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Self syndicated Tundra nearing 200 newspapers

Chad Carpenter’s Tundra is nearing the 200 papers mark according to an article in the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Since their early efforts to take the comic strip to the world outside of Alaska, Carpenter said he has been approached by every syndicate and has turned them down. The only contract he has signed is with a company for assistance with international syndication. He and Kellogg retain all responsibility for U.S. and Canadian expansion.

When Kellogg first began his efforts, Carpenter said he thought if 100 newspapers accepted “Tundra,” he would be happy. In the next month or two, he expects the number to reach 200, and has set a new bar of 500 newspapers. Still, if his impressive career as creator of the northern-themed cartoon ended today, Carpenter said he would be well pleased with its success.

Can anyone who keeps track of these kinds of things – which self-syndicated comic strip holds the record for most newspapers clients? I gotta think Tundra is in the running.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
@ 6:11 am

Most self-syndicated strips don’t even make it close to 100 papers, so I’d say “Tundra” is probably the most successful as far as those strips go.

If alt-weekly strips are counted, I’d guess that “This Modern World” by Tom Tomorrow comes in second, with 150 print clients (at least one daily, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, runs the strip).

#2 Lucas Turnbloom
@ 10:38 am

Dang, Chad. Nice work.

#3 Rick Ellis
@ 11:13 am

Wow. Great art and great marketing.

#4 Tom Heintjes
@ 3:16 pm

It’s a nice strip.

#5 Shane Johnson
@ 3:58 pm

If you haven’t listened to Chad’s interview on the Comics Coast to Coast podcast, it’s definitely worth checking out. One of my favorite episodes… talks about some the process in self-syndicating and marketing.

#6 Shane Johnson
@ 3:59 pm

*talks about some of the processes…

#7 Andrew Feinstein
@ 9:43 pm

Hey Alan,

First off, I want to sincerely congratulate Chad on his success – as I know first hand, self-syndication is not easy – and moreover, I love his strip.

As far as what comic strip was/is the most widely self-syndicated ever, I can tell you that when we were self-syndicating Girls & Sports (before Creators Syndicate picked us up), the strip appeared in over 100 non-college newspapers by the end of 2004, in addition to 75 or so college newspapers. So I guess you could say we were in the 175-185 range if you count college papers, too (as your readers probably know, client lists fluctuate quite a bit). We didn’t surpass the 200 newspaper mark until Creators took over our non-college newspaper sales.

I hope you all have a great weekend and congrats again to Chad!

All best,

Andrew Feinstein
“Girls & Sports”

#8 Guy Gilchrist
@ 8:21 am

I have to believe that Tundra has by far the most of any self-syndicated feature. When my (now)Sunday only “Night Lights and Fairy Flights” had a daily version attached to it featuring my “Mudpie” character, we peaked at a few over 100. At that time, 1999,or 2000, the folks at American Color who were distributing the strip told me that I had the most successful self syndicated strip that they knew of. Nowadays, with our strip a once a week feature, we have half that. I know that Mark Parisi was also very successful with self syndicaing “Off The Mark”, before he made a deal with United, but of course, I have no idea of his numbers. Congratulations to Chad! A truly remarkable feat! And in this newspaper climate….it just goes to show that hard work and talent can pay off. Warmest wishes for even greater and continued success to him.

#9 Jeff Vella
@ 9:02 am

Chad, Congratulations on the success of your self-syndicating efforts. Tundra is a very funny comic strip with great art as well.
BTW – The Tundra website is excellent! Tons of cool information about the comic, the cartoonist and other projects.

#10 Stacy Curtis
@ 10:53 pm

Doesn’t Joe Martin’s self-syndicate his multiple features via his Neatly Chiseled Features syndicate?

#11 Charles Brubaker
@ 11:10 pm


True, but his strips were already in distribution through established syndicates before he opted to distribute them himself.

#12 Malc McGookin
@ 12:48 am

Firstly let me say I don’t want to know the details, I’m just chewing the fat, but it would be interesting to know just what offers the syndicates made to these self-syndicated guys when they tried to get them on board?

The dollars and cents issues always get people interested, so let me share this with you:

A few years back, a major US syndicate made an approach to a self-syndicated guy I know offering to sell his work throughout the US for a half share in his EXISTING income.

In other words the deal was that he signed away half his income for the chance of more sales through the syndicate.
He was so enamoured of the idea of being syndicated by a major he nearly signed the deal.

#13 Bill Kellogg
@ 12:35 am


The offers we received from the syndicates were between 40% and 80% to the syndicate. 50% is standard. This would include any existing newspapers, although we are told that the existing paper percentage can be negotiated by a syndication attorney.

I would highly recommend a syndication attorney to anyone who gets a syndication offer. We were told by every cartoonist we spoke with to hire an attorney when we started getting offers.

#14 John Glynn
@ 11:26 am

This is a great and inspirational story. Chad’s an incredible talent and deserves every success he gets.

If you’d allow me a moment, I’d like to make a couple of points of clarification on Universal Press Syndicate’s behalf.

Because the percentages being cited by Mr. Kellogg are not true to the spirit of the syndicated agreements we negotiate, I thought it important to make clear that despite the article’s claim that Mr. Kellogg had been approached by every syndicate and had “turned them down,” neither Lee Salem nor I have ever made an offer to Chad Carpenter or to Bill Kellogg.

