Your Primary Message Matters: You Can’t Close a Deal Until They Stop at Your Booth

5 03 2015

For those of you attending a trade show this spring or considering it in the near future, this blog is a must read.  It was originally ran in Licensing Expo’s email newsletter, but I felt it was such an important message that I didn’t want my blog audience to miss out.  

As you know, the ultimate goal of being an exhibitor at a trade show is to create income (and potentially great income) through the generation of agreements, deals and alliances. Therefore, one of the most important elements of your trade show booth is to clearly impart your brand message to potential clients, licensees and other show prospects.

We do this through logos, images and words (graphics, photos, art, characters, headlines, bullets, testimonials, etc.), as well as by making sure that the overall style of your booth (colors, design, furniture, music, lighting, etc.) successfully represents your property or brand.

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo's 2014 'One to Watch' Contest

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo’s 2014 ‘One to Watch’ Contest

It is also essential that you develop a well-trained and fully prepared staff. They need to be friendly and approachable, while at the same time exhibiting consistent professionalism, knowledge and sincere interest in both your property and whomever they are speaking with. Remember, you never know who you are talking to.

However, in my 20 years of attending countless trade shows, I have found that one of the biggest mistakes properties and artists make is not being very specific and clear in who they are, what their business is and what they do. This primary message is vital to everything you are trying to accomplish at the show. It is best expressed as the first and most prominent visual communication of your booth, and it must be designed to quickly catch the eye of your target attendees. No pressure, but the reality is, you only have about 2-3 seconds to capture their attention.

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked past a lovely booth, complete with graphics, flowers and great attention to detail, but their primary message was left unclear. Who and what they were, as well as what they were offering me was not easily understandable, so I walked right on by without a second thought.

I just have to say directly that it’s not my (or anyone else’s) job to try to figure out what you do. Those passing by your booth want and need to be able to rapidly obtain your information—before committing to stopping—and it’s entirely up to you to provide it!

It’s not that complicated or difficult to create an awesome booth which gets you plenty of attention and deals. It simply takes laser focus.

A clear branding message in your booth should include the following information, woven into an understandable and exciting display:
1) Primary objective
2) Who you are
3) What you do and offer
4) Who you want to reach

Zoonicorn's Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Zoonicorn’s Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Primary objective
In the initial planning stages, I suggest you decide what your specific goals and priorities are going to be and what exactly you are attempting to accomplish through attending the trade show. Then make sure that those points are adequately expressed in your overall vision of the booth AND precisely communicated.

To make this happen, think about all the reasons you originally chose to attend the trade show and write a list of the goals you want to achieve. The primary objective for you or your company should be brief and straight-forward, such as: ‘Get a television deal.’ or ‘Secure a licensing agent.’ Whatever it is, be specific and certain of your intentions and what you are investing your time, money, and efforts in.

Secondly, make sure you are willing to modify your goals, if necessary, so that they meet your needs, as well as the needs of potential clients and the realities of the marketplace. Remember you are trying to create a win-win situation; most deals are compromises between the creator and manufacturer or producer.

Then, stay focused and follow your plan. For example, don’t spend the majority of your budget and efforts on a smaller niche markets, rather than your largest potential. But also remember; never alienate anyone because you never know when or where the next big deal is going to come from.

Rarely would it be appropriate to simply write your primary objectives on your trade show booth walls. You need to know what they are, so you articulate them concisely within your overall communication. I think that successful communication means weaving your goals into the messages of ‘who you are,’ ‘what you do and have’ and ‘who you want to reach.’

Who you are
All booths need signage that is visible, readable and unmistakably identifiable, while including your business name, property name and company logo.

As a general rule, your brand should be prominently displayed and must be large enough to be read from across the aisle, as well as from all directions approaching your booth. Central art and images need to be able to be seen, AND READ, when casually walking down the aisle from at least 10-20 feet away.

If you have more than one property, then they each need their own prominent signage. Make sure you get a large enough booth to do justice to your multiple properties and concepts. You cannot do a great job of presenting, if you are crammed for space. In the trade show booth world, bigger is often better.

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

What you do and offer
No matter how big it is (or isn’t), your booth walls simply will not hold every tidbit of information you want to present to passersby. However, leaving folks confused as to what you do, and have to offer, is not a strong branding play. Somehow exactly what you have available to license needs to be communicated in words and images. Put the extra information and details in your leave-behind brochure.

