As we’ve discussed in previous articles, the dynamic in the world of cartooning, and more specifically, the business and marketing aspects of cartooning, have changed. Syndication and gag cartoon magazine markets are rapidly shrinking. Yet many cartoonists are not only thriving, but earning more than at any time in their careers – and in this economy, that’s saying something!
If they’re not following the old business model, what are they doing? We’ve discussed some very promising possibilities previously, such as art licensing, self syndication, and social media to broaden your market reach. In this article, we’ll touch on another significant portion of many successful cartoonists income stream; illustration.
Illustration, as I’ll define it for the purposes of this article, is the creation of an image with the intent of augmenting another creative piece, typically writing, to illuminate an idea in ways that would be impossible or at least space-prohibitive with words alone. Uses for illustration work are children’s books, magazines and periodicals, websites, among many others, and the most lucrative of all, advertising. In cartooning, we are creating a stand-alone entity which includes sufficient visual information combined, in most cases, with dialogue, resulting in a complete humorous idea – a complete package. With illustration, we are trying to complete or elevate an idea.
Illustration has its similarities as well as its differences with cartooning. Obviously, the markets can be different. Illustration offers a far wider array of possibilities. Because illustration work can be, but not always, more demanding, the rates of pay can be considerably higher. On the other hand, many editors require all rights to the artwork, preventing you from being able to re-purpose it in the future.
Finding illustration work is every bit as challenging as finding cartoon work, and some of the resources available to identify markets overlap, such as the “Artists and Graphic Designers Market”, published annually and updated with new markets and changes to older markets. It’s a ‘must-have’ for the working illustrator. If you choose to seek out work on your own, many of the same marketing techniques and good practices apply: social networking, client relationship building, etc.
A common challenge presented to illustrators is pricing; what should I charge for what the client is asking for? There is no simple or clearly defined answer to this question, and many factors come into play in order for you to be fairly compensated for your work, and for your client to get their money’s worth. One excellent resource for answering this question, and another ‘must-have’ for the working illustrator is the “Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines” which is an exceedingly comprehensive guide addressing everything from rights, to usage, and everything in between.
For those who wish to focus only on art and leave the business elements to someone else, it may be appropriate to seek the services of an illustration agent. I have the good fortune to be represented by Alexander Pollard, and my agent Kiki is an exceptional professional. The benefits of an illustration agent: you’ll have regularly scheduled marketing campaigns to get your work in front of potentially new end-users. An illustration agent has experience in the industry and knows the people who would benefit from your style of art. Many consider the most attractive aspect of having an illustration agent is the fact that they’ll take on the ugly business of negotiation for you, seeking the best rates under the most advantageous terms. In return, illustration agents will recieve a portion of the fees collected from clients, and will share in the costs of marketing.
Illustration work can vary from very simple ‘spot’ illustrations for magazines, to very complex, full-page lay-outs and advertising work. The opportunities are boundless, but like any career worth pursuing, perseverence and fortitude are required. The more effort you put in, the better the results you can expect – good luck!