When I launched LTCartoons.com in 1997, everything we did was in black and white. We felt newspapers would “make or break us”, and for many years that was true in cartooning. We heard every excuse from “Your cartoons simply are not family-oriented enough” to “Nobody really would understand them…they’re kind of ‘out there’.” Yada yada. I worked with an artist named Richard Larson (no relation to Gary). Newspapers just wouldn’t touch us. We didn’t take it personally. On any given day there were approximately 100,000 cartoons competing with us (and still are).
On the other hand we were getting amazingly positive feedback from families (even kids of all ages), and on the Internet within a year they were relatively well-known. We finally decided to do color and a t-shirt manufacturer in San Diego paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 images (by then we were doing color); convinced newspapers were not going to be our bread and butter.
Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz advised me that if I was ever to make any money in cartooning, it would not be from newspapers; they merely paid peanuts (no pun intended). He said the real money was in licensed goods, such as Tshirts, mugs, lunch boxes etc. So that became my focus. When someone finally created digital design a few years after I launched the cartoon, I spent 15 hours a day learning how to design products digitally. I have designed about 160.000 products with my mouse and keyboard. Though it’s not rocket science, it does take a few minor skills to learn. And I’m grateful for those who helped me along with learning that process.
Still curious why so much rejection from newspapers, and downright hostile rejection letters from literary agents. Though most of those rejection letters were “form letters”, a few added personal comments. One of my favorite was, “That’s all I need is another failed cartoonist”. (That came from one of New York’s biggest literary agents who has been defunct for about 8 years). 🙂
I started researching a bit, and talked to some mentors (other cartoonists who had made it) only to discover newspapers no longer were the holy grail. The Internet, somehow was going to be the place to showcase ones work. One simply had to be creative and figure out a way to do so (attractively) and market them properly.
I returned to school at age 47 to learn Internet Technology and Business. This helped a great deal; though most of what I learned is now outdated. However many of the business principles remain the same and I believe always will.
I started selling signed limited edition prints on Ebay and at the time they did fairly well. I noticed some of my most popular ones had to do with either a particular animal (such as dogs, cats, mice, chipmunks, snakes, etc). Everybody had a favorite.
Also professions were popular, and, believe it or not, nobody liked lawyer jokes (as much as lawyers). Well most of them anyway. They loved to laugh at themselves and many bought their fair share of legal-related cartoons.
So I decided to “outdo” myself with one called “Salad Bar Exam” which is now 14 years old. It remains our trademark cartoon and people seem to like it no matter what their profession (or lack therof). Also many vegans and vegetarians like it too, as well as dieters who love restaurants with salad bars. And of course just regular people like you and me who like to laugh.
Many collect my licensed items of “Salad Bar Exam” since they tend to go up in value. They enjoy items such as Tshirts, mugs, caps, eco-friendly bags, aprons, etc.