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So, what happened with King Features: First, here's the… - Scott Bateman

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March 28th, 2005


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02:55 pm


So, what happened with King Features:

  • First, here's the preamble:

    • I'd been getting increasingly dissatisfied with King Features over the past several months.
    • They were using fewer and fewer of my cartoons, and especially shying away from the harder-hitting ones.
    • I should add here: my work had been running as part of King Features' "Best & Wittiest" package since 1997, The Best & Wittiest package includes about a dozen cartoonists, all sending their stuff to King each day hoping to have one of their cartoons be one of the six King sent out to clients every day, five days a week--an average month for me had been right around ten of my cartoons being included in the package a month, at $55 per cartoon (syndication is NOT where the money is, yo). I was currently the only cartoonist in the package NOT on-staff at a newspaper, which meant I depended on that scant syndication much more than my peers in the package.
    • Granted, my work's been getting edgier in tone and design, but still--in terms of content, it's nothing worse than say, The Daily Show.
    • This culminated with them using only three (out of nine I submitted) in February.
    • And since I get paid per cartoon they pick up, that meant a very scant payday in mid-March.

  • And so on Sunday, March 20, I drew and submitted this cartoon:

  • This cartoon struck a nerve online and by Monday it had appeared on numerous blogs, bulletin boards, and LiveJournals, generating a whole lot of discussion of President Bush, the Texas Futile Care Law, and Dubya's hypocrisy in the Schiavo case.
  • In fact, within 24 hours, the cartoon had been seen about 15-20 times as many times as a typical new cartoon of mine would have been, according to my web logs--and that doesn't count those who saw it on the Slate political cartoon site, or people who posted the cartoon to their own server to post on their blog or web site.
  • Also by the end of the day Monday, it was clear that King hadn't used the cartoon in the Best & Wittiest package, so I sent this email to King:
    You'll be using my Schiavo cartoon from yesterday in the Best & Wittiest package, right? It contributes a HELL of a lot more to the debate than that Shelton cartoon, yo. And it has already become one of my most popular cartoons on the web ever, and inspired a large discussion on DailyKos.com.

    If you don't use it, I will want an email explaining why.

    And after you guys only used three of my cartoons last month, I'll be happy to quit the Best & Wittiest package if King continues to not distribute my best work. I'm starting to think I need someone a little braver backing my work...

  • 24 hours later, on Tuesday, I sent another email:
    Hi--

    Still waiting for an answer re: my Schiavo cartoon.

    I should re-iterate that the cartoon has already appeared on many blogs and message boards online--by far, my most popular cartoon of the past year. Newspaper editors should have the chance to use it in their papers.

    I should also re-iterate that a) the facts in the cartoon are absolutely true, and b) I'm willing to walk over this, cuz, hey, if you're only going to use three cartoons of mine a month (as you did in February), do you really think I'm going to miss the monthly check for $165...? I'm pretty much the only political cartoonist in America who actually lives on his meager syndication income, and I'm sure I can do better than $165/month SOMEwhere.

  • That prompted this response from King:
    Scott:

    I am not the person who makes the BEST & WITTIEST selections. The
    selections are made by a group of editors.

    I did ask to see what you have submitted in the past two months.
    Having looked at the batch, it is not surprising to me that so few of your
    cartoons were selected for inclusion. The bulk of our clients are still
    print clients - daily newspapers. Daily newspapers are unlikely to print
    cartoons with endings such as: "Remember, America - you can't spell
    "B**s***" without "Bush!" and "Screw unto others!"

    You do interesting work that you obviously put a lot of thought into,
    but your cartoons are generally so verbose that they are better described
    as illustrated opinion columns than as editorial cartoons. That approach
    works better on websites where newsholes aren't physically limited by page
    counts, as is the case with print publications. The trick with websites of
    course is figuring out a viable business model to support the creation,
    marketing and distribution of the work.

    I'd like to see you do well and I want you to do well. Your
    involvement with The BEST & WITTIEST feature is clearly upsetting to you,
    so at this point I agree, it is best that you move on and leave the BEST &
    WITTIEST.

    I'm sorry that the experience has been frustrating for you, and wish
    you the best. Hopefully, you'll find a paying staff editorial cartoon
    position on some website.

