Monday, March 05, 2007

Cartooning Philosophy: "On Rejection ..."

Nobody likes to be rejected.

But if you’re aspiring to be a professional cartoonist, that’s one of the first things you need to adapt to. Rejection is simply part of the business. Even the legendary cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz (creator of Peanuts), wasn’t immune to rejection.

The same rings true for most creative careers – Just watch an episode of Canadian or American Idol. There, in the form of “Reality TV,” you’ll witness a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows ... Climbs. Falls. Loops. Twists & Turns. As the old saying goes, “Strap yourself in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!”

However, there are good sides to rejection...

For example, a rejected cartoon(s) means that an editor thought, for one reason or another, your work wasn't ready / suitable / usable for their publication at the present time. You can’t argue with that. After all, they know what’s best for their company. In essence, they’re doing you a favour because they’ve saved you the embarrassment of sharing your not-quite-up-to-standard cartoon(s) with millions and millions of potential readers.

Therefore, as a cartoonist, a rejection can/should motivate you to do better ... work harder ... and (if necessary) give up. Not give up on cartooning altogether, but maybe change the drawing and/or humour style that you’ve been using ever since you started creating cartoons. Most people grow up and mature. There’s no reason why your cartoons shouldn’t do the same.

Still, editors receive thousands and thousands of submissions every year. So, there’s always a chance that you were number 11 on their "Top 10 List." That said, whether you’re an aspiring, young cartoonist, or a seasoned professional, a rejection will always remind you of one important thing:

You’re only human.

And it’s moments like these that keep you humble.

Saturday Evening Post - Cartoon Rejection Slip

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope


  1. Hey Mike, My name is Tim Winstead and as an aspiring cartoonist myself, I've come to realize that this industry isn't all fun and games as one would naivly believe. When I was younger with stars in my eyes, so to speak..I actually beleived that cartooning could be the occupation for me. I love to draw and love even more when one of my toons brings a smile to someones face. That's why I draw. Certainly not to participate in a literal rat-race with every other cartoonist out there ..all vying for that tiny spot on the comics pages or in the magazines.Albeit, I have never gone the route of submissions to syndicates or magazines..and certainly never suffered the woes of rejection..I can attest to rejection being what you make of it and completely agree with you on that.A person can either allow rejections to befall them or utilize them to improve on what their weak points are. Six years ago or so, I decided to give this cartooning thing another diligent try and while educating myself on the rigors of what any cartoonist must put themselves through just to make a go of it..I decided right then and there, right or wrong..I was not going to subject myself to the stresses of selling my 'soul' for a spot in a paper or magazine, ect.I have a definate talent, however gauged good or bad by my peers, but a talent nonetheless, and if I'm going to continue drawing cartoons...I'll do them on my terms..the way I like to draw the without all of the rules that apply.You see..drawing from ones' imagination shouldn't have any rules. Perception is boundless and creation is an INDIVIDUAL process. I toon because I love to toon and not because I have to.
    BTW..Nice blog...sorta reminds me of my own, ' The Drawing Board'. Please pop in when you can and visit me at or check out my toons and sci-fi tainted images at Thanks

  2. Mike,
    a good deal of the time rejection isn't personal, and keeping that in mind helps. I knew an editor who had a phobia about birds. Even one of those little squiggles we use to indicate a distant bird was enough to turn him off, and anything more detailed could turn him off on your whole batch.

    Then there was an editor who loved food gags, and i always included at least one in any batch to him. Then his boss decided he was over doing it, and told him no more food gags.

    John Norment who edited two cartoon magazines for Dell said that for unknown reasons cartoonists would all get on the same kick at times. He'd buy three mountain climbing gags, and then have to turn some that were even better for the sake of variety.

    Sometimes they've just got to use up a backlog before buying more, maybe there's a budget cut, maybe they've a special article they need to run that will crowd out some cartoons for a few issues. The list is endless.

  3. I'm not sure when that thick skin forms, but after a while rejection just sorta bounces off.

    Some of the best advice I ever got is the simplest - do what you think is good, and then find people who agree.

  4. Yeah, everything said here is true... but it's still frustrating as hell. I've sent in a couple comic submissions for syndication... Almost a month of work, sent out with optimism, and then six to eight weeks later there's your handwriting on an envelope addressed to you, and you know right there what the answer is... in a form letter no less. It's not very pleasant to realize that not only was your month of hard work not good enough, but it's not even good enough for individual recognition... Even being aware of the long shot that is submission... oh well.

    I usually just figure those idiots can't realize potential when they see it... Then I shake my fist and mumble "I'll show them, I'll show them all..."

    ...of course, in retrospect, my comic submissions weren't great... but I sure thought so at the time.

  5. The bottom line is: If your work isn't good enough, it will be rejected but if your work IS good enough it still won't necessarily be accepted. Rejection is not a personal issue. Most of the time it is simply a case of too many submissions, too little space. Sometimes, the timing of a submission makes all the difference. On several occasions I have had a cartoon rejected by a major magazine which, when I resubmitted the same idea six months later, not only bought it but used it as a full colour front cover. Not even the most experienced professional can tell whether a cartoon will be accepted or rejected and one of the most important qualities a cartoonist can have is to be able to live with rejection. The only cure for that sinking feeling rejection brings is to get another batch of work in the mail. Hope will always vanquish despair.

  6. Some very good comments here.

    Rejection is the norm. To be able to make it, you gotta be able to pitch your cartoons. Coming up with ideas you think are good -- regardless of the rejection -- is the key. Persist, persist.

  7. Excellent words of wisdom!

    Tim, Arnold, Mark, Jim, Noel, and Mike ... Thank you for taking time to visit and for contributing your thoughts.