Still writing that report. Here’s a comment I wrote for a recent Metafilter thread about the difficulty nowadays of making a living with food writing. It isn’t about that, but about another field that used to be a big earner for those who made it.

In my late teens I made a concerted effort to break into single-panel gag cartooning by targetting the leading newsmagazine in my country, which was where many prominent national cartoonists had their start. It took four years, but I finally cracked it, with first one appearing in print, then another, and another. Then they had some staffing changes, and their new art editor took several at once. Now I really thought I was on my way.

But those several didn’t appear in the magazine, because a new editor-in-chief came in who axed all the freelance cartoons, including the ones I thought I’d sold. That market totally disappeared.

I placed a few cartoons elsewhere in subsequent years, but was studying and writing and working and travelling and got drawn off in other directions, and that was eventually that. In hindsight, I was at the tail-end of something that had once been big but was on its way out. The magazine in question closed a few years ago, but more importantly, single-panel gags disappeared from many newspapers and magazines in the 1990s. Mine were published in 1990–91.

This all happened too early to blame the web. In fact, if the web had been what it is today I would have had totally different aspirations. Any aspiring cartoonist today should be trying to get into web comics, not the New Yorker. Not that a gag in the New Yorker wouldn’t be a nice feather in your cap, but spending four years sending them submissions on the off-chance is four years of effort you could devote to becoming the next Kate Beaton—who, once she became the first Kate Beaton, ended up getting her gags published in the New Yorker.

You might still get nowhere either way, but at least if you’ve tried the web path you’ll have something to show for it other than rejection slips.

11 April 2012 · Comics