As you look at your booth design, ask yourself if it is clear enough for a novice, or a person who is unfamiliar with your company and concept, to describe accurately what it is you are offering. I think they will be able to identify your purpose, if you create and advertise answers to these following four questions in your booth display:
What’s the concept?
What type of property is it?
What kind of audience reach do you have?
And most importantly…
What already exists that can be licensed immediately?

Many booths don’t present an easily understandable account of what they actually have to license: cartoons, a story, individual pieces of art, art collections, book series, or television concept. Don’t be one of them.

Also, make sure there is breathing room around your logo, words, wall art and characters, so that the messages are not jumbled and confused. If your running out of space and your information is getting too cluttered, either enlarge the booth, or move part of your message to your printed materials or multimedia presentation. Again, make sure all your visuals are consistent, well-defined and readable.

Who you want to reach
Lastly, and I cannot express the importance of this enough, you need to communicate quickly and clearly your message of who you want to do business with, to all those passing by your booth. This is the primary point of this article and, in my opinion, the most-often overlooked item in trade show booths today!

Each booth at a trade show has two target audiences to identify: 1) the consumer and 2) the trade customer. If your consumer audience is girls 5-8/K-2nd grade, then say so. Then you also need to identify what trade customer you are looking for, such as agents, XYZ-type of manufacturers, producers or publishers.

For example, if you are a new exhibitor looking for a reputable licensing agent, then make sure others know it. If you are an established company looking for appropriate new artists, then post it. Maybe you are a book-based property looking for television agents, producers and networks, then display that specific need.

In conclusion

Making sure that you have established your primary objective and unmistakably communicated who you are, what you do, what you offer and who you want to reach, will set the stage for an excellent and profitable trade event. Having covered these essential communication goals, you can now focus on the finer details and design elements of your booth to catch attention and drive home the sales.





Heartfelt Art Licensing Lessons- An Interview with Joan Marie

13 02 2015

DotHeartFor my valentine to everyone, I wanted to share this story of Joan Marie, a vivacious artist who is re-launching her art licensing business this year. Having great success early in her licensing career, 20+ years ago, only to have the business plummet, has taught this artist a few heartfelt lessons.

J’net Q: How did you get into the licensing business?
Joan Marie A: Mary Engelbreit inspired me. Watching her business flourish was very exciting. Then I began to see the bigger picture and it really intrigued me.

Q: You have a fine art background, is that right?
A: Yes, my undergraduate degree was from Washington University in St. Louis and my MFA was from both University of South Florida, in Tampa, and Lindenwood University in St. Louis.

Q: How did you get your first deals and what kinds of licensing have you done?Joan Marie
A: I researched companies by going shopping and by attending some national conventions to find the best companies to work with. I wrote down tons of names. Then I would call them to see if they were interested in working with a freelance artist. If they were interested, I sent them a hardcopy of my portfolio with 10-20 images. And I got rejected a lot. When the company that was to be my first licensee called, they first offered me a flat rate. I had been so excited to get their call, then my heart dropped. I told them, I can’t work that way, I must have a royalty. And the manufacturer said they don’t work on a royalty basis. So we both hung up. At the time, I was pretty desperate and I paced and fought myself NOT to call them back. Then he called me back about 4 hours later…and they offered me a royalty. Next I had to create the contract, which I did, through a volunteer organization that offered legal services to ‘starving artists.’ From there I followed the same procedure to get more deals, and really persisted. It took a long time to get going. Then my art sold very well for about 10 years on apparel, stationery, back-to-school and gift items. I had one cat design that sold over 1.5 million t-shirt transfers, which was amazing. And creating 2 lines of collectible plates with The Hamilton Collection was such an exciting time of national recognition. But all of a sudden the public totally stopped buying kittens and unicorns; the market was really saturated with the themes I had painted.bird in flight

Q: What is your favorite part of doing art licensing?
A: Knowing your art can add a smile, some excitement, and warm someone’s heart while using everyday products. It just feels like crazy fun to me. It makes me so happy. I think this is a sign that I am in the right business. “Life is supposed to be FUN!”…and that’s how it feels to be in this industry.

