We often think about content as something that is a natural part of our digital life. It’s present all around the digital world and you just have to tap on it, and poof, you got it.
Someone, however, has to create it. Write it, draw it, compile it from the useless chunks of bits into something useful, beautiful, something that generates emotions just like cartoons do.
In this article, I am talking with Dan Rosandich, a magazine’s cartoonist with lifelong experience. His passion to draw and tips for publishers on working with cartoonists.
In our day to day job at PressPad, we answer lots of questions directed by magazine publishers. Most of them are about mobile technology, mobile magazine apps, onboarding print subscribers onto the digital magazines and so on. Magazine apps marketing is also among the top subjects.
As a digital publishing platform guys, we try to have a clear understanding of the magazine publisher’s professional life and its challenges. We look at the magazine publishing industry as a whole, a living entity with its problems and solutions. That’s why we subscribe to many publishing groups on LinkedIn or even a digital publishing discussion group on Facebook.
To my surprise, some of the discussions cover the questions such as: “how do I get fresh content to my magazine” or “how do I get cartoons to my magazine”.
I decided to talk with a real magazine cartoonist about his profession, and what, modern magazines, use the cartoon panels for?
Dan is a full-time cartoonist and started selling cartoons to magazines in 1976. He had a desire to draw cartoons from an early age…
Dan Rosandich: Yes, as far back as I can recall… I had a desire to draw cartoons even at 5 or 6 years old. I always enjoyed drawing and the creativity it involves. I started drawing and sending out single panel gag cartoons that I noticed so many magazines were using then. I realized this would be a good “launching pad” for my own cartoons so began focusing on magazines and newsletters I thought might like my gag cartoons.
I built up a small client-base and branched out into offering my services creating “custom cartoons”. My offer to create custom cartoons for magazine articles and stories and print advertising was slow to begin with, but I gradually acquired enough publishers and creative people like communications directors and specialized consultants interested in my offer and they began assigning work on a regular basis.
Aside from the gag cartooning and custom cartooning I began to self syndicate packages of my panels to weekly newspapers and gathered a small client base of subscribers. At this same time, text book publishers who saw my work in magazines were inquiring to reprint certain panels in special print runs – such as college text books, manuals and educational books. Those fees they paid were more than what many magazines were paying and this made me realize my cartooning and illustration work had potential for offering to the book publishing market. I then approached big and small publishers with printed portfolios that I sent in mass mailings to various lists I purchased.
A small percentage of responses came back which resulted in book illustration jobs… some were one illustration and others were a dozen and more – even book covers.
I still follow this same regimen, although the impact of the internet has caused me to shift my marketing and business methods since I now operate an online catalog of cartoons that I make available on the internet. The site offers me a worldwide platform where I can show separate portfolios of previously published projects to ad agencies, consultants, facilitators, book publishers and magazine editors.
PressPad: Is there any difference between magazine cartoonist and illustrator?
Dan Rosandich: A cartoonist creates single panel cartoons (like those in The New Yorker and Saturday Evening Post) and comic strips that you see in the newspapers. An illustrator offers his or her services to the book publishing market and elsewhere. An illustrator can cover a broad spectrum, from being a children’s book illustrator to greeting card illustrator. And the term “illustrator” could apply to a whimsical style, a serious style or anything in between. I think once you get your work published in any commercial form of print, you are legitimately an illustrator and need to promote yourself and services accordingly.
Why have you become a cartoonist?
Dan: I love to draw and create funny looking situations and characters. There is a personal satisfaction that you get from creating something that inevitably sees print – and hopefully makes someone laugh, if not think or ponder. A certain form of justification and self fulfillment comes from it that probably only other cartoonists and creatives can understand. But you are also your own boss, setting your own schedule and pace of things. No one is ever telling you what to do or what needs to be done… it’s just you and a blank space on a sheet of paper and that’s where your journey begins. If you have an imagination, that’s almost like your freedom, so to speak.
Do you currently work for magazines?
Dan: Yes, as I’ve mentioned, magazines have played an impact on my starting out in the cartooning business. When you start out with one aspect of publishing, you can then put your tentacles outward, and promote what you do to other aspects in the publishing world such as books, posters, greeting cards, apparel, social media and the web.
I’ve retained several trade journal publications from as far back as 20 and 30 years ago who I’ve promoted to, that contact me monthly for special cartoons and humorous illustrations. Trade journals are lesser known magazines that have specific readerships such as fence installation, the medical field, dentistry and more.
Although their readerships are small, sometimes 10,000 readers per month, they have a dedicated advertising base which allows the publishers the ability to hire professionals such as cartoonist, photographers, writers and more.
