New Hughcards, 31st December 2017


Letter to Jamie Byng, Cannongate Publishing, Edinburgh

Dear Jamie,

(An old schoolmate, the journalist Ian Fraser gave me your P.A,, Laura’s email address, I hope reaching out to you via her is OK.)

I’m an author and cartoonist, I’ve had three books published with Penguin Portfolio in New York, one a small bestseller.

According to Facebook, you and I have about a dozen friends in common. I grew up in Edinburgh.
I’m old friends of the Wolfe Murrays, and the film director, David Mackenzie is one of my best friends.

Anyway, I’m writing because I wanted to let you know about my latest project. For the last twenty years, I’ve been drawing cartoons on the back of business cards and then publishing them on my blog. With my partners we’ve managed to turn my cartoons and illustrations into a seven-figure business here in the USA, and I’ve also built up an archive of several thousand “Hughcards”, which you can see here:

My plan is to turn the best of this Hughcards collection into a massive coffee table book, high quality printing, with approximately one to two thousand of the best drawings.

I’m currently looking at printing and publishing options. I can certainly have it printed privately, but as this is not my expertise I thought maybe I should seek out a more experienced partner to collaborate with, hence this email.

I’d love to work with Canongate, if that ever became a possibility.

Either way, I hope you will give the cartoons a look. I know what you have done at Canongate and I am a huge fan.

Thanks for your consideration,

Kindest Regards

Hugh MacLeod

New Hughcards, December 8th, 2017



When I was a young man I used to dabble in beekeeping. I had a couple of hives, which yielded me a few hundredweight of raw honey every year.

This was far more honey than I would ever need myself, so the first idea was to sell it to people, for an easy ten dollars a pound or so. Not bad money.

What I soon found out was that although people liked giving me money for honey, they really LOVED getting honey for birthday and Christmas presents. For some magical reason, a fresh slab of honeycomb punched above its weight in the goodwill-generating department, by a factor of at least five-to-one.

So knowing this, I never sold another ounce of honey ever again. But because I didn’t have to buy presents in shops anymore, I saved A TON of time and money every Holiday Season, which more than paid back the honey’s investment, many times over.

The honey wasn’t income. It was capital, social capital.

Later on in the early 2000’s when I started promoting my work online, I learned to take a similar approach with my drawings. Instead of trying to sell them, I’d give them away for free (either digitally, or if I really liked you, the original business card it was drawn on), then use the goodwill this social gesture generated to create other freelance and consulting opportunities (*Nowadays they call this the “freemium” model, but back then I didn’t know that).

I guess you could call this freemium approach “flipping the art”. As you look around you realize that’s how the really successful artists make most of their money.

Book authors “flip” their books into movie deals or high-paid speaking gigs.

Musicians “flip” their songs into advertising royalties and concert tours.

Movie stars “flip” their acting fees into real estate deals.

The smart money treats themselves like capital, not income.

Everybody needs to eat, everybody needs to get paid, sure, but you need to remind yourself that you don’t get into this game for simply transactional reasons. You’re selling art now, you’re not selling “stuff”. There are higher forces at work, here.

Hence the freemium. Hence the flip.