To Make Cartoon Sales, Humor the Editor

Get to know your prospective buyer's sense of humor and then slant your cartoons toward that.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1970
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If you are able to make an editor laugh at your cartoons, you are virtually promised sales success.

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Emboldened by all the kudos hurled at me in a recent issue of this chaotic sheet, I thought I might get away with adding a few more remarks concerning this dastardly business of selling cartoon-illustrated humor scripts to Magazine-land. What the hell — why only be half-confused when you can just as easily be completely confused.

Selling the first script to any book really isn't a particularly difficult accomplishment. Naturally, you won't believe this because you want to believe selling the first script is only second to getting to Mars via pogo stick when it comes to difficult didoes. And I'm not going to give you a fat argument about it.

In reality, the real strain begins to show after you've sold any book (or books) several funny pieces. About then, you start to wonder precisely how long you can keep up the mad, demanding pace. Some old sage or other is reputed to have once chirped: "Seducing the Muse is duck soup . . . but staying married to her takes talent." The old boy wasn't whistling Dixie in my estimation.

I have but one suggestion for keeping up the furious, steady pace which insures a pleasant income of $100 to $10,000, monthly, from selling humor pieces. It goes like this: Read a lot, watch a lot of television and talk to a lot of people.

Those three enjoyable items will go one hell of a long way toward keeping your mind so heartily crammed with variations, themes, schemes and notions that you should be able to hold out several years before "The Great Dry Slump" starts breathing down your talented little neck. And don't worry. By the time The Great Horrendous Dry Slump catches up with you, I'll probably have something else figured out for the both of us. You don't think I plan to let us go down poverty alley, do you?

The second part of this comment has mainly to do with treating editors as though they were human, just like you and me. All the time. Most editorial offices are hotbeds of chaos, high-gear anguish and garden variety aches which even reinforced aspirin fails to ease. Here, in this tense atmosphere, your scripts arrive like a blast of hysterical crickets coming into a boiler factory.

Most editors willingly admit that they know very little about humor. However, they also willingly admit (and they're insistent about it) that they do know what makes them laugh. Whatever else you do in the next 25 years, find out what each editor thinks is funny — and base all your scripts, respectively, upon each editor's notion of humor. This is, obviously, pretty close slanting — but this kind of slanting eventually guarantees a 95 percent sales record and damned little remailing of scripts.

There are half a million other suggestions I could make, but it would require a book to hold them all. Think I should write a book?

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