A few publishers assign “editorial” cartoons which they provide me directions and scenarios for… I then create rough sketched work, attach it in an email for their review and they either approve the work or tell me what to change or revise in the rough artwork, prior to giving them a high-resolution image file of that cartoon or “editorial cartoon”.
Depending on the editor or publisher’s frequency, you may find yourself in a hectic state… sketching a lot of rough sketches and sending out final art and attaching invoices for various clients. At times things will slow to a crawl – this is when I try to get back into self-promotion mode and acquire new potential clients or sell existing work.
There are growing numbers of resources with free graphics including cartoons and comics stripes. What’s so great about having a genuine cartoon in the magazine, and what’s the value for the publisher?
Dan: Magazines like working with cartoonists directly because they offer flexibility. I think at this time in the publishing business, being flexible is key to a cartoonist’s survival. You have to be willing to create a special editorial cartoon or gag panel cartoon or a cartoon feature that deals with a magazine’s readership. If they want the final artwork in color, you colorize the image and negotiate a fee for the usage.
If a consultant wants a three-panel comic strip, you agree to it and ask for all the details needed in providing a good rough sketched layout for them to approve…no questions asked, you just do it because as I say, being flexible is key. If someone asks you to illustrate a poster, you need to think “out of the box” and agree to the job. Don’t paint yourself into a corner and think you’re the best gag cartoonist, or the best book illustrator, or the best… well, you get what I mean. You need to think from a “world wide perspective” since you offer your work on the world wide web. I’ve done custom cartoons ranging from images used on package design (for a mouse trap) to cartoons used on roadside billboards (to promote a fishing event sponsored by a state natural resources group).
No longer am I just circulating a set number of gag cartoons to a set number of clients. Like I say, you need to spread out your tentacles in a slow and methodical way, doing your research as you move forward.
Why do you like working with magazines?
Dan: Having started with magazines, I’ve always appreciated working with them. I look at magazines as being on top of my cartooning food-chain because of the simple fact I first started working with editors in the magazine business. I’ve had several instances where editors have spilled coffee (on original cartoons!) or forgot to return original art after using it – where it was lost in transit to the big publishing house the magazines were printed at. But overall, I haven’t experienced too much in the way of disliking working with magazines, except for the fact there were publishers who wanted to pay on publication. So for instance if someone held a cartoon in January, and used it in July, you need to keep track of that information, since many times, editors were hap-hazard with their own bookkeeping and I had seen my work before, realizing I was never paid for it so had to contact that editor and give them a heads up.
Sometimes a fellow cartoonist would alert me to something they’d see and that’s how I’d find out, having to ultimately invoice them on a delayed basis. So essentially the biggest gripe regarding magazines is probably the fact some want to pay “on publication”, which can result in a lot of hassles and extra paperwork (for both contributor and publisher).
This could also apply to adding some “time pressure” in regards to the relationship a cartoonist has with a specific client who pays on publication. Overall though, technology has provided a lot of ways in which to monitor things like this and to expedite payments to cartoonists where we are afforded to ability to send invoices electronically now, as opposed to just using snail mail.
Can you say something on how publishers search for cartoonists?
Dan: A very difficult question to answer. I say this because the magazine market has been in a state of transition and evolving based on the influence of the internet. Many magazines lost advertising because their advertisers took to promoting their products and services online. Magazine publishers then went to combat this by publishing from hard copy to digital editions (or both).
This homogenized the market and many artists, illustrators, and photographers (including cartoonists) were affected by all of this impact. For the most part, magazines are approached by cartoonists, not the other way around. If a publisher or editor likes what you show them, they contact you to discuss a potential working relationship.
If that involves a long term commitment, either by contract or through a verbal mutual agreement from an in-person meeting or through a phone conversation, then that cartoonist will be gainfully employed by that magazine. In this technological age, I also emphasize that respective email exchanges between cartoonists and editors can be used as a form of contractual obligation, so long as both parties agree in that stream of communication.
It also goes without saying that if you have a strong online presence, you could also very well be contacted by a magazine publisher or editor who finds you on the web. Having a website with cartoons is yet a whole different aspect to speak of, going into volumes on how search engine optimization works, how to make your cartoons compatible for the web and much more. I always tell cartoonists looking to branch out to promote themselves to publishers they feel will like their work and definitely, those cartoonists must be willing and available to the magazine’s calls.
What tools do you use as a cartoonist?