  • I pinged back with an email agreeing that yeah, it was probably time to move on.
  • So now, I'm out of work, and nobody's beating down my door to hire me.

(39 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Clearly, my work IS getting too edgy for daily papers, so I'm going to need think long and hard about what my next step viv a vis political cartooning might be.
[User Picture]
From:murnkay
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Well the guy who does the Norm is doing subscriptions now I hear and doing ok at it. I mean... 5 dollars a month? 3? How many of your readers here alone would pay to get your stirps for a few bucks a month?
[User Picture]
From:ashlar_one
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:07 pm (UTC)

Preaching to the choir...

(Link)
Hey, I'd pay five bucks/month for access to your work. And that's saying a lot, because I'm poor AND cheap.
[User Picture]
From:xforge
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Preaching to the choir...

(Link)
Hear hear, I'd subscribe.

[User Picture]
From:arun251
Date:March 28th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Preaching to the choir...

(Link)
Me, too.
[User Picture]
From:auros
Date:March 29th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Preaching to the choir...

(Link)
I bet more of us would use a tip jar than would buy merchandise. I really like the "I don't believe in man" comic, but I already have too many mugs, and I don't really need another white t-shirt, esp not if your cut's only a buck or two.
[User Picture]
From:xforge
Date:March 29th, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Preaching to the choir...

(Link)
Wut he sed too. I'm not so big on Cafepress because (a) white t-shirts, (b) the designs are iron-on and fade quick, and (c) the person who came up with the design gets nearly jack.

Not that I wouldn't still be jazzed at having Bateman schwag. I'm just always broke. = )

(But I'd still pay to see the editorials.)

[User Picture]
From:vvalkyri
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Unfortunate. They're right about you being more of a short opinion column with pictures but it was good to have that in a prominent place like the editorial cartoon page.

I'd always assumed you had alternate end lines for the print edition.

notacolour has a good suggestion with Salon. I could swear I'd seen your stuff in their editorial cartoon collections.

How does self syndication work?
[User Picture]
From:notacolour
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:02 pm (UTC)

stupid question:

(Link)
Have you pinged salon? I say this is stupid because I'm sure you have, or at least you've heard this suggestion many times before, but they do at least showcase a few cartoonists, if they don't pay them much of anything...
[User Picture]
From:tikimama
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Not to be upsetting, but he does have a point about your comics becoming more illustrated columns than cartoons. I'm not suggesting that you change that, but it might influence where you go with it.
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Duly noted, and not an insult at all.
[User Picture]
From:tikimama
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Good, I didn't mean it as an insult. It's like This Modern World--most of the time the illustration parts are really there to help the words, and not the other way around.

I hope you aren't Tom Tomorrow's arch enemy or anything. :)
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
He gave me a ride in his car once, but swore me to secrecy as to the make and model. :-)
[User Picture]
From:gillen
Date:March 29th, 2005 08:11 am (UTC)
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Actually, I'm reminded more of Jules Pfeiffer.


Well, okay, Jules Pfeiffer on crack.
[User Picture]
From:auros
Date:March 29th, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC)
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And if Jules Pfeiffer were secretly a panda?
[User Picture]
From:curmudgeon
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I am wondering yet again if you and Keith Knight should maybe have a conversation.
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:25 pm (UTC)
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If you know Keith, hook me up.
[User Picture]
From:curmudgeon
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:37 pm (UTC)
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O-tay!
[User Picture]
From:mcmillan
Date:March 28th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC)
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As someone who has self-syndicated for, oh, six years now, I should tell you that I haven't yet figured out where the money is either. If syndication is bad, self-syndication can be worse, unless you have, like some started out with, a job with free access to a postage machine (which I don't). Also needed: a lot of persistence and some ability to be phone-aggressive (I don't have the phone-aggression thing down either).

That really sucks. I hope you find something good. What about those flash animations you were doing...could you make a good living at that sort of thing? I read somewhere flash is getting way popular.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:mcmillan
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Delivery

(Link)
Definitely downloading is better for use, but I'm talking about promotion and selling the cartoon. As far as I can tell, physical mail is the best way to reach editors. Many won't even look at an email, but a physical piece of paper can lie around on a desk as a reminder, and is more likely to be filed for future decisions. It's best to mail an editor multiple times, like weekly or monthly, and if you're even only targetting the alt-weeklies, that's more than 150 packages in each mailing.

