Lets get the best things about being syndicated out of the way because they are the most popular notions, and therefore the most boring. Getting right to it: A financially rewarding syndication gig allows you to work from home doing what you love to do — write and draw your comic — in your pajamas. You’re your own boss, and your own schedule-maker. No one — except perhaps your spouse, or your mother — can tell you how to dress when you’re “at work.” You draw silly pictures, write jokes, and then break for lunch — which can last as long as you want, right? er…
The worst things about being syndicated are often the things you don’t normally hear about. By the way, by “worst” I only mean the least of the “best” — the things I’m about to talk about aren’t horrible, they are just the realities of the job that aren’t often glorified.
So here’s the truth about being syndicated: It’s hard and it never stops. You know how people have jobs — really important jobs like surgeons, military generals, and tight-rope walkers? You can bet that even those high-positioned individuals get breaks now and then — especially for extraordinary reasons like a family emergency, or some other life-freakout. For syndicated cartoonists breaks are not so common to come by. (You better have a week’s worth of extra strips just sitting in a drawer somewhere in case there’s a death in the family. I’m not kidding — it’s the truth.) Syndication is a treadmill that you can never get down from, no matter what is happening in your life. If a plane crashes into your house, you better have an alternate internet connection so that you can send in your work for that week. If the Rapture comes, you better make sure you are not one of God’s worthy souls, ’cause then how would you get your strips in on time? Seriously, the work never stops. If you’re lucky, it’ll stop when you die (a lot of cartoonists have not had luck in this sector).
The other truthful thing about being syndicated is that you have to hear from a lot of people that you would normally want to murder on a good day. The thing is, when your comic strip is read by a million people daily, you’re bound to hear from one or two people whose lives are dramatically effected by newspaper comic strips. Yes, they’re out there. This would be tolerable if it weren’t for the invention of instantaneous electronic messaging that has given these people the power to write to you and tell you what they think of you (think emails spewing brimstone, and punched out on a keyboard capable of writing in blood). I am almost certain that Hitler got less vitriolic mail than newspaper comic strip artists.
Another “worst” thing about being a syndicated cartoonist is the ongoing problem of keeping your creative gas-tank filled. Think about it. Creating something funny, clever, or just plain wonky every single day non-stop for a couple of decades will do something to your brain. Whatever it does to your brain, the point is that constant creative output is something most people can’t pull off. Most normal people. You have to be a little crazy to even sign a contract that says you’ll attempt it. This is, perhaps, where many syndicated cartoonists fall short. It’s very, very hard to continuously come up with usable material. Those long lunches you can take? Think again.
The take-away from all of this is that although syndication is a little crazy, it is still very rewarding — I mean, let’s face it, if you love drawing and writing comic strips all day, and have a genuine passion for it, then this is the perfect job.
So if you’re an aspiring cartoonist looking for a syndication deal, then first check to see how crazy you are, then check your heart. If your heart is bigger, then go for it — get syndicated. It’s the best.