Q: So how has your art changed since those earlier days?
A: My art has covered many styles over the years. Early on I was primarily realistic in my imagery using classic oil techniques. Then I went through a purely abstract phase. Today I combine the ethereal and gently romantic quality of my past realistic art with my new confident intensity. It is very exciting to express so many of life’s emotions in one work of art. My new art is bolder. It captures the high energy passions I see in life.Zebras

Q: What was your biggest hurdle to get where you are today?
A: To stop being concerned about what will sell. Instead to create art that expresses my true vision and passion for life. If your focus is on creating what will sell, you may make a survival income, but you will never discover your unique voice and say something that will truly speak to others. If it doesn’t come from your joy, or your soul, it has no chance to gain a huge following. It is also a challenge to never give up and keep going through the ups and downs in this industry. One of the best words of wisdom I have heard is: “There is a lot of room at the top.” This artist was telling me that very few artists are willing to do what it takes to get to the top, so keep the faith and keep loving the process of getting there.

DoggiesQ: How has the art licensing industry changed since you were in it 20 years ago?
A: Oh wow! BIG changes! Artists were not using computers!!! No Photoshop or email! Can you IMAGINE that??! Finding companies to submit to was so much more challenging…and OH MY!!! I felt so ALONE. We really had nowhere to turn to get help understanding the business! There were NO J’net Smiths at the end of the phone or computer to give us endless valuable information and help!!! All we had was the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines,” which was and still is really valuable. But that’s it. And mailing hard copies of portfolios was expensive. Then learning how each company wanted their submissions was a much bigger challenge.

Q: What’s the biggest ‘from the trenches’ tip you can offer to newcomers to art licensing?
A: My advice is to learn how to use your strengths and go to others for their strengths to help you get the job done. There are so many more resources available today; it’s such a blessing. So learn who and where those resources are and get out there and use them. I need to focus and not insist on doing everything myself. Read, talk to people and get professional advice. I am thrilled to get assistance on my branding, promotions, publicity, leads and more. We are meant to help each other and not work alone like an island. That’s what I used to do. Secondly, I think you really need to have great passion for this industry, as I’ve mentioned. If that deep drive and excitement or the love of the entire process and of being in business for yourself is not there, then the challenges will surely beat you down. I would also highly recommend having some savings to invest in the start-up of your business. You have to be patient, because it takes a long time for the volume to build up and to make the kind of dollars you want.

Q: In art licensing today, what is your biggest challenge?7WsexhilSM (1)
A: Not to fall into self-doubt or fill my mind with thoughts of feeling stressed…AND to not be concerned about what will sell instead being true to what I am here to express through my art. Gaining wisdom through the years has given me the ability to step out of those old patterns. Now I say: “I believe”…“I trust”… I know in my heart that everything is going perfectly, just as it should. It’s fantastic to feel grounded and excited all at once, knowing that this is what I am here to do.

To see more of Joan Marie’s Art That Celebrates, click here to visit her website.





5 Mistakes that Character Creators Often Make

28 01 2015

Do you have an idea for a new character? Do you think your new character would be an ideal fit for television, books, apps, games, toys or comics? Well, that is a great start. But to fully develop a character that you can sell or license as a larger media property, you’ll need to know that character from the inside out. And you’ll need to be able to communicate the nuances of the character to your audience, quickly and expertly.

If you have created and developed a character and are wanting to build a property, with media and licensing, then consider the following advice. Take these five common mistakes and create your own check-list of things ‘not to do’ when it comes to building your own character or character brand:

