November 20, 2017

Journey into Syndication (the abbreviated version)

Okay, like I said, it’s official. The Argyle Sweater is being syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate and launches into newspapers on April 7th. It has so far, been picked up by the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Oregonian and The Calgary Herald just to name a few.

Since it’s been announced, I’ve gotten lots of supportive and inquisitive e-mails from friends, readers and other cartoonists (professional and amateur alike). One of the recurring questions seem to revolve around how it happened for me. Starting today, I will over the next week or so, chronicle (as best I can in a condensed format) my magical journey and how The Argyle Sweater came to be syndicated.

Let’s see, where should I start….Lemee think….Hey, how ‘bout here:

The Beginning

First, let me say that, like many cartoonists, I’ve wanted to draw a syndicated comic since forever – or more specifically, since 2nd grade. I’ve always had a passion for drawing and doodled silly pictures pretty much all of my life – but never on a professional level. While I don’t consider myself a pessimist, I AM a realist and I’ve always known that the odds of becoming a syndicated cartoonist, even for the most talented of artists and writers, are incredibly low. That, alone, kept me from really ever putting my heart into creating a quality submission of my work for syndication. Add to that being married, having two young children and a full–time job, not only did I not have the courage, but I didn’t have the time to draw and write regularly. However after joining the millions of other Americans in becoming a member of the divorce club, I noticed that I had quite a bit of free time on my hands and eventually picked up my pen and started to doodle again.

After a year or so, I realized that if I didn’t at least make the effort, my dream of making a living as a professional cartoonist would pass me by. I decided to get more serious about it and came up with about 10 or 12 single panel cartoons. After showing them to my girlfriend as well as a few friends from work and getting some positive feedback, I was encouraged to submit my work. Over the next few weeks I wrote and drew another 3 or 4 weeks worth of comics. Upon completion, I named my comic (another story for another day), bought the domain, and with a little help from friend and co-worker, built The Argyle Sweater website. I made hard copies of my best 24 or so comics, which included 4 panels per page (if I remember correctly) and one coversheet which included one paragraph describing my comic and one paragraph introducing myself. I then sent off my work to each syndicate and launched my website the same day that I mailed it off.

A few days later, I sent an e-mail to about 15 friends and family members heralding the launch of my new comic website. I asked them to please pass the e-mail along while also informing them that the site would be updated daily with a new comic. In all honesty, again being a realist, I thought that I would get little (if any) response and would probably kill the site after getting my rejection letters from the syndicates. To my surprise, in the first week, I received 3 or 4 enthusiastic e-mails daily from people I had never met expressing their support. In the meantime, I was already looking at ways to increase my web presence and build a bigger audience. That’s when I found Comics Sherpa, an amateur cartoonist website owned and operated by uclick/GoComics (which is kind of a sister company to Universal).

At the time, Comics Sherpa used a rating system which allowed readers to see what comics were the highest rated. I noticed one comic seemed to consistently be the highest rated on the site (and for good reason). 44 Union Avenue by Mike Witmer was one of the best comics on the site. I e-mailed the creator introducing myself, asking his opinion of Comics Sherpa and asked if he would recommend trying it myself. After briefly corresponding with him, I decided to try it. I immediately started getting positive feedback from readers as well as from other cartoonists on the site.

Over the next 4 or 5 weeks I began to network with other cartoonists including Mike Witmer, Jonathan Mahood (Bleeker) Pab Sungenis (New Adventures of Queen Victoria), Rick Ellis (Half-Baked) and Thom Bluemel (Birdbrains) to name a few. Although the support and encouragement from these new friends helped me stay focused, it wasn’t enough to keep me going. After 4 weeks or so, the only feedback I had gotten from any syndicates were form letter rejections from Creators, Tribune and one from United that looked as if it had been photocopied 8 or 9 million times. At week 5 or 6, I was close to giving up (I suppose I’m pretty impatient) when I received an e-mail from one of the producers at GoComics inviting me to leave the amateur site (Comics Sherpa) and begin showing my work on the professional side (GoComics). Using elated and ecstatic to describe how I felt upon receiving that e-mail would be an understatement. I quickly accepted and after a month or so of sending the contract back and forth, The Argyle Sweater launched on December 1st 2006 at GoComics and I became a professional cartoonist…To be continued

Comments

  1. pabsungenis says:

    Comics Sherpa is run by great people (okay, really a great guy) who can spot talent a mile away. That’s why Argyle made the jump to GoComics, and now is making the jump into newspapers. It’s good. Very good.

  2. scotthilburn says:

    Thanks Pab.

    Btw Pab, have you ever thought about trying to get NAQV into print as an alt weekly comic? Seems like Queen would be perfect for that.

    I think a lot of people would find it amusing. HA – get it? Amusing?
    You know – cuz Queen always says – you know – that… eh… “we are not”…eh…oh, nevermind.

  3. Thom Bluemel says:

    Scott,

    I am soooo happy for your success. Honestly, I knew you were bound for greatness when I first got the opportunity to enjoy your comic on Sherpa. Now, I get to enjoy in calendars, books and online at GoComics.

    And for the record, I was on Sherpa for 5 years before the asked me over in 2007! I guess it would have been better to be less patient, but cartooning is just plain fun for me.

    Keep up the great work, Scott. Your success is well earned, my friend.

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