Dan: I started in the 1970’s selling cartoons… and consider myself “old school” although I work online and use Photoshop to colorize my work. My tools have varied over as many years. I started doing single panel stuff with nibs or dip pens. The kinds of pen tips you need to continuously dip in an ink well or bottle of India Ink.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and it gives your line art a certain look and appeal. The way I do my initial layout is simple… I sketch the idea onto standard copy paper (8.5″ x 11″) – either horizontally or vertically and when it looks good to my eye, I go over in pen & ink.
I let that dry and clean it off with a soft rubber eraser. This is the way I’ve done gag panel cartoons and drawings that are assigned. I scan that line art into Photoshop at 300DPI and convert it to RGB and size the image or initially save the file in a PSD to a certain folder, and then also convert that same image file to TIFF (for print) and JPEG for potential digital usage if someone in the future wants to license the cartoon.
My software is a basic program of Photoshop… it works great and I am used to it and I don’t feel the need nor have ever been asked to supply work done in another program. I then save in Photoshop and reopen images in other software if needed. I sometimes think of going back to using watercolors to color artwork… but it just adds so much excessive work and time into creating a simple cartoon or humorous illustration.
I use a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph for some of my cartoons and then switch to a Sharpie. It depends on who I am drawing for, what kind of drawing is needed and other factors.
Is there any piece of advice you could share with young magazine publishers?
Dan: If a young magazine publisher decides to work with a specific cartoonist, be precise regarding your need for cartoons. Provide the cartoonist with a clear and concise description of your idea and provide it in an email or by attaching a Word document of what you need.
What I do, is print that information out, and use it as a visual reference which for all intents and purposes helps to expedite the process between “needing” and “receiving” a cartoon or illustration. Long before the web, I’d get into lengthy phone conversations and would jot down concepts or ideas on post-it notes or scraps of paper and by the time our talk was finished, I was looking at a heap of doodles and notes I had to decipher in order to legibly create that person’s idea and then fax for their approval… many times changes were needed in order to get to the final acceptable piece. It could lengthen or add to the time needed to create a good finished cartoon or illustration.
Now we have great programs like google docs, Notepad for txt files and Microsoft Word to gather and supply ideas and concepts for. I always emphasize supplying a well thought out scenario and attaching it but if it does require talking over, that too can be done. As with single panel gag cartoons, I ask the editor if I may send them a “batch” of cartoon panels to consider, and if they’re interested, I either mail in 15 quality photocopies or attach those 15 cartoons in an email.
How to hire a cartoonist or an illustrator? Let’s say I am a magazine publisher or editor, what sort of activity should I perform to hire a magazine cartoonist?
Dan: Getting a copy of the article is great. I do this with a publisher in Illinois who always sends me a PDF file that I can print out. There is an open spot on that page where the cartoon will go and I normally take that print-out and enlarge the open area to make a template from.
That template is the size parameters in which I create my rough sketch that I email to the editor. The editor (Mark), will first follow up with a phone call giving me a verbal description of his idea (Mark is old school!) and we talk about what elements will go into the cartoon. But getting a copy of the article would be ideal (usually in PDF format) and then calling me to discuss… the other variable is to supply me with a written concept which is equally as good, from an interpretation standpoint.
If you are an editor or publisher who is thinking about using cartoons or having special work created, don’t hesitate to contact Dan with questions.
Dan: Yes, If we need to talk, I can call! Cartoons will add a special feel to your format and show your readers you have a sense of humor. Specialized illustrations can add a good visual flavor and help give some impact to the message you want to make.
I now do a lot digitally via my website. I write about cartoons and cartooning simply because I have a cartoonist blog (there is a sign up form to receive automatic updates) and I provide anyone interested in using cartoons with the ability to choose certain cartoons and pay for them online and that allows them the ability to instantly download any cartoon they choose and use it based on a tier of licensing options I provide on a check out page.
Free Cartoons on Your Website
Another feature I offer any web site owner is the ability to add and use my daily web cartoon. All you’d need to do to add the cartoon to any page is paste the code into your site and the cartoon begins its daily rotation. It auto-updates on its own (every 24 hours) so all you’d need to do is paste the code and voila.. the cartoon starts. All cartoons scheduled, are guaranteed 100% family-friendly. You could monitor the quality of the content on my homepage DansCartoons for a while in order to get an idea of my daily cartoon. Some are full color and some are black and white line art.
Contact Dan via the contact form on his DansCartoons homepage. Visit his cartoon illustration portfolio pages if you need a following work:
I hope that this interview brought lots of useful information about working with magazine cartoonist.
You may also want to read How to hire a freelance writer to your magazine or digital publication.
Let us know what kind of topics interest you the most, and we’ll prepare another set of interviews with publishers and magazine editors.