1. Create vague characters. This is a no-no. Your characters can’t look like or behave like everyone else’s’ dog, cat or whatever. Your characters need to be distinguishable with specific traits, style, and purpose. Develop the detailed background and dreams for your characters, including answering the questions: who, what, when where, why and how.
2. Think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience. Instead, find a niche audience where you can gain some impact and create impressions before broadening your scope. Try to figure out where your target audience lives, works and plays…and most importantly…how they prefer to get their entertainment and information. Eventually you can adapt your content to expand the audience. But don’t ever think that ‘everyone’ is your target audience.
3. Assume people will immediately ‘get’ your characters the way you do. Don’t be naive. You need to mentally put yourself in your audiences’ chair to adequately understand their perspective. This is a powerful internal tool to develop. You can then create your character’s personality and mannerisms, so your audience can ‘see’ just how funny, ironic, sweet, improbable, dumb, charismatic, sarcastic, ill-at-ease, or whatever your characters really are! It is up to you to develop these traits, as well as create exposure through media, products and other channels.
4. Attend trade shows ill-prepared. Creator’s frequently exhibit at trade shows too early in the development of their characters. In addition, they fail to design the proper materials to actually sell producers, publishers, manufacturers and retailers on doing a deal. Without the right marketing materials and content, these potential partners can’t distribute your characters to their biggest potential audience and help build the brand. Be sure you are ready and get the help you need to do it right.
5. Develop non-sustainable characters. Do your characters appeal to a large target audience, or one at least big enough to support your creations and accomplish your goals? Do they fulfill a long-lasting need in the marketplace, which means they could become ‘evergreen’ characters? Or are they a flash on the horizon of trends? Be careful not to put your time and energy into characters, unless they have the audience potential to match and sustain your ideas and dreams.

Hammy from the 'Over the Hedge' Movie

Hammy from the ‘Over the Hedge’ Movie

All of these mistakes can be avoided with the proper training. I have two excellent classes which elaborate on these specific problems. One class, in which I collaborated with Michael Fry, creator of ‘Over the Hedge’ (DreamWorks) and ‘The Odd Squad –Bully Bait’ (Disney-Hyperion) is called ‘Building Character – How to Cash In On Your Characters Without Losing Your Soul.’

Or you may be planning to attend a trade show and interested in: ‘Marketing Your Art, Characters, Designs and New Brands Through Trade Shows’. Each of these can be purchased and downloaded through our website. The next FREE Ask J’net Q&A is open to everyone who wants to ask questions about characters and character licensing next week, Thursday, February 5th from 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST / 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST. The registration form includes a place at the bottom for your questions, and you will be sent the Dial-In Number and Access Code for the session the evening of February 4th. Register here.





Product Art & Design Trends – 2015

14 01 2015

Monochromatic of Puget SoundHere is what I’m seeing as key art and design trends for 2015. I polled fashion blogs, home décor sites, retailers, trade publications and a variety of sources. See how my list compares to your trip to AmericasMart. I welcome your thoughts and examples.

 

A mix of colors, imagery & themes

  • Farm to table
  • Metalics (the new neutral)
  • Gray (still a top neutral)
  • Library cozy
  • Natural wood
  • Octagons
  • Nature mixed with mod designs
  • Deep blue (Greek Isles)
  • Digital world influencing print
  • Retro—70s bohemian still with us but here come 80s & 90s
  • Space ‘the new frontier’
  • Opulence/luxury
  • All things royal (continues)
  • Weddings

Here’s a link to Pantone’s Spring Color Report, so you can check out their line-up.

Pantone Spring Color Report 2015

Lastly, I want to add a few notes from a fascinating conversation I had with a manufacturer recently.  He mentioned how ‘fluidity’ is really important right now because we’re fighting back from such a major recession. I see the fluidity in the neutral colors all combined together, lots of beautiful monochromatic scenes.  Then pops of color or white.

Humor is important. Optimism and inspiration are key. And, of course, looking back to wonderful days gone by and ahead to a brighter future.  I can actually see everything he was talking about in the list I gathered from a wide variety of sources.

I couldn’t get to AmericasMart this year, but I can’t wait to read about everyone’s experiences this year! How are the trends influencing your thinking and designs?

(My thanks to Sara Chapman for her Monochromatic Photo of Puget Sound, more of her photography can be found at Love That Image. Where else but Seattle should you go for images of gray…our trendy neutral.)





New Year’s Advice for Entrepreneurial Artists and Creators

1 01 2015

With the New Year beginning today, I thought this would be a good time to share some key points I presented at one of the conferences I attended last year. I believe these are important reminders for entrepreneurs with an artistic or creative business.

J'net Smith meets with Zach Hampton creator of College Dayz online comic and Christiana Bleadsoe of G3EK for a mentoring session at the CEO Conference.

J’net Smith meets with Zach Hampton creator of College Dayz online comic and Christiana Bleadsoe of G3EK for a mentoring session at the CEO Conference.

