Submitting Comic Strips and Panels:
Torstar Syndication Services, specializing in Canadian content, is always happy to look at new comic features for possible syndication. We believe in the art of cartooning and place great importance on looking at new material. Without exception, every comic strip or panel idea submitted to us is carefully considered. In order to help you present your work in the best possible light and to help us respond to it more quickly, we have put together the following questions and answers:
I AM UNFAMILIAR WITH SYNDICATION. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT A CARTOON SYNDICATE DOES?
First, a syndicate decides which comic strips it thinks it can sell best. Then it signs a contract with the cartoonist to create the strips on a regular basis. But most of all, the syndicate edits, packages, promotes, prints, sells and distributes the comic strip to newspapers and other outlets in Canada. In short, a syndicate is responsible for bringing the cartoons from the cartoonist to the public.
HOW MANY CARTOONS SHOULD I SUBMIT?
Send 24 black and white daily comic strips. It is not necessary to send Sunday comic strips. If we like your daily comics, we will ask to see sample Sunday pages.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD I DRAW MY COMICS?
Most comic strip cartoonists draw their daily comic strips 13″ wide by 4″ tall. Most single-panel cartoonists draw their daily panel 7″ wide by 7″ high, not counting the extra space for the caption placed underneath the drawing. You can draw larger or smaller than that, as long as your cartoons are in proportion to those sizes.
WHAT FORMAT SHOULD I SUBMIT MY CARTOONS IN?
You should reduce your comics to fit onto standard 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets of paper. Write your name, address and phone number on each page. Do not send your original drawings! Send photocopies instead.
There is no need to send your work in any other format. Due to the enormous amount of submissions we receive, it’s easiest on us if the work is kept to 8-1/2” x 11”, bound with a paper clip or a staple. We would prefer not to receive large binders or portfolios.
CAN I SUBMIT MY WORK IN A DIGITAL FORMAT VIA THE INTERNET OR ON A DISK?
We do not accept work submitted via the internet or on disk. Due to the extremely high volume of submissions we receive, it is easiest for us to receive, track, and account for the work if everything is sent in via regular mail or courier in the format described above.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A SUBMISSION?
We are looking for comic features that will simultaneously appeal to the editors who buy comics and the readers whose interest the comics must sustain for years to follow. We don’t have a formula for telling us which comics will do that, but we do look for some elements that we believe people respond to.
First, we look for a uniqueness that reflects the cartoonist’s own individual slant on the world and humour. If we see that unique slant, we look to see if the cartoonist is turning his or her attention to events that other people can relate to.
Second, we very carefully study a cartoonist’s writing ability. Good writing helps weak art, better than good art helps weak writing. Good art is also important. It is what first attracts readers to a comic strip. We look to see that your art is drawn clearly and with visual impact. We want our comics to be noticed on a page.
Finally, we look for your ability to sustain a high level of quality material. We want comics that readers will enjoy for years and years.
DO I NEED TO COPYRIGHT MY CARTOONS BEFORE SENDING THEM?
No, it’s not necessary, but if you feel safer doing so, you can obtain copyright information by visiting http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42/index.html
IF I AM A BETTER WRITER THAN AN ARTIST (OR VICE VERSA), WILL THE SYNDICATE MATCH ME UP WITH A PARTNER?
It is up to the cartoonist to find a partner.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF PAYMENT IF MY WORK IS ACCEPTED?
If your work is accepted for syndication, the proceeds are split 50/50 between the cartoonist and the syndicate.
CAN YOU GIVE ME ANY TIPS TO IMPROVE MY CHANCES OF SUCCESS?
The single best way of improving your chances for success is to practice. Only by drawing and writing cartoons do you get better at it. Invariably the cartoonists whose work we like best turns out to be those who draw and write cartoons regularly whether anyone sees their work or not.
Another key to success it to read a lot. Read all sorts of things — fiction, magazines and newspapers. Humour is based on real life. The more you know about life, the more you have to humorously write about.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON MISTAKES MADE BY ASPIRING CARTOONISTS?
They often place too much emphasis on coming up with a novel character or setting. A strip starring a giraffe won’t get critical acclaim just because there’s never been a giraffe strip before. Humour is the most important element of successful comic strips, followed closely by well-defined and interesting characters.
In many cases, aspiring cartoonists develop too narrow a premise. Syndicated comics are meant to last for decades. A cartoon about a character who always falls asleep at the wrong time or talks about just one topic day after day, will quickly get repetitive and boring. Develop characters and situations that will allow you many avenues for humour in the future.
Very few aspiring cartoonists pay enough attention to their lettering. The words need to be lettered neatly enough, and large enough, that readers can read them without difficulty.
Newspapers usually print comic strips about 6-1/2″ wide. They usually print single panel cartoons 3-1/8″ wide. Have your local copy shop reduce a few of your cartoons to printed size to see if your lettering is still legible when reduced. There shouldn’t be too much writing either. People prefer reading shorter, quicker-paced comics. Many aspiring cartoonists don’t use waterproof drawing ink to finish their drawings. Pencils, ballpoint pens, and most felt-tip pens don’t reproduce well enough for syndication. Aspiring cartoonists should learn how to use pens and/or brushes with waterproof drawing ink.
Finally, many aspiring cartoonists develop comics that are too similar to already successful strips. Newspaper editors aren’t going to duplicate a comic that they already print.
WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN THE PACKAGE OF CARTOONS THAT I SEND?
Your total submission package should include:
- A cover letter — that briefly outlines the overall nature of your comic strip. Your cover letter should also include your full name, address, and telephone number and shouldn’t be longer than one page.
- 24 daily comic strips — on 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper (you can fit up to 3 or 4 strips per page).
- A character sheet — that shows your major characters (if any) along with their names and a paragraph description of each.
WHO SHOULD I SEND MY COMIC FEATURE TO?
Send your cartoons to:
Torstar Syndication Services,
1 Yonge Street,
WILL I RECEIVE A REPLY TO MY SUBMISSION?
We thoroughly review every comic submission we receive and you will receive a letter from us.
We are always happy to look at new ideas for syndication, and all submissions are evaluated carefully. Here’s what you should include in your column proposal:
- Six sample columns of no more than 650 words each.
- Some information about yourself, and any additional published articles and materials you believe relevant.
- Send copies of your material, not originals. We cannot be responsible for unsolicited manuscripts.
Here’s the address:
Torstar Syndication Services
1 Yonge Street,
We will give careful consideration to your proposal. In addition to the editorial quality of your submission, we also have to make sure your idea is new and different from those already in syndication. Before you submit your idea, please check the Editor and Publisher Annual Directory of Syndication services. Check your local library for a copy.
We are also interested in seeing puzzle ideas that are new and different.
Please do not call us. It will take us about six weeks to make a decision, so be patient. It doesn’t matter whether you submit the materials yourself or whether an agent submits them for you. Your work will speak for itself.