Independent cartoonists are more prevalent these days than ever before--or at least it seems that way. The Internet has opened up the playing field to anyone with the ability to post comics content regularly on the Web. Before it became so easy to do-it-ourselves, syndicates made it possible to distribute a single artist's work to various markets and continue to do so today, even with the dwindling space available in newspapers. While syndicates take the burden of sales and paperwork off the artist, they also take a portion of the proceeds. If you are interested in retaining full control of your work's distribution, rights and profits, self-syndication--in print or online--may be right for you. Here are some tips for self-syndicating.
Create sample strips for a fresh syndication attempt or pull together the best examples of your existing comic, whether print or web, to include in a submission packet. Also include information about your current platform or fan base, a brief history of you and your work as relevant to your promotional efforts and your projected submission schedule.
Identify your target audience. If your comics find their inspiration from local news and events, they may not translate well to a national market. Instead, seek out alternative weeklies or online resources popular in your area to contact. If, however, your comic routinely mentions a certain hobby, interest or pastime, find out where people who have those interests congregate, what they read and how they access it in order to pinpoint an audience for your work.
Research potential markets, avoiding overlap whenever possible. Newspapers, magazines, store newsletters and online portals that cater to the entertainment needs of your niche should all go on a list along with contact information and any circulation numbers you can find. Once you've found all possible markets, then you can start evaluating them and putting them in a wish-list type of order. Overlap should be minimized so as not to devalue your product by appearing in multiple competing markets.
Contact the features editor or website owner with an offer based on your research of their market and how your content can benefit them. Make it clear that you are offering non-exclusive content and on what terms your images can be used.
Read all contracts carefully, seeking legal advice if necessary. Syndication generally allows the creator to retain all reprint rights, but make sure the contract doesn't grant the publication usage that you do not intend. Compensation, whether a per-item price, trade for advertising or some combination of ad revenues and profit sharing, should also be spelled out clearly along with the length of the contract and the renewal options.
Offer to promote your outlets in return for their consideration, be it advertisements, illustrations or other work. Syndication is about both parties benefiting from each other, and while you may be tempted to offer your first taker a deal on (or free) illustrations or other services in your arsenal, don't overcommit yourself.
Tips & Warnings
- Make sure you are truly invested in a project before signing a syndication contract to avoid running out of steam midway.
- Niche blogs can also be syndicated in this way.
- Don't undersell yourself or your work, but be willing to barter depending on the outlet and the potential for a long-term relationship.