I was honored to speak at the CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization) Conference in Orlando with other exceptional business owners. I spoke about licensing your concepts, characters and art, and then joined in on a panel, giving our best advice to some very energetic college students about entrepreneurial careers. The CEO Conference was co-hosted by SEA (Self-Employment in the Arts), an outstanding group which focuses on training for college students and those planning to run their own creative business and for whom I am an ‘Ambassador.’

I feel strongly that we need to share our talents and experience with students, young businesspeople, and burgeoning entrepreneurs because while they have more options than ever (a GOOD thing); they also have more options than ever (a TOUGH thing). For certainly, with more options, comes more complexity.

Since it’s part of my job to simplify and make understandable complex business issues, I thoroughly enjoyed being at the CEO Conference. It was a busy event, which made me think a great deal about the days when my career was just beginning to unfold and I had so many important decisions to make. As a young woman, one of these decisions was—‘Do I move to NYC with just a suitcase and a smile?’ I decided ‘yes’ and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I had to learn quickly and thoroughly the in’s and out’s of the global licensing arena in order to succeed in developing creative properties in NYC’s corporate environment and then beyond. Here are a few pieces of advice that I know will help many of you starting your own creative businesses:

(L to R) Ed Wimp, Greta Pope, J'net Smith and Mike Veny -   CEO Conference Panel on: Making a Living in the Arts, Sponsored by Self-Employment in the Arts

(L to R) Ed Wimp, Greta Pope, J’net Smith and Mike Veny – CEO Conference Panel: Making a Living in the Arts, Sponsored by Self-Employment in the Arts

1) Run your art business like a business — Some creators think that learning to be an entrepreneur crushes their creativity. Do NOT let this be you! Learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, about how to make a viable income with your art by creating a viable business. Creating a business is actually much like creating your art. You must envision it, allow it to develop and then do it—bringing it into reality. You need to learn about business models, cash flow, marketing, sales, distribution, strategic alliances, contracts, negotiations, trends and more. You will then be one of the lucky few who actually DOES make a living in a career they love. There is no need to be a starving artist.

2) Find a PROVEN business model — First decide what you want to do and do it! There is nothing as draining as indecision. Find a proven business model that comes closest to what you want your business to be and then follow the example. Whether your creative path is through galleries, art/character licensing, government grants, or something else, you must work within the industries’ parameters and emulate the successful models in order to duplicate their achievements. Once your business is supporting itself, you can then change or expand your business to make things fit you, your dreams and goals more closely.

3) Don’t be afraid of selling yourself & marketing your business — It’s all about finding the right audience for your product (art, characters, designs, skills, services, etc.) and finding ways to profitably get it to the manufacturers, retailers and consumers. If you don’t develop a consistent marketing and sales plan and routine, maintaining it with a strong discipline, you won’t have a business. However, the good news is, if you do develop a serious dedication and continuous motivation, coupled with a strong learning curve and work ethic, you will almost certainly succeed.

4) Do as much as you can on your own — Listen to advice whenever you can. Pay for it if necessary. Attend trade shows, classes, events and conferences with your peers, industry experts and your (B2B and B2C) target audiences, as often as possible. Meet with business associates wherever opportunities present themselves. Then, get as much advice as possible on choosing business partners for all those things you can’t, or don’t want to, do yourself. Remember you have to spend money to make money; but you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a fortune. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, as well as how far you can push yourself. Then build your team by spending your time and energy on your strengths and delegating and investing in those whose strengths are your weaknesses.

I think that continually living outside your comfort zone is exactly why and how growth occurs and is where the brightest and best entrepreneurs are inevitably found. And remember the best advice anyone can ever give you is—‘go for it; you can do it!’

If any of you have questions about art and character licensing, business and brand development, please come and ask your questions during our next free Ask J’net Q&A.

NEW CLASSES FOR 2015 – SIGN UP TODAY
FREE ‘Ask J’net Q&A’
Tuesday, January 6, 2015 – 12 noon – 1 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EDT

Start the New Year off right by getting your art, design and character licensing questions answered by J’net during this free one-hour ‘live’ phone event. You just sign-up here for the class. When registering, there is a place at the bottom of the form to write your questions. J’net will answer as many questions as possible during the hour, all you need to do is call in at the specific time to get the answers to your questions and learn from others’ questions. Please note: You will receive your Dial-in number and Access Code for the class the night before the event from All Art Licensing.

