Saturday, May 23, 2009

More on the National Stationery Show and Surtex

I am going to do this in two segments or maybe more. I am having a hard time getting all of the information revised and want to share, share, share!

So here is the scoop on Surtex 2009.

From the business of licensing perspective:
Like anything, good business sense is common sense. Here are some in depth things I wanted to share but after saying all of this and learning all of this, I came to the statement I said in my last sentence.

Some contacts to get started…..
If you think licensing is for you and you want help getting started here are some contacts

Tara Reed at :

Tara is an artist who has been successful with licensing her art for the past six years. She feels being flexible is key, study your market well, be professional, solicit the companies you feel best suit your art, pursue them with a calculated plan.

Jeannette Smith
She said the artist looking to license should make their website easy to use for the agent and manufacturer. She told us to email her and she would give us some sites to look at for examples. I will post these once I hear back from Jeanette, I email her today (May 23rd)

She said it is really important to her that the site be free of personal information and only have two of the avenues you pursue as an artist. So if you are licensing and working toward-well let’s say Children’s books you could have both your art for children’s books and licensing art on your site but this is it. No stories about your dog, she said a professional blog is rare and she never has time to go read them. That one is a toss-up if you add it to your site.

Cheryl Phelps (click on workshops)

There is a group on Linked-In called “The art of licensing” I met the women who started the group, her name is Cherish Flieder and her website can be seen at:

The book Blink was brought up. Here is a clip from Wikipedia….

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he explores the power of the trained mind to make split second decisions. - Cached

The nuts and bolts of licensing
1) The artist generally gets between 3 and 5% of the wholesale price (lower for food packaging art-because volume is higher-or you hope it is.) in royalties from the manufacturer. Advances are rare. When negotiating your contract put in there that you will do one revision as part of the contract but beyond this they will pay you an hourly fee of $X amount. Remember you are working for yourself so about 35% of your income is taken out for taxes, plus other expenses.

2) You want you and your art to be a great fit for the manufacturer. You want a good working relationship as well as a product you know is a good match for you art. (design for the price point)

3) It might make sense to sit a minute and think of where your style could be used. Could you be on fine china, paper napkins, and stationery or bath items?

Research-narrow the companies you solicit.
a) Trade shows, Internet, shopping and looking for product that looks like your style are the best way to find the manufacturers for you.
Call them-for the submission guidelines.

Questions to ask the manufacturer…..
a) How much licensed art do you use a year?
b) How many products do they make (how many skus)?
c) Are there any current needs in the market? (They might be ok with this but some manufacturers are relying on the artist to bring them trend and design in a new way….)
d) Ask who accepts the submissions in your genre and area of product interest. Ask how they like to see the art. In this be sure to ask if it is helpful for you to use templates of their product so they can see it ‘complete’ or would they like to just see the art in a photo or digitally?
e) Ask if they have templates you can download from their website or how you could come upon this.
f) Ask how often and what times of year they like to see art. When and how often do they prefer you send new samples?
g) What is their process once they receive the art? (If they don’t have any work right now but like your work will they let you know they will keep it on file?)
h) CALL with a follow-up once your work has arrived. Maybe a week after it arrives. Ask when they will review the art?
i) Follow-up again after they’ve reviewed it to see if there is potential for sending more art in the future. Also, if they don’t like the art, stay professional, the manufacturing professionals I met said “Don’t walk away with your tail between your legs.” Ask why? Can you help me from your expert opinion? On the other side of this if they say “I would like it but this way.” You could change it and resubmit it but don’t keep changing this one piece-you could be ‘beating a dead horse.’ Try to make new art, following your gut and use the better sense of direction from your experience.

Words from the professionals…..
Many of the manufacturers said they are looking to artists to bring the design element and new ideas. The word was American products come from this… starts from Europe in the fashion circuit. Check out magazines, then this is translated into products for Europe’s gift and stationery and home market. From there it comes to us.
Many of the manufactures said they work 12-18 months ahead. This translates to you making the art now, they will decide what products your art will encompass. Their design dept will make adjustments to your work-refitting, cropping to fit product. The manufacturer’s design group could change some colors, etc. Then you may or may not get a chance to see a proof. (Nice) and it won’t be manufactured until about 9 months later. Then distribution happens. So be ready to wait to be paid because it isn’t until there are sales and then it is still at least a three month wait because you are paid quarterly by most companies.

Because of the market they are not buying art as much as they are licensing it. When they say buying art it is convoluted and I did not get the definitive answer. So this is what I heard. Buying art is not the same as work for hire. It is like licensing but they HEAVILY restrict it. So you would sell the rights to sell the same art to another company or use it yourself to make the same products. If the image is going on tabletop items then you cannot use it in another capacity to do the same.

The “Life” of a product is 3-5 years.

a) Obviously hire a copyright, licensing lawyer with whom you jive.
b) Have it written in your contract that you can audit the net sales for your royalties. Companies might flinch at this and it might be a deal breaker so choose your path. If you miss out on some ca-ching because their process is sloppy, purposely or otherwise how will you feel?

The panel for one of my classes was asked does the manufacturer want an agented artist?
(Tara Reed(artist), Cyndi Hershey (Manufacturer-Red Rooster Fabrics), Julie Ueland(artist), Linda O’donnell (manufacturer), Edward Kaeding(Manufacturer-Certified ceramics and tabletop)

Collectively they said it doesn’t matter. However, an agent can hold you back so make sure they are doing their job. Julie Ueland said in three years she’s had three agents. She went many years un-agented and came to the point where she wanted one. She had clients with whom she regularly worked and they would call her and say her agent was holding back the product could she call them. So she fired them. Two of them and then she got a great agent.

There is the first portion, happy reading and learning!


Tara Reed said...

I'd totally buy it! Especially if I could get an autographed copy... hint! hint!

Tara Reed

Kate Harper said...

I just ran across your blog and this is a nice blog entry on surtex and what you learned, and resources. I'm going to pass it on to other artists!

Amy said...

thanks for taking the time to share all this great info! Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info, Amy! This is great stuff!

Nina Crittenden said...

Wow! This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Sydney Wright said...

Wow! Thanks for all the info. I'm new to the licensing business and this is very helpful. Can you tell me who Jeanette Smith is?

Fuzzy Brush said...

I just found your site and am grateful for the wonderful advise and information. I am at the point of looking to get my art licensed but not sure what the next steps are. It's great to hear an inside view. Thanks.