Faxing is also good, but there again, you're spending a lot of money. Less than postage though.

Selling/convincing is the hard part. Once that's done, getting it to them is easy.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:mcmillan
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Delivery

(Link)
I don't know. That sounds like an idea worth exploring though.
[User Picture]
From:auros
Date:March 29th, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Delivery

(Link)
A friend of mine has been trying to set up an indie syndicate, though he's writing a family entertainment / funny-page kinda strip, not hard-hitting political stuff...
[User Picture]
From:xforge
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Word on that too. The Orlando Weekly used to be my sole source of Tom Tomorrow, Ted Rall and Red Meat. Bateman would fit right in that stuff yo.

[User Picture]
From:arun251
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, exactly. If Tom Tomorrow can stay in print, so can Scott Bateman. I actually find Tom Tomorrow in two local weeklies, the college one, and the community one.
[User Picture]
From:pghbekka
Date:March 28th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)

Local weeklies and paid subscriptions

(Link)
I ditto both the local weeklies and paid subscription ideas. I would happily spend $5 a month to view your political cartoons. The local Pittsburgh weekly carries Tom Tomorrow, Ted Rall, Red Meat and Derf. I would love to see your cartoons added to the lineup.
[User Picture]
From:pghbekka
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Local weeklies and paid subscriptions

(Link)
Also, have you sent any of your stuff to the Daily Show? If you get on their radar, maybe you could get on the show for publicity.
[User Picture]
From:paulkienitz
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Local weeklies and paid subscriptions

(Link)
You could even suggest to them to make a little stink about "The strip that was too hot for King Features to carry!" Not that you'd want to be quoted on that.
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 29th, 2005 03:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Local weeklies and paid subscriptions

(Link)
How does one reach the Daily Show...?
[User Picture]
From:paeanist
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
well, fuck them.

i'll re-ditto regarding local weeklies (in my case, the baltimore citypaper) and paid subscriptions. i'd definitely be in.

the world would be far suckier place without scott bateman. don't let the man get you down.
[User Picture]
From:tiki_monkey
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Go to where the money is

Furry Porn
From:audiotrophic
Date:March 28th, 2005 10:51 pm (UTC)

Subscription model and such...

(Link)
I'd definitely sign up for a reasonably priced subscription model.

I know a bijillion people are probably throwing out options, but have you ever thought of doing an op-ed column as well? I think you have a wonderful "voice" that is under-represented in every medium.

hope all is going well with the move.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:scottbateman
Date:March 29th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
(Link)
So, whatever happened to Editorial Humor...?
[User Picture]
From:thespian
Date:March 31st, 2005 03:53 pm (UTC)
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Editorial Humor is where I first saw your work, skippy. It was fine, but man. The owner - total flake. Lovely man. Not possessed of the business sense of a fly. I never got how that paper wasn't hemorraghing money, instead of just slowly going broke.
[User Picture]
From:pdanielson
Date:March 29th, 2005 02:19 am (UTC)
(Link)
I hereby second the syndicate idea mentioned above. And I hereby suggest the name "Hairy Palms Syndicate."
[User Picture]
From:dryad271
Date:March 29th, 2005 06:31 am (UTC)
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I'd shell out the bucks for your work. =)
[User Picture]
From:mindme
Date:March 29th, 2005 08:04 am (UTC)
(Link)
That's a darn shame. Your cartoon was the first place I heard about Bush's "its okay to kill em in texas under my law, just don't do it in florida when the christian right is looking" move.

You're doing something with editorial cartoons you don't see in the mainstream and I've liked it.
[User Picture]
From:gillen
Date:March 29th, 2005 08:19 am (UTC)
(Link)
Actually, what you should do is tell us where you want to appear and then we'll deluge them with "Have you guys ever considered picking up Scott Bateman?" emails and letters. That was how Jared Ladish went from anonymous nobody to the Most Powerful Man in Milwaukee. Okay, he went right back to anonymous nobody within a month or so, bad example, but still...
[User Picture]
From:flavobean
Date:March 29th, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here's my question:

Don Asmussen's Bad Reporter is pretty text heavy, and could easily fall under "illustrated opinion."

So King can't find a place for you?

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