That’s no reflection on the quality of the work, of course, and had there been no talk of specific business points, we would have remained silent, but it is important to us to clarify that any proposal and/or percentage being discussed by Mr. Kellogg about syndicates interested in Tundra does not include Universal Press Syndicate.

Again, great strip. Best of luck.

John Glynn
Universal Press Syndicate

#15 Bill Kellogg
@ 10:50 pm

I guess I should clarify some things as well. I was not involved in any way in that article. In fact, I found out about it and read it for the first time on the Daily Cartoonist. This is a great site by the way.

Our usual response to the syndicate question is that we have been approached by “almost all” of the syndicates. I should make it clear that ‘approached’ does not mean they all made us offers. We had four actual offers, the rest were requests to talk about syndication but we were already in negotiations with King Features for international syndication at the time so neither side persued it further.

Also, I should say that I am not anti-syndicate by any means if I came across that way. I wasn’t very impressed with the offer of ‘syndicate gets 80% while Tundra gets 20%’ but otherwise I think the syndicates in general do a great job and are worth their percentage. I would have never guessed how much effort and money goes in to getting a comic strip in a newspaper. I mentioned that 50% was standard because that is what most cartoonists told me was the standard rate.

I consider myself lucky to be associated with a talented cartoonist who is well enough established to handle the financial burdon of self-syndication and good enough to make my job a little easier.

Anyway John, you are right that Universal Press Syndicate did not make us an offer or even approach us as far as I know. Of course I have no idea what your offers are like, but I have met a few cartoonists who are syndicated through Universal Press Syndicate who are very happy with how things are going. I also really enjoyed meeting several members of your crew last year. They were all very freindly and professional.

Thank you for the kind words about Tundra.

#16 Malc McGookin
@ 12:17 am

Bill, I’d certainly recommend a lawyer when undertaking any contract, not because any of the syndicate boilerplates are inherently shady, it’s just good business practice.

I do, however, abhor what seems to be a general tactic when taking on a strip which already has achieved some independent success, i.e. that from the outset the deal includes half the fees from the papers which the creator has already acquired.

Some may see this as prudent or clever business move on behalf of the syndicate, I don’t. I see it as predatory. If the syndicate wanted to be fair, it would offer a buy back deal, i.e. dollar for dollar the creator surrenders an existing client for every new sale made by the syndicate until the money is “even”. From that point on, it’s 50-50.

I’m sure there are other models which would be fairer too, but the valuable thing about discussions such as these is that cartoonists get to see that for syndicates this is strictly BUSINESS. There’s no particular love for the medium of cartooning or any desire to advance it as a profession. The major syndicates are selling cans of beans.

This all brings into sharp focus the relationship between cartooning organizations and syndicates. Are they really the people you should be inviting to your get-togethers? Are they indeed your friends? Paying the bar tab for a couple of Reubens functions is the least they could do.

Seriously, shouldn’t Messrs Walker, Browne, Keane, their heirs and successors along with sundry hangers-on and inheritors of legacy strips club together and host their OWN party for the syndicates? They are indeed the greatest beneficiaries of the system after all.

As for the the huge amounts of money it takes to launch a new strip – bull. This is the story you you get from the geniuses who chose to run Mister Potato Head and Unfit.

I could sift through the backlog of mail, develop or choose new features and get them out there in a tenth of the time for a tenth of the budget whilst doing a full time cartoonists job myself.

#17 Bill Kellogg
@ 2:37 am


While I agree that a 50/50 split on existing papers isn’t fair, that is something that we didn’t really have to deal with when we had offers, except with our offer from Universal Press Syndicate (Just kidding John). We wanted to keep the United States and Canada and let the syndicate handle the rest, and all of our existing papers were in the US and Canada.

As I mentioned earlier, I was told by a well known cartoonist that the percentage on existing papers could be negotiated separately from the new paper percentage if we were to go that route. The cartoonist who told me that said it was worth it for him to give up a smaller percentage to have the syndicate handle billing, statements, collections and any of the other issues that come up with newspapers from time to time. Chad’s wife handles that part for Tundra now so until we burn her out, we choose to do it on our own.

As far as the relationships go, I am sure the syndicates are like any other business where there are some that are very good and some that are not; and the rest fall in the middle somewhere. It sounds like you have had a bad experience but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all syndicates are bad. Chad and I are very happy with how we are treated by King Features. I also keep in regular contact with a big cheese at another syndicate who helps me with questions I have and problems that I have not dealt with before – which is way above the call of duty since we are not syndicated through them.

I have also seen some seemingly rediculous numbers on how much a syndicate spends to launch a new strip. I do know from my own experience that it is quite expensive although some of the numbers I have seen seem to be greatly exagerated. In fairness though, I do not enough about how they launch new strips to make that call.

There are advantages and disadvantages to self-syndication. One of the biggest advantages is I get to make money off of Tundra this way. In theory, Chad makes more this way too if I do my job, but he has to spend a lot more now than he would if he was with a real syndicate.

The bottom line for anyone considering syndication is make sure you are happy with the deal before you sign it, and make sure the people who are selling your strip actually like it. Nobody is going to do a good job selling your strip if they don’t beleive in it.

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