My experience as a cartoon editor – Judith Walker
Reading a letter in the October issue of The Jester asking for advice on submitting cartoons, it occurred to me to share my experience of the time when I had the privilege to be cartoon editor on New Humanist magazine.
One of my overwhelming memories is of the massive quantity of excellent quality cartoons that were submitted. I appreciated that most of those sent to me had most likely already been rejected by Private Eye, The Spectator, The Oldie, New Statesman etc., before being sent to New Humanist. That was fair enough as we paid less and did not have as high a profile, and we were very grateful for all the contributions. But we could still only print a minute number of the cartoons sent to us.
So even though rejection is painful (I do know from personal experience), it probably does not reflect the quality of your work. Do not take it personally; there is massive competition in a shrinking market. Another thing to console yourself with is that humor is subjective and different editors have a different sense of humor and their own favorite cartoonists.
To help yourself when submitting it is good to keep in mind the volume of cartoons the editor is receiving. Send them in the format asked for, and it is good to label jpgs with your name and an indication of the subject of the cartoon. This helps in the process of sorting the cartoons, meaning
they are more likely to go forward for consideration. At New Humanist we were unable to accommodate considering rough ideas, due to the tight production schedule, so I would not advise submitting roughs unless you have been invited to do so.
In this digital age only submit cartoons by email. The only exceptions would made for some older cartoonists who have a solid reputation and have never got round to using computers. It can be time consuming to scan and create a decent digital image, but submitting by email is cheaper and easier for the cartoonist as well.
Another point on etiquette is that I do not believe it’s prudent to try to influence the editors to take your cartoons by gaining influence with other people in the organization. This can backfire as editors have egos!
However, it is appreciated if you are friendly towards the cartoon editor. The vast majority of cartoonists were a joy to communicate with and I enjoyed the banter that went backwards and forwards in emails.
In most cases the magazine editor makes the final decision anyway. I used to sort cartoons into folders and make recommendations by knowing the editor’s taste and the subject matter that would be suitable, as well as pushing my own favorites.
At the end of the process when sending rejection emails. It was hard to express what I felt in the email, as I did not want to sound patronising or unprofessional. I really felt bad because some great cartoons were being rejected
In the 1980’s I was involved in a cartoon magazine titled Duck Soup, which was like a British Charlie Hebdo. If I had the resources (like wining the lottery!) I would love to start such a magazine again in order to showcase the amazing in British cartooning. If I could do this I would consider it to be important to invite a large range of guest editors in order to include a diverse range of cartoons, so it doesn’t just reflect the taste of one all powerful editor.
I confess that I no longer submit cartoons on spec. I prefer to put energy into areas where I feel that my work has a better chance of reaching and been appreciated by my audience. But hopefully the advice above will help those of you who do so.