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Five years of Tundra success

Chad Carpenter, the creator of Tundra sent this report to me. It was first posted on his Facebook fan club page. I first saw Tundra when my local paper The Standard Examiner bumped Bound and Gagged to make space. I’ve since learned that The Examiner was the first paper outside of Alaska to pick up the strip. I remember thinking incredulously how this quirky self syndicated strip was going to fair against the “professionals.” It didn’t take long to become a fan.

Anyway, here’s his report of his first five years in syndication.

Chad writes:

It’ll be five years ago this March that my friend Bill Kellogg (a fella who had no experience and no business dabbling in the world of self-syndication) started marketing for my newspaper comic “Tundra”. When he began, Tundra was in only six newspapers, all of which were in Alaska. My strip had a strong local following, but was relatively unknown beyond the borders of the Last Frontier.

Almost as soon as Bill began, we were told by certain editors and other cartoonists that it was close to impossible to get a strip into newspapers without a syndicate and that my “local-boy” status wouldn’t get us far in the rest of the newspaper world. But, we did start getting picked up by a few papers on our own. Then, after that, we were told we wouldn’t be able to get in any large papers without a syndicate.

Fast forward an eventful, educational and sometimes frustrating five years later, Tundra is now in well over 400 newspapers in almost every state and all across Canada. These include the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Denver Post, Newsday, and numerous other ‘large’ papers.

Bill has managed to add over 100 new newspapers each of the last three calendar years in a row, and at his current rate we should hit 500 papers sometime this year.

Bill has also managed to get Tundra 27 licensing or distribution contracts for products that include Recycled Paper Greetings for greeting cards, three different calendars through Mead, a book through Andrews McMeel, two book distributors covering all of Canada, iPhone apps, coffee mugs, t-shirts, magnets and much, much more.

One of my favorite things we’ve been able to do is host a “Success in Comics” seminar in Las Vegas. An event that proved not only extremely well-received but also incredibly entertaining! When we find the time, we plan to put on another one as soon as possible.

These past five years have served as an education which could only have come from jumping in with both feet, thinking out-of-the-box, taking risks and making our share of mistakes. We’ve certainly learned how the newspaper-comic world works from the inside out – and it’s not always pretty. During this time we’ve run into our share of individuals who aren’t above playing dirty (you know who you are but don’t worry, I won’t rat you out) but more importantly, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have met some wonderful people in the business who weren’t afraid to help us along the way (you know who you are but don’t worry, I won’t rat you out).

I’m extremely curious to see where the adventure takes us in the next five years. I can’t even imagine what sort of out-of-the-box ideas Bill will come up with, but I do know it won’t be boring and it’ll probably cut into my nap schedule.

Community Comments

#1 Andrew Caddell
@ 2:31 pm

Congrats Chad. Great job and keep up the good work. :)

#2 John Read
@ 2:51 pm

I like Chad. I like Karen. I like Bill. I love “Tundra.” Good folks putting out a genuinely funny comic.

#3 Alec Fritz
@ 5:54 pm

It’s great to see that there is more than one way to get comics out there, and it couldn’t have happened to a better comic. It’s just a shame that Tundra couldn’t have been in that many newspapers from the beginning.

#4 Susan Camilleri Konar
@ 7:51 pm

Congratulations, Tundra! I attended the Las Vegas seminar and not only was it informative but a lot of fun. And, it attracted a great bunch of people. Once again, hats off to your success.

#5 Matt Conning
@ 12:53 am

Congratulations to Bill and Chad for claiming to have beat the odds!

#6 David Mowder
@ 9:15 am

Congratulations my Great White North of the North friend. What an amazing accomplishment. Proud of you, your strip and your devotion to the daily nap time.

Dave (Yum Yum) Mowder

#7 David Jones
@ 10:38 am

Congrats Chad!!! It is so inspiring for us wannabes cartoonists to hear about other’s successes!!!! Keep up the awesome work.

#8 Tom Heintjes
@ 11:23 am

Chad is indeed an inspiration…not only his DIY ethic, but his imagination and cartooning skills. Tundra is the best thing to come out of Alaska since Sarah Palin. (Just kidding…Tundra is WAY better than Palin!)

#9 Michael Kandalaft
@ 1:15 pm

Congratulations to the entire Tundra team. You guys are talented, hardworking, determined, and deserving of all the success you’ve achieved so far and much, much more. Tundra has been a personal inspiration to me, and I am fortunate to have attended their seminar and gotten to know them since. Good luck, and happy 5th!

#10 Christophe "Hagen" Granet
@ 3:05 pm

Well done Chad. I love the books I’ve bought from you and so do my kids…
Congratulations to the Tundra team!

#11 Tom Stemmle
@ 3:31 pm

Chad! Marie and I send our heartiest congratulations to you on your 5th anniversary of Tundra! We wish you many, many more years of success! We are so happy we can read your strip each morning in the NY Daily News and then gag on our coffee ! Fortunately we have all our tablecloths Scotch-guarded ! Thanks for all the Laffs !!

#12 Darryl Heine
@ 3:41 pm

The Chicago Tribune had 2 Sunday runs of Tundra – First from October 2008 until March 2009 and then from March 2010 until September 2010.

#13 Dan Bielinski
@ 3:58 pm

I wish the Chicago Tribune kept Tundra.

And they still don’t have Lio on Sundays! I don’t get it.

#14 Bill Kellogg
@ 4:25 pm

Thank you for all the great comments. The Chicago Tribune is one of those that Chad was talking about when he said we ran into those who aren’t above playing dirty. Not the paper by the way. The editor is a great guy. Alan knows the whole story but it’s not something I am going to get into in a public forum. Sorry for the tease.

#15 John Read
@ 6:46 pm

I USED to like Bill, but he’s a tease.

#16 Rich Diesslin
@ 4:27 pm

The Vegas seminar was great and the comic strip is probably one of the best ones going. Congrats to Chad, Karen, Bill, et al! All and all the best going forward! Please get over to the Dayton Daily News soon! I’m enjoying my calendar, but it needs to be in this paper! ;)

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