Have you ever stopped at a Rest Stop and saw a man that was clearly not traveling anywhere? I seem to run into one all the time. Heâ€™s not a motorist or hitch-hiker or trucker or attendant. Heâ€™s just some guy who just found himself there and stuck around for the plumbing and soft pretzels.
Kinda like Web cartoonists.
It started for me when I had been turned down by the syndicates. Again. So I posted my nine weeks of samples on a shoddily-constructed Web site, hoping to get some feedback. After nine weeks, I decided to update it daily â€“ just for kicks.
Three years later, Iâ€™m still cranking out six a week, and, much like the Rest Stop Resident, I seem to have lost sight of my original destination.
When I first started out, I wanted desperately to gain the acceptance of a newspaper syndicate. This Web stuff was a way to prove myself to them. Now, Iâ€™m not so sure Iâ€™d sign a contract in the Unlikely Event one was offered.
After all, why am I trying so hard to meet the syndicateâ€™s standards? The statistics are all there, but nobody seems to add them up. More than 5,000 submissions are offered to the major syndicates each year. Only about 20 are chosen (thatâ€™s approximately 4% of the qualified submissions and 0.4% of the total amount). Of the chosen few, only 5 or so survive past five years.
Why am I busting my hump to be the one chosen by an organization with a proven track record of choosing losers?
But, letâ€™s say I was chosen and I survived. Whatâ€™s my reward? I get a pay scale that hasnâ€™t increased significantly since sometime in the â€™70s — and involvement in a newspaper industry that is losing advertisers and readers at a rate that would make a hemophiliac blush.
Itâ€™s a feeble blush…pale pink at best… but you get my point.
Itâ€™s a vicious cycle. The newspaper editors become more and more cautious about choosing new comics for the comics section. The syndicates read this caution as a call for the most watered-down, â€œsafestâ€ product available. Each year, the syndicatesâ€™ offerings become tamer and more timid. Each year, the newspapersâ€™ comics get staler and less interesting. Circulation drops further. Ad dollars dry up. Newspaper editors become even more cautious.
The result? Paralysis. Most of the comics in your cityâ€™s newspaper are thirty-to-forty years old. No new views. No fresh perspectives. Same old recycled material. Garfield still hates Mondays and Marmaduke is still a big, stupid dog. Such content has little chance of interesting anyone from the cherished 18-to-34 demographic that newspapers need so very badly.
So the syndicates (who tend to pick losers) donâ€™t think my strip is right for the newspaper industry (which seems to have forgotten how to attract readers). And Iâ€™m supposed to be upset with this?
Some exile. The Internet. Scads of people signing on for the first time every dayâ€¦ communities being born…empires being formedâ€¦
True, the business model isnâ€™t perfect. Commerce has been slow for some of us. But the numbers are there. Itâ€™s just a matter of time, folks. You canâ€™t not believe that.
And newspapers are still a great source of income. I put a great deal of time and effort into signing new papers — metro and college. I donâ€™t charge much at all… as long as they agree to print my URL legibly under the strip. After all, I know where my priorities lie.
At the Rest Stop.
The whole world seems to whiz by wondering why weâ€™re not moving with them. Little do they know…