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Piccolo: best & worst of being syndicated

Another insightful post by Tina’s Groove creator Rina Piccolo on the positives and negatives of being a syndicated cartoonist. On the plus side: control of one’s own schedule. On the down side: that schedule is relentless.

So here’s the truth about being syndicated: It’s hard and it never stops. You know how people have jobs – really important jobs like surgeons, military generals, and tight-rope walkers? You can bet that even those high-positioned individuals get breaks now and then – especially for extraordinary reasons like a family emergency, or some other life-freakout. For syndicated cartoonists breaks are not so common to come by.

Read the whole thing on Rina’s new website tinasgroove.com

Community Comments

#1 b.j. dewey
June/14/2012
@ 8:32 am

In the end she seems to conclude that if you truly love cartooning – and that would mean truly, deep down, all the way because it’s in your blood, your heart, your gut, and you also happen to be good at it – syndication ($) is the way to go despite the drawbacks. I was a news journalist for 26 years and know the downside of deadlines well, but daily deadlines in such a creative field as cartooning, and especially comic strips, has to be even worse.

#2 Sandra Bell-Lundy
June/14/2012
@ 9:03 am

>>The worst things about being syndicated are often the things you don?t normally hear about. By the way, by ?worst? I only mean the least of the ?best?<<

Yes, I agree with Rina on this point. (on all the points she makes in her column actually)

It's not the deadline that's tough…it's that the deadlines are perpetual and there's no reprieve. You really have to have a certain stamina to cope syndicated strip deadlines for any length of time. (…said the woman who gave birth twice throughout her syndicated years…)

…but I'd certainly never trade my career for anything.

#3 Sandra Bell-Lundy
June/14/2012
@ 9:05 am

…to cope “with” syndicated strip deadlines…

#4 Nathan Rackley
June/14/2012
@ 9:27 am

Once I decided that I wanted to see how crazy I was, and if I could “cut it” produce a daily cartoon strip. So I decided to try. My first cartoon strip ran for two years daily. My second has been produced daily since early 2009, and is still ongoing.

One of the biggest things I would suggest people take into consideration is what their schedule looks like. It is rather difficult to keep up with cartooning if you work a full-time job or if you are a full-time student, because often other responsibilities will jump in your way. Comic buffers are incredible. And most importantly, make sure you love the craft – you’re going to be doing it for a while!

#5 RYAN BROWN
June/14/2012
@ 9:37 am

Given everything Rina talks about in this article, and every other cautionary tale I?ve heard about being syndicated, I?d still love to do it, in a heartbeat?in a New York minute. Every nuance about it fits perfectly to my personality. So, you can also call me a little crazy.

#6 David Jones
June/14/2012
@ 11:12 am

This has been my dream since I was 7. Bring on the deadlines. I don’t ever sleep anyways. Sleep is for losers.

#7 Jeff Parker
June/14/2012
@ 11:45 am

Rina nails it.

The most interesting thing to me is how a syndicated comic strip amazingly bends time itself. A one day interruption in your output schedule, and suddenly you’re two weeks behind. Then it takes six weeks to gain back those two weeks.

Also, my syndicated self exists five weeks into the future (eight weeks on Sundays). My real self is somewhere in the present writing the wrong date on everything.

Some sort of time/space continuum thingee at play here that I haven’t quite figured out.

Just writing this has put me a couple of days behind — dammit!

#8 donna lewis
June/14/2012
@ 11:48 am

Best: Working with an editor
Worst: Haters and “Volunteer Editors” via email and Facebook

Observation: With each daily deadline that passes, I give less of a hoot about anything any hater might think. (that’s a definite plus)

#9 Stephen Beals
June/14/2012
@ 1:14 pm

As an OCD sufferer (Obsessive Comics Disorder), I always thought that the upside was groupies and the downside was paparazzi.

But I’ve since found out that only people like Stephan Pastis and Mark Tatulli are hounded day and night by fans, cameras, and fans with cameras.

I’m lucky in my obscurity.

#10 Dave Stephens
June/14/2012
@ 1:17 pm

@Sandra Bell-Lundy – there is a typo in your URL link in your name – I googled to find your marvelous website and excellent art and I’m very glad I did – so FIX THAT TYPO please!

#11 Alan Gardner
June/15/2012
@ 10:07 am

@Dave – Sandra can’t edit the URL, but I can. So I did. Hope Sandra doesn’t mind.

#12 b.j. dewey
June/15/2012
@ 1:28 pm

Sandra: That’s exactly it about deadlines – they’re perpetual, relentless and just what creativity doesn’t need. I think the love of cartooning is what provides much of the stamina, but some people just handle deadlines better than others. Still, the comics do suffer and I often wonder how much better they could be if the cartoonist simply had more time.

#13 Sandra Bell-Lundy
June/15/2012
@ 5:39 pm

@Dave – Thank you for the kind words!

@Alan – thanks for editing!

B.J. – The funny thing is how writers block evaporates as the deadline gets closer. I’ve found panic is a great creative motivator.

#14 Mike Lester
June/18/2012
@ 7:35 am

Along w/ Jeff and Donna, she makes good points but -assuming you’re cut out for the job (nobody but you can make that call), the single greatest -largely unspoken, downside of a creating a comic strip is the level of compensation.

Reading a list of comic strips available (200? 300? not including web) for circulation logically dictates that a small percentage are viable, livable incomes*. It’s a tough topic and not many people will tell you the hard numbers but it looks like SOMEbody’s spouse has a decent job w/ benefits. -or they’re a lawyer.

(*minimum compensation one cartoonist: $50K)
(Alan, you probably have better data on numbers of strips in cir. and compensation levels. It’s a topic that doesn’t get a lot of ‘sushine’ and maybe it should.)

But she’s right, you’ve still got to be certifiable to write humor in any iteration. Esp. comic strips.

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