This is a massively broad topic, and I won’t attempt to cover it all with a single blog post, but we’ll hit on some key areas and, hopefully, provide a well balanced diet of food for thought.
Some of these effective methods have been written in detail in previous blog posts, so I’ve provided a hyper-link to those pages with a brief explanatory note. Others I’ll explain in fuller detail within this article with links provided to a number of very useful resources. So, here goes.
Submitting To Magazines - in this article I discuss some of the high paying markets which accept regular cartoon submissions. Even though these are the toughest markets to crack, they’re a great place to hone your skills, push yourself to create on a regular schedule, and should you make a sale, a very nice check to receive along with the accolades that go with being published in these prestigious magazines.
Selling Cartoons Via Your Web site – There are some very successful cartoonists who make respectable incomes by selling their cartoons via their websites. These cartoons are used in newsletters, Powerpoint presentations, magazines – you name it. Some of the more tech-savvy cartoonists even have their sites automated so that the entire transaction is completed without them having to do anything other than check their accounts. Some of the key considerations when selling your cartoons this way are, for one, protecting your work from those who feel less than compelled to pay for it. Watermarks, low resolution thumbnails, and protective coding are all effective ways to protect your rights. Some of the very talented, and subsequently very successful cartoonists who make a comfortable living this way are Randy Glasbergen, Ted Goff, and Mark Anderson.
Syndication - Syndication was, at one time, the Holy Grail for many cartoonists, the path to wealth and fame. While the prospects have decreased alarmingly via this route, there are still success stories being made, and it’s my suspicion that syndicates are working hard to reinvent and resurrect themselves, so don’t count them out.
Licensing - This is my favorite. While humor is one of the tougher sells (believe it or not) in licensing, there are still innumerable possibilities for cartoonists. As you’ll read in the article, we’re literally surrounded by examples of places who may be interested in your work. And since this is passive income (royalty-based), you can have your cartoons working hard for you even while you’re lounging on a beach somewhere.
Having Other Entities Sell Your Cartoons – There are no shortage of heated discussions among cartoonists on this topic, and it’s one you’ll need to examine for suitability for yourself. If you work another full-time job (or two), and you don’t have time to market your cartoons, this may be the way to go. Sites such as Cartoonstock, Artizans, and Artist Market all provide a central place for those seeking cartoons to do their shopping. Keep in mind, you’ll need a relatively large body of work to be considered (these are contractual relationships) and even if you are accepted, your work will be swimming in a sea of cartoons by other artists – getting found and noticed may time some time. But the benefit is you can focus your time on the things you need to and your work will still be available for others to purchase rights to. As mentioned, consider your needs and goals carefully, and see what they have to offer.
Live Caricature Events – I’d never given the matter much thought as it’s not my forte, but caricature artists can make a very nice chunk of money by creating caricatures at live events. As I’ve recently found out, there are actually companies who hire caricaturists to work at everything from birthday parties, retirement parties, boardwalk booths, fairs, and a long list of other events. If you’ve got a talent for caricatures and you can work fast, you may want to check out local events at nearby parks and perhaps even businesses who are trying to encourage floor traffic – if you charge $10 to $20 a pop, and you’re there all day, or all weekend, you may find yourself pleasantly surprized by this avenue. But, be sure to bring a thick skin too – I’ve heard a few stories of people who didn’t care too much for the artist’s interpretation of their appearance.
Self Publishing – More and more cartoonists are exploring this avenue. Lulu.com, among others, provides platforms and visibility to self-published authors and artists. I haven’t pursued this avenue (yet) but I’ve heard a fair numer of success stories by other cartoonists. And self publishing doesn’t necessarily mean a tangible book – Kindle stores and ebooks are exploding in popularity, and if your work is priced right and given a full dose of consistent marketing, you may find yourself with a nice bundle of money. With an electronic version of your book, there’s virtually no overhead and depending on how you approach it, nearly every sale could be pure profit.
Print On Demand - This is a great place to get your work out there by creating a store of products that feature your work. The print-on-demand company does all the heavy lifting for you. I can personally attest to the value of this approach – I’ve had months where I’ve broken the four-figure mark in royalty payments, and that’s with no real marketing. Imagine if I wasn’t such a distracted idiot!
As mentioned in the beginning, this is just a smattering of ways to generate income with your art. Do some digging and you may find that making a living as a cartoonist is not so remote a possibility after all.