‘Launching and Leveraging Your Annual Marketing Plan’
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 — 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT
Price: $60

The New Year is traditionally the perfect time to launch your annual plan. If you don’t already have a plan or need new ideas to increase your licensing sales success in 2015, then I have created this course for you. The class will cover how to develop a marketing calendar for the year, including portfolio development, trade shows, sales timing and techniques, public relations, and social media. You will learn how to organize all of this into a comprehensive plan of action that you can manage and execute to improve your licensing sales results. The major emphasis of the class will be leveraging what you have in your current business to the next, more profitable level. Please note: This is a live audio event, which will also be video recorded. It will include a full PDF presentation booklet, as a part of the course. Any registered attendees who wish to apply to be included in our live stream video beta test, please contact me directly after registering. Included in the purchase price, all registered attendees will receive audio of the class for their personal review.

With the New Year here, it’s such a great time to take inventory of yourself, your habits, your business and goals so you can move to a new level! I look forward to connecting with you in 2015!





16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials – Reprise

26 11 2014

(Note: This information continues to be some of the most requested, so I thought I would share this article again.)

Once you’ve found a licensing agent you want to work with, you’ll need to know what items must be in a contract between you and a licensing agent. It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of finally signing with an agent and forget to make sure that the contract is not only fair to both of you, but includes everything you need. I remind you, this is not a legal document or intended to be legal advice.  Instead, this as a guide to prepare yourself for understanding and negotiating the terms of your Art Licensing Agent Agreement.

Art Licensing Agent Agreements should include:

1)      Complete Contact Information—For both the agency and artist.

2)      Grant of Rights—Also sometimes called the Appointment, it spells out what are you giving the agent the right to do, such as license, market and distribute your copyrighted artwork to manufacturers in certain product categories.

a.      Here you also define your “Works”, which describes the art pieces or collections included under the agreement. This is one of the most important areas, especially if you have multiple styles or prior collections/assets.

b.      This section is where the contract should note any restrictions to the general ‘Grant of Rights’ such as excluded product categories or existing deals with different conditions.

3)      Term— List how long the term is with the starting and ending dates, plus the renewal terms and conditions (automatic, benchmarks or renegotiated renewal).

4)      Territory—Most agencies will want worldwide rights for several reasons, which might include: the ability for manufacturers to include  internet sales, or because their marketing efforts may attract deals in other countries and the agent would prefer to handle those deals. Make your own judgment call as to what rights to give your agent based on their needs and reach; be sure to reserve any rights you can that won’t be actively used.

5)      Scope of Agency—Specify here whether the rights are exclusive or non-exclusive and describe in detail the agent obligations. Make sure you describe the process in which the artist (licensor) will be presented the License Agreements and will approve them.  For example, will you be required to agree to any terms the agency negotiates or can you turn down deals you don’t find acceptable. And what would the definition of ‘acceptable’ be? I also like to see a good description of the marketing and sales process in the Agreement, so there are no questions as to how the agency will be spending their time on your behalf.

6)      Artist Obligations – Now the tables are turned and there needs to be a very specific description of your obligations, such as what type of art you will provide to manufacturers and how often you will create and provide new collections for the agent to market.

7)      Credit/Copyright Notice—Make sure the contract states that you continue to own all copyrights and that credit will be provided on all products; then include exactly what the copyright notice will read, such as ©___Artist’s name_____.

8)      Commissions—This simply defines who receives what percentage of the royalty revenue generated.

9)      Billing and Collection—Though agents are usually responsible for the billing and collection of payments and royalties generated by the License Agreements, put it in writing.  In addition, make sure to describe what will happen if money is not collected from a Licensee.

10)  Payments—Clarify exactly when payments received by agent will be paid to the artist.  I wouldn’t expect less than 30 days, nor accept more than 90 days.

11)  Expenses—Clearly spell out what expenses are the responsibility of the agent and of the artist.  I suggest you pay close attention to trade shows, travel, legal fees, and production of sales materials, where there may be additional fees and expenses charged.

12)  Inspection of the Books and Records—The industry standard is that the agent keeps the books and records and the artist can inspect them with reasonable notice to the agent.

13)  Representations and Warranties—Here is where the artist guarantees that you are/will be the sole and original author/owner of the artwork.

14)  Indemnification—It is common for the artist to indemnify the agent and its employees, to hold them harmless against certain loss, damage, liability or expenses; reasonable and mutual indemnification is preferred.

