The goal for any cartoonist is to see your work in print. Whether it's in a magazine or newspapers, there's nothing quite like having your efforts validated by a real, by-gosh genuine cartoon editor. My first published cartoon was in a nationally published magazine. It only paid me 25 bucks, but the value of being a published cartoonist was incalculable! Here's a quick primer on how to prepare a single-panel cartoon for submission.
Once you have worked out the details in your brainstorming session, you need to transfer your drawing to a clean sheet of 8 x x 11 inch sheet of paper. Regular printer paper is fine – as long as it's clean. Do not get cutesy with the size of the paper or the color. Bigger paper is a pain for editors who have to pour through lots of submissions, and submitting your work on brightly-colored fluorescent paper will not make it stand out – at least not in a good way. It screams amateur and will get it thrown in the trash.
I will often transfer the drawings straight out of my sketchpad onto printer paper via a light box. I like this process because it preserves the spontaneity and comical whimsy of the sketch which is sometimes lost when a piece is overworked in an attempt to make it "perfect".
Using a Light Box
You can get a light box at your local craft store for next to nothing, or you can go to the internet and look up plans for building your own. Simply tape the cartoon rough in place and then tape your clean sheet of paper over top. Turn on the light and you can clearly see the original through the paper. Transfer the drawing using a black pen. This also eliminates the need for erasing pencil marks which can leave your work messy.
Do not worry about drawing the border around your cartoon. The editor will do that if they need one – often they do not.
The Artist's Market
You can find lots of publications that accept freelance cartoon submissions by looking through a current edition of The Artist and Graphic Designer's Market . This book contains lists of magazines and what they pay, as well as the names of editors and submission details. Study them and then submit accordingly. This is important because different magazines require different things. Some have a minimum number of cartoons that you have to meet; many list things that they are looking for as well as things that they do not want to see.
Mail 'em Out
Once you have your submission packet ready, it's time to send them in. Most publications ask that you send in copies of your originals. Just make sure that you send them in on decent quality paper – not the thin paper most public libraries use. Each packet will require two manila envelopes: one for the packet itself, and another that you will put your own address and postage on. This is commonly called the SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) and is a courtesy you offer the editor so he / she can conveniently send back your artwork (along with a check for any they decided to buy!). Do not worry about any kind of cover letter – they know what a submission packet is for, and your cartons will speak for themselves.
Once you've sent the packet in, it's time to get started on the next set of submissions. Keep doing this week after week and you'll always get that first sale!