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Success in cartooning speaker: Chad Carpenter

Chad Carpenter started his comic panel Tundra 21 years ago as a local comic in Alaska and it has since become the largest self-syndicated comic strip in the US boasting a client list of over 500 papers.

Notes:

  • Chad’s from Wasilla, Alaska and has been doing Tundra for 21 years. He was the most well known person from Wasilla until Palin became vice-president nominee in 2008 presidential election.
  • Chad always wanted to be a cartoonist, but there were not many in Alaska
  • His uncle offered to introduce him to a few cartoonist in Florida if Chad worked in his art gallery in Sarasota
  • Chad met Dik Browne (Hagar the Horrible) who let him come to his studio and gave him a lot of advice
  • Chad also met Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm)
  • Mike told him to “draw what you know.” Chad went back to Alaska and started Tundra – a strip heavy on outdoors and animals
  • He drew 31 strips and took it to the Anchorage Daily News where the editor looked over the samples, passed it around the office and agreed to run it
  • Chad decided to he needed more $$ from cartooning, so he printed a book. He modeled his first book after the Garfield collections. Printed 3,000 books.
  • Started selling books at the weekend market – sold 100 books his first day. That was his “Ah ha!” moment that he could make a living as a cartoonist.
  • He submitted his comic to the syndicates, but only got rejection letters. (Funny moment – Chad showed rejection letters from Amy Lago who was sitting right next to me.)
  • Continued to do booths at Sears, fairs, etc. Was doing 100 shows a year selling merchandise.
  • Tundra was running in 5 Alaska papers, but the real money came in from the books, calendars
  • Chad maintains the regional route is still viable. Newspapers want content and local/regional stuff is more valuable than national stuff – easier to get into local papers
  • When working to get into local publications, Insert local stuff to make it more local/regional
  • Books: the money is the books – 400% – 600% mark up. Print costs can be as $2–3 per book and then sell at $20.
  • Books also give you a bit of street cred and can be marketing material
  • Sell your books at local shows, markets, fairs
  • Very important: Build an email list so you can sell future books to fans
  • Look for a local distributor and/or sales rep to help get it into local books even national bookstores in your regional area
  • Chad is currently working on a graphic novel that he hopes to turn into a movie.
  • Syndication is a dream for many, don’t wait for it. Start local.

Community Comments

#1 Earl Pettyjohn
December/26/2015
@ 5:42 pm

Big fan! Do you still allow fans to give suggestions for cartoons?
I looked at your site & did not see what I thought used to be there, a place to submit ideas.

Thank you for your time.

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