King features in New York is one of the largest comic-strip syndicators in the United States. Here's what they tell anyone who wants to submit cartoons to them:
*Send in 24 daily comic strips.
*Draw the strips 13 inches wide and 4 inches tall (or in that proportion).
*Make copies of the strips that will fit onto 8-1/2 by 11-inch paper.
*Enclose a letter that explains the idea of your strip, short descriptions of the main characters, some background about yourself, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Ted Hannah, a King Features spokesman, says that if a new strip is accepted in 50 to 75 newspapers right away, that's a good start, especially if they are big-city papers.
"Comic characters become friends to readers," Mr. Hannah says. "We don't have the answers for how that happens and how it doesn't."
A lot of good comic strips, he adds, run in 400 or 500 papers and never approach the 2,600 worldwide distribution achieved by such classics as "Garfield" and "Peanuts." Why?
"That's the mystery," he says. "No one can explain it."
Amy Lago, executive editor of comic features for United Feature Syndicate, says good writing is the key. "If something isn't well written, good artwork won't save it," she says. And, "If something is well written, it can have mediocre artwork."
A new cartoonist may get a trial contract, to see if he or she can be funny day after day. There are now about 225 syndicated comic strips in the US.
Once a daily strip is established, a slot in the more-selective Sunday funnies may follow. Each newspaper decides on its own lineup of Sunday comics. At the Los Angeles Times, comics editor Nancy Tew may recommend adding a new strip, which means dropping an old one. She may ask a panel of colleagues to vote.
Surprisingly, daily comics are drawn mostly for grown-ups, Ms. Tew says. Hannah agrees: "Children still read comics," he says, "but not as much as they used to." Kids are more into animated cartoons, he notes. But everyone reads the Sunday funnies.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society