Award-winning syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall had just lost a client.
So he did what any red-blooded capitalist would do: auctioned off his services on eBay.
“I had just lost a pretty lucrative assignment so I was desperate and hungry,” Rall tells MediaJobsDaily. “I was thinking of what I could do that’s different.
“One of the things that [cartoonists] always complain about is that readers really like cartoons but editors don’t seem to appreciate or understand them,” Rall says. “In a way, editors are standing in the way of our audience. I was like, I bet I could make more money freelancing to an individual than to an editor, so for shits and giggles I put this up on eBay and see what happens…I thought, ‘worst case scenario, nobody will be interested and ill look foolish but that’s not the first time that has happened.’ I said, ‘whatever, I can live with it.'”
The auction, which included a cartoon about a topic of the winner’s choice, and two digital files (high-res and low-res) and one-time reprint rights, went for $355. The topic: Hemp. (Cue eye-rolling here, but we are definitely looking forward to seeing what Rall comes up with.)
Not bad. “I expected it to be in the hundreds,” Rall says. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been as low as $100 or as high as $500,” so $355 isn’t bad.
Especially when you compare it to what some of his freelance clients are paying.
Small alt-weeklies pay around $100 or $125 for a cover illustration, he said, and even the bigger ones have dropped their rates by more than 50 percent since the 1990s. Rall’s since picked up freelance writing as an addition to cartooningand makes more money at the writing, which should say a lot. “Only in cartooning would freelance writing be seen as a cash cow,” he says.
“You might ask yourself why I do it, and it’s like, what else am I gonna do?”
The auction went so well that Rall has set up another one. Same terms, and with 4 days left to go, the high bid is hovering just above $50. If the cartoon sells for less than the first, so be it, Rall says. It’s been a fun experiment and a way to let readers “play editor.”
Rall has had to contend with criticism from some of his peers. “I had several cartoonists call me and say, ‘Ted, you’re better than this. Ebay’s beneath you.’ And I’m, like, ‘Yeah, this is from people on staff at newspapers, they’re earning 6 figure salaries with benefits.'” He says, with good-humored snark, “I get it’s beneath you, but it’s not beneath me.”
The cartoon pictured is by Ted Rall….obviously.