The Newspaper Syndicate
The decline of the newspaper industry is leading to the decline of the newspaper syndicate. For decades, syndication was the only option for a cartoonist to publish her comic strip or single-panel comic on a large scale. Now, with the growth of the Internet, the newspaper syndicate faces becoming obsolete.
The Bad News
A syndicated cartoonist's success depends on the willingness of a newspaper editor to rearrange the comics page to make room for a new addition. This usually means discontinuing an existing cartoon, which will certainly alienate some readers. With newspaper circulation as poor as it is, editors are reticent to do anything that upsets even a few readers.
As a syndicated cartoonist, you will share the profits with the syndicate. Newspapers pay between $10 and $15 per week for a syndicated comic. Most comics don't provide an adequate livable wage until more than sixty newspapers are running the feature. Many newly syndicated cartoonists have found themselves taking second jobs — working on their cartoons in their off-hours.
For a bracing look at newspaper syndicates, read Stu Rees's Harvard Law School thesis written in 1997. You can find it online at
Submitting a Cartoon Feature to a Syndicate
Doom and gloom aside, it's still the goal of many cartoonists to see their feature in newspapers. Each syndicate has its own guidelines for submissions. You can find specific information on their Web sites:
Tribune Media Services:
Universal Press Syndicate:
In general, syndicates ask to see between four and six weeks' worth of dailies. Dailies are considered to be the strips that run Monday through Saturday. In other words, that's between 24 and 36 samples of your work. Some syndicates ask to see a sample for the Sunday comic, but not all of them list it as a requirement. Photocopy your originals so they fit onto standard, letter-sized paper (8.5″ × 11″). Be sure to include your contact information on each sheet. Many syndicates also request a brief cover letter and a character sheet. The character sheet should consist of drawings of the central characters in the comic with a short biography for each. Remember to include your contact information on these pages as well.
Under no circumstances should you telephone a syndicate. They get far too many submissions every year to field phone calls from even a small percentage of them. If your comic fits their needs, they'll contact you.