Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tips on Getting Your Cartoon Published/Printed by the New Yorker Magazine

So you want to be a cartoonist for the New Yorker. As you should already know by now, the opportunities for cartoonists are getting bleaker by the day. Newspapers and magazines which remain to be the most important markets for cartoons are dropping like flies in a windy day. Some are shutting down. Some are moving online. And those that aren’t shutting down have significantly decreased the number of cartoons they print. Or they stopped accepting cartoons altogether.

Compounding the problem is the fact that as markets for cartoons fade away, competition among cartoonists for the remaining markets naturally gets tougher. Getting a cartoon published by a notable magazine these days is next to impossible. 99% of aspiring cartoonists don’t make it. Of the handful that can be considered successful cartoonists, only a few of them do it full-time. Even regular contributors for prestigious magazines like The New Yorker work other jobs because they can’t always expect to have a cartoon published by the magazine every week.

The New Yorker magazine is the Mt. Everest of cartooning. Getting a cartoon in its pages is a huge accomplishment. You’ve done something that 99% of aspiring cartoonists can only dream of. You can use the bragging rights to get more work from outside the magazine.

But here’s the big question: How hard is it to get a cartoon published and printed by the New Yorker magazine? Unfortunately, it’s mission impossible. The competition is unbelievably tough. How tough? Liza Donnelly started submitting cartoons to the magazine in batches in 1977. She sold her first cartoon two years later in 1979.

Even if you get a cartoon printed, that doesn’t mean you get a golden ticket to have your succeeding cartoons printed. Donnelly said that after her first cartoon was bought by the magazine, the odds of getting her next cartoons printed were still very low. She submits around 240 cartoons a year to the magazine. The magazine buys an average of 8 cartoons a year from her. She adds that these are the odds for most of her fellow New Yorker cartoonists.

Robert Mankoff, the former cartoon editor of the New Yorker, sent more than 2,000 cartoons to the magazine before he sold his first one. Some cartoonists have sent more but not one of their work ever graced the pages of the prestigious magazine. David Sipress who is now a regular cartoonist for the magazine had been submitting his work for 25 years before he got in. That’s insane.

To get an idea of how difficult it is to get a cartoon published in the New Yorker, I highly recommend that you read the book, The Rejection Collection by Matthew Diffee. This is a book about unpublished New Yorker cartoons. According to the book, there are about 50 regular cartoonists who submit 10 cartoons each week to the cartoon editor. That’s 500 cartoons a week. That’s not counting the submissions from cartoonists whose work irregularly appears in the magazine. And then there are the thousand or so unsolicited submissions. According to Diffee, unsolicited submissions stand almost no chance of getting in.

The magazine only publishes 14 to 20 cartoons a week. So there you go. Thousands of new cartoons vying for 14 to 20 slots a week. Climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest is probably more difficult than getting a cartoon published in the New Yorker.

But if becoming a New Yorker cartoonist remains to be a goal for you, here are a few practical tips:

1. You must possess an ungodly amount of patience. I repeat, Robert Mankoff submitted more than 2000 cartoons before the magazine bought one. David Sipress submitted unsolicited cartoons for 25 years before he sold one. I would imagine that it’s the same story for most of the magazine’s regular contributors.

2. Go live in New York. Aspiring cartoonists who hand-deliver their cartoons to the magazine’s offices tend to have better chances in getting the cartoon editor’s attention. Proximity to the magazine’s offices also allows you to possibly join one of the weekly meetings by the cartoon editor with cartoonists.

3. Network with cartoonists whose work regularly appears in the magazine. If you listen to the stories of successful New Yorker cartoonists, a lot of them had their work noticed because of who they knew. A friend introduced them to the cartoon editor. Another cartoonist vouched for their work. Just like in any industry, who you know helps a lot in getting your work noticed and printed.

4. David Sipress who has published a great number of cartoons in the magazine says that the magazine rarely publishes puns. So this is probably a theme that you should stay away from.

5. Do it for fun. Do it because you enjoy making cartoons. Do it because you want people to laugh at and appreciate your humor. Just like the 99% of aspiring cartoonists who don’t crack the pages of the magazine, you have the same odds of failing. But even if you do fail, at least you are enjoying the process.

Good luck.