15)  Default and Termination—There are three important areas you need to make sure are addressed in this section:

a.      Language about what happens in case of bankruptcy,

b.      Breach of Contract, so that if either party fails to perform any of its obligations  the other party will have the right to terminate the Agreement upon thirty days written notice if the breach cannot be corrected within the time frame,

c.       and the Effect of Termination, which specifically describes what happens when the contract ends (who gets paid what and when and for how long…this is also known as the tail of the contract).

16)  Assignment—I recommend this state that the Agreement shall not be assigned by either of the parties without prior written approval  from the other party. This is an important clause because it protects you if an agency gets sold, or is taken over by another company, and prevents your art from being considered an asset of the agency.

If you have discussed the terms you want with your agent, then just make sure they are spelled out in your agreement.  Don’t accept the first contract you are given without understanding all the obligations and ramifications of each clause.  It may be your first and the most important contract you will ever sign.

I believe contracts are meant to be put away, and hopefully as things go smoothly, never looked at again. But their details are critically important and must in place should there be any questions.





What To Do When The Manufacturer Calls You – And FREE Advice From Ask J’net Q&A

14 09 2014

The next FREE Ask J’net Q&A is scheduled for this week on Wednesday, September 17th at 12 noon PDT/3:00 pm EDT.  Here is the link to sign-up, and don’t forget to put your question at the bottom of the registration page.  I try to answer as many questions and possible, and it usually winds up being between a dozen and 20 questions within the hour long session. So join me for some tantalizing lessons about licensing and answers to your questions!

What To Do When The Manufacturer Calls YouRing Ring

I think we are all so used to pitching ourselves on and in social media, websites, blogs, emails, letters, and presentations that we forget how many incredible manufacturers there are looking for licensed art every day. You probably wouldn’t believe how many times I hear from an artist: “A manufacturer called me for some art and was not sure what to say.” or “What do I say when a manufacturer calls me?”

When a manufacturer can’t find exactly what they need with their existing licensees and contacts, they are very likely to head to their files to peruse leads they received from trade shows, emails and searching the internet.

If you have a great list of questions ready, then you will be more than prepared for any initial conversation with a manufacturer.  The goal is to ask intelligent questions, stay organized, take notes and get them talking.  Here is a list of some questions you might consider asking:

‘How did you find my art?’ or ‘How did you hear about me?’ If you are not sure about how they got your name, this is an important question. This will also let you know if they found you through LinkedIn, Licensing Expo, your own website, or a directory, which is great information to help plan your future marketing.

‘What pieces of my art or styles are you most interested in?’

‘What types of products would the art be used on?’

‘What products do you produce?’ This is a more general way to ask the question, if you aren’t familiar with the manufacturer. I would also suggest getting to a computer and logging onto their website so you can quickly review their product lines while you are talking to them.

If they are discussing development of a very specific program and need, don’t hesitate to ask more precise questions:

‘Who is the primary purchaser of the product line(s)? Will this be our target customer?’

‘How big is the program?’ (Or ‘What kind of product runs would you do for a program like this?)

‘What material will they made of?’ ‘What size and color are they?’

‘When will the products launch in stores?’ and ‘Do you know what stores they will be featured in?’

‘When would you need the art?’

‘What type of files do you prefer?’

‘Would the art be used as is, or with some changes and refinements?’

‘When will a decision on the art be made?’ and ‘Who will be involved in making the final decision?’

‘What do you pay similar artists for this type of program?’ or ‘What’s your standard royalty for this type of licensed product?’

Of course, you may not get all of these questions out in a short and fast-paced conversation.  And many of them may not even be relevant to the conversation (yet).  Nevertheless, it’s a great list to get very familiar with or even post on a bulletin board near your work station.

Chances are, that if you get a call from a manufacturer, they will have some need in mind and will be prepared to discuss many of these details. I encourage you to ask ‘open ended’ questions that do not require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  This way they will have the opportunity to talk and expand into the specifics and you get to learn more.

Be sure to do as they have asked, and end your conversation with a recap of the next steps you will take and when you will follow-up with them and how. The more exact you can be in your communication, the better for everyone.

The bottom line is to find out what their needs are and how can you help. Your goal is to move the conversation forward one or more steps towards getting a final contract.








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