3: Embracing Fame & Cold Truths (cont)

Embracing Fame & Cold Truths (cont)

Your cartoons appear regularly in The New Yorker. Tell us how you got started there.

I wanted my book to have an intermission and include the world’s best snowman cartoons, cartoons from Charles Adams, Charles Schultz, Robert Crumb, and some of the New Yorker cartoonists. My publisher thought I was nuts. I spent a bit of money at The New Yorker’s Cartoonbank to get the best, including a cartoon hero of mine, Sam Gross. Afterwards Mr. Gross took me to lunch at The New Yorker for my birthday as thanks. I had a great day, enjoyed the company and the food and so I asked how to get in on that gig of becoming a cartoonist for The New Yorker. The following week I showed up with ten cartoon sketches.

What was the first Eckstein original they published?

© Bob Eckstein/The New Yorker Collection/www.cartoonbank.com

Hecklers on Poetry Night! Not my best but it was my first cartoon I showed them….and it was over a year before I sold another! I went in every week and every week got all ten rejected.

Do you write stories for them or do you stick strictly to cartoons?

I’ve also pitched stories to The New Yorker but have sold zero, zilch, nada, zip . . .

Do you have any tips for our readers concerning how to write for The New Yorker?

A famous writer there explained that their first fifty submissions were rejected. The best contributors sometimes try for years before their first sale. The rejection rate is 99.9%. I came close once but that week they went with some writer named Woody Allen.

I can share some advice which I know would be helpful. My first book editor was giving this seminar to writers and as is always the case at these, the first question in the Q & A was how to get a deal. His two word answer: “Be famous.”

It’s a kind of assholey answer but he meant it. He could have justifiably added, “get a drug habit” as in every interview I’ve read the writer seems to have done heroin. Not that it matters–those asking questions at the podium often are doing so to mention the specifics of their particular book in hopes someone on the panel is going to stand up and declare, “Wait, that’s exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

I took that advice to heart. I did over 60 TV and radio interviews last year alone. Being famous does not have to mean selling or putting out…it means becoming an expert. Ideally an expert on something that has no expert. The highlight of my book was that at one point I wrote an Op-ed about snowmen and global warming for both the New York Post and The Daily News at the same time I did a big piece for The New York Times. I did editorials for all three of New York City’s main newspapers that appeared on the same day. That did not happen because they like my writing – it was because I was a (self-proclaimed!) expert.

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