Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of the New Yorker has been doing the media rounds in promotion of his new book, “How About Never — Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons.”
I’ve heard a couple of fascinating NPR-ish radio interviews in which he reveals the behind the scene workings of the New Yorker office. One thing that particularly struck me was that he said, “some of the best cartoonists in the world submit a total 500 cartoons to The New Yorker per week, of which the magazine prints, on average, only 17.”
He also said that the first thing most people tell him upon learning he is the cartoon editor is, “I’ve got a great idea for a cartoon…” This is rightly one of Mankoff’s pet peeves since he had submitted 2,000 “great ideas” before he got his first New Yorker acceptance in 1977.
While I’ve never submitted a cartoon, I’ve had many great ideas. However, I have summoned the gumption and chutzpah to submit cover designs. All of them were promptly and rightly rejected.
I imagine cover artists face similar barriers as the cartoonists. Based on my own scientific formula, I figure that at the rate that I produce and submit my great ideas you can look for my first featured cover when I’m 486 years old.
Here is How to Get Rejected by The New Yorker in 10 Easy Steps:
1. Open mail box on Thursday evening, look at latest cover and exclaim, “I could do that…”
2. Procrastinate and don’t try to “do that” … right now.
4. Have an existential crisis and ask, “What am I doing with my life. If I could just get into the New Yorker it would change everything.”
5. Set your mind to having a great idea. Ponder it while running, showering, driving and possibly having an adult beverage (in that order, please.) I’m not a smoker, but if you are, go for it! I believe in vice. Coffee, donuts a can of frosting – do whatever it takes to conjure your own delusion of grandeur.
6. Put your great idea on paper and realize, “damn this is hard!” Mild melancholia sets in.
7. Procrastinate just a little. Realize your great idea is topical and has a short shelf life and kick it into gear. See step 5 for ways to “kick it into gear.”
8. Obsess, obsess, obsess until it’s done-ish. Realize this is as good as it’s going to get.
9. Say, “F’k it. Send it!” Seal envelope with positive thoughts, lick stamps and pray. Send it!
10. Wait about 2 weeks to find form letter. If it was decent you can get a scribbled not from the Art Editor, Francois Mouly, that says “No Thnx” or “Not right for us yet.” If it was a really great idea, it went straight to slush pile and you get the form letter sealed by the intern.
10A. Wait about 2 weeks for the next issue and realize someone stole your great idea for a topical cover, but somehow did it much, much, much better.
And remember, be kind to the editors and always include a self addressed stamped envelope.
Below: Great idea rejected.