are “single” comic strips with a daily theme.
For example, one drawing could be about the
holiday, another one I call “TIME CAPSULE”
that illustrates something from the past, like characters from a 50’s or 60’s tv show,
or music group.The themes change, it can
be about anything, such as a “inmate” or
“kids” or animals, all with a humorous
saying added to it. Some people say I should try to put then in a book format, then ship them off to a publisher. I needed some information from you, as to how to get started and who to contact.

#3 Alfred Flores
November/6/2009
@ 9:16 pm

Ive been making comic strips for a while now and its been a challenge to get them syndicated. I know people have different humor but some of these comic strips that are in the papers now days are terrible, of course the classics are always a priority but it seems to me that we need to bring these classics back. there the only ones that give me a luagh. The other day I walked in to a starbucks got my daily capuccino and I noticed a lady reading the funnies, not one time did she laugh! I conversated with her talking to her about my comics and later gave her some samples. I tell you, this lady could not stop laughing!! and it has always been this way with my cartoons. Now do these sydicators not see the humor… I dont know??

#4 Alfred Flores
November/6/2009
@ 3:16 pm

Ive been making comic strips for a while now and its been a challenge to get them syndicated. I know people have different humor but some of these comic strips that are in the papers now days are terrible, of course the classics are always a priority but it seems to me that we need to bring these classics back. there the only ones that give me a luagh. The other day I walked in to a starbucks got my daily capuccino and I noticed a lady reading the funnies, not one time did she laugh! I conversated with her talking to her about my comics and later gave her some samples. I tell you, this lady could not stop laughing!! and it has always been this way with my cartoons. Now do these sydicators not see the humor… I dont know??

#5 Erin Jay
August/11/2010
@ 2:39 pm

The way the American syndicate system works is like this: a syndicate finds a strip it thinks is forceful enough. It then bombards the newspapers in the US with its strips, saying, ‘We found this popular, you should too.’ This generally works on the newspaper people, who really just wish that they could do something popular. From there, the syndicates go to foreign countries, saying ‘All of America found this popular, you should too!’ I don’t think American syndicates know how to converse with foreign markets, but they generally get the tolerance, and probably the annoyance, of thousands of foreign features editors, probably just because those editors don’t really consider the comic strip section that relevant to adult life anyway. Americans may be really interested in cartoons and comics, but the rest of the world KNOWS it’s for kids.

The choice of cartoons that seem forceful is the reason for strips like ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Get Fuzzy’. I hardly know what these strips are about, and the jokes are nonexistent, but the intense negative energy that emanates from them is quite distinct, and that’s what the syndicates are looking for.

This sort of thing is going to burn the syndicates out. Most American syndicates are not making as much money as you (and even they) might think. They are branching out in all areas, hoping for merchandise and movie deals, but the actual comic strip isn’t important to them really. But you too can play the popularity game. Don’t let them suck your enthusiasm. Just shop your strip around by yourself. Then you can say, ‘This strip was accepted by such and such newspapers’, and make them wonder if they shouldn’t take it. And that’ll be one more dollar the syndicates aren’t making.

#6 Erin Jay
August/11/2010
@ 8:39 am

The way the American syndicate system works is like this: a syndicate finds a strip it thinks is forceful enough. It then bombards the newspapers in the US with its strips, saying, ‘We found this popular, you should too.’ This generally works on the newspaper people, who really just wish that they could do something popular. From there, the syndicates go to foreign countries, saying ‘All of America found this popular, you should too!’ I don’t think American syndicates know how to converse with foreign markets, but they generally get the tolerance, and probably the annoyance, of thousands of foreign features editors, probably just because those editors don’t really consider the comic strip section that relevant to adult life anyway. Americans may be really interested in cartoons and comics, but the rest of the world KNOWS it’s for kids.

The choice of cartoons that seem forceful is the reason for strips like ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Get Fuzzy’. I hardly know what these strips are about, and the jokes are nonexistent, but the intense negative energy that emanates from them is quite distinct, and that’s what the syndicates are looking for.

This sort of thing is going to burn the syndicates out. Most American syndicates are not making as much money as you (and even they) might think. They are branching out in all areas, hoping for merchandise and movie deals, but the actual comic strip isn’t important to them really. But you too can play the popularity game. Don’t let them suck your enthusiasm. Just shop your strip around by yourself. Then you can say, ‘This strip was accepted by such and such newspapers’, and make them wonder if they shouldn’t take it. And that’ll be one more dollar the syndicates aren’t making.

#7 Drew Beran
August/11/2010
@ 2:59 pm

^Almost 100% incorrect, Erin Jay. What an amazingly naive collection of thoughts. If I have time later, I’ll refute line-by-line.

#8 Drew Beran
August/11/2010
@ 8:59 am

^Almost 100% incorrect, Erin Jay. What an amazingly naive collection of thoughts. If I have time later, I’ll refute line-by-line.

#9 Jimmy Connors
February/19/2011
@ 7:43 pm

Dear Alfred,

“Conversating” is not a word. Before you send your cartoons to anyone, please have someone edit them to ensure they are grammatically correct.

#10 Kris Wills
September/4/2011
@ 7:06 pm

Jimmy perhaps Alfred is trying to be… funny… casual.. using slang? As a humorist should? I would be quite bored if my comic strip contained purely “proper” English and grammar ;)

I agree- a person needs a mastery of the English language if they are attempting a career which will involve letters to agents, publishers and clients, but at least he is trying, and tossing water onto the fire in his belly is, to me, kind of harsh. This site is, I believe, designed to encourage not chastise, so maybe we should all remember what we are here for.

Erin… sorry I agree with Drew. And for the same reasons formerly stated.

#11 paul hubbard
October/24/2011
@ 4:02 pm

I am a canadian who likes to draw a lot, and I mean A LOT. I often try to make stories out of the drawings I have but I’m more of a drawer than a writer. So I have decided to try a comic book project but I do live in a small town and don’t know a lot about how to publish or even get my imagination out there.

#12 pedro moreno
October/8/2013
@ 7:03 pm

I HAVE A COMIC STRIP ENTITLED “A-LEON THE STAR CHILD”{copyrighted} WHICH WAS FORMERLY PUBLISHED AT THE “PRESENA” NEWSPAPER IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS A FEW YEARS AGO. SINCE THEN, I HAVE FOUR CARTOON BOOKS WHICH UNPUBLISHED BUT I HAVE TROUBLE GETTING A RESPONSE FROM NEWSPAPERS AND SYNDICATES ALIKE. IN MY SUBMISSIONS, I WOULD ENCLUDE A SELF ADDRESSED ENVELOPE FOR THEIR EARLIEST RESPONSE BUT TO AVAIL; WHAT SHOULD DO NEXT?

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