November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #30

30 11 2016

Q: I’ve been working on developing new characters and I’m ready to market them.  I’ve written a children’s book and a local publisher has decided to publish my book, but tells me that it would be between 8 and 9 months before I see a hard copy. Should I wait for their publishing process to work (I don’t have a contract yet) or should I move forward with online publishing? I don’t want to burn any local bridges but I was hoping to have this out for the holidays. 


A: I think it’s great that you initiated communication with a local publisher. This tells me that you probably initiate communication and are proactive with sales.  Certainly, if you don’t have a contract, not even a rough draft, then you are under no obligation.  No, you don’t want to burn bridges but let’s put this into perspective.  This is really a decision about what you want to do with your business.  Not knowing more about the situation, it’s hard to give specific advice, but I can tell you that it’s not unrealistic when they’re telling that it takes 8 to 9 months to publish a book.  This is reasonable in the publishing business, and often it’s more like 1 year and 3+ months.

It would be wise to ask yourself: What do you really want?   Do you want to have an e-book out for Christmas; or do you want to have a traditional publisher publish a hard copy, even if you have to wait for it?

I think you need to get on the phone with the publisher and ask them a lot more questions to understand what they’re going to do, especially since you don’t have a contract yet. You may speak with them and they tell you: ‘Oh yeah, we said we were interested, but we have other things on our plate right now we are interested, but will need to look at it next Spring to make a final decision.’ This would obviously influence your decision.  Here are three areas of questions to ask: 1) timing of the contract and publishing release date 2) avenues of distribution and sales efforts they expect to make and 3) publicity and promotions.  If you can’t get a hold of them, I would say that this would be a red flag.

For example, I had a recent publishing deal that I nurtured for nearly 1.5 years. I knew they were really interested and I kept pushing and sending really nice emails that would say something like: “Hey, just to let you know I’m still here and really hoping that you will be getting that contract off to us, we’re ready to go.  Any changes in your plan, then just send me an email…” By sending chatty and friendly emails that kept pushing things along, we finally got our contract ‘in the can.’


November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #29

29 11 2016

Q: I am trying to figure out how to license my art to wine and paint party businesses. I don’t know if there is a going rate for these businesses and if payment would be made ‘per use’ or a ‘flat rate?’november-q-a-final

A: Good for you. These are two very different types of businesses, since one is food-related and the other is a service business. Either of them could work on a flat rate or with a licensing royalty for each product sold. You need to ask them what they are willing to offer and then figure out if that’s a good deal for you. Especially when you are starting out, it’s best to not worry so much about the industry standards.

If they offer you 10 cents a label, is that good?  You need to ask them how many labels they plan on printing in the first run, and how likely is it that there will be a second and third print run (in wine there may be a ‘set’ quantity available and no more), to help you make a good decision.

If they plan on only printing 5000 labels, then at .10 each you would only make $500.  A flat fee of $1000 would clearly be better. Always try to get them to make an offer first, and that puts you in a better negotiating position. Then ask relevant questions. Also, make sure whether it’s a flat fee or royalty, you define the time.  I see many people agree on a royalty over 2 years, but with a flat fee, they forget to limit the time frame. So if someone offered you $500, you might come back and say, fine…$500 per year, so $1000 over two years.  Use the various contract elements to help you negotiate.


November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #28

28 11 2016

Q: What are some of the ways of finding licensing deals when you’re just starting out and don’t have any clients?


A: Everyone knows that you have to start at the beginning, so don’t be self-conscious. You just need to think about what you have to offer the manufacturers.  Nobody begins with a licensing story that starts, ‘Well, I have 20 deals and I’m with XYZ retailers…’

If you don’t have a licensing story that is sales and retail-oriented, you need to create a relevant story on your website and in your sales letters.  Think about what experiences you do have that would mean something to a manufacturer.  Here are some questions to ask yourself, which can help craft a pertinent story.

  1. Do you have comprehensive computer skills?
  2. Do you have graphic design experience?
  3. Have you designed products that have been produced and sold at retail for someone else?
  4. Do you have a large fan following through a blog, an Etsy store or another viable online retailer, or on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest?
  5. Do you have a sizeable portfolio?
  6. Are you up on the latest trends and styles?

You need to think about what is going to get the manufacturers attention and help you stand out from the crowd. Think about the consistency of your art and what you can offer them to help you stand out.  Maybe you have a unique concept that is on trend that they won’t find someplace else. Pitch these types of things and get out to as many manufacturers as possible.  When you do get a few deals under your belt, then you can shift the marketing of your website.

Also, make sure to address in your letters/correspondences to talk about whom your licensees are and how they’re doing. Certainly, if you have an agent, it would help to talk to your agent very clearly about what kind of things they recommend you say early on before you have something that you can leverage.

November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #27

27 11 2016

Q: What are manufacturers and agents looking for in an artist’s website?  What kind of elements will catch the eye of buyers?


A: First of all, you have to get them to the website, so probably targeting certain manufacturers and asking them to look at your site is absolutely critical. That’s part of your ongoing marketing.  Your website can be targeted toward the manufacturers you want to license, which would make it a B2B (Business-to-Business) website.  Or you can target consumers to build your follower-fan base. But if you want to do both, please pick one as your primary target…and don’t choose more than two audiences (i.e. don’t try to add galleries, etc.).

Now, it depends on what you’re selling; but first your website really has to – right up front – encompass the concept of your brand. Three main questions to ask yourself:

1) Is your brand you? 2)  Is your brand characters? 3) Is it a brand of art?

The landing page of your website has to be like the front page of the four-color brochure that you would create to attract attention. I think that manufacturers, and agents for that matter, want to know that you’re going to stay around, that you’ve got a good solid concept and that you can envision their products combined with your concept from beginning to end.

You need to show a good level of intelligence about the industry and your ability to be good to work with. If you’re doing artwork, you might have on your landing page some mockups and some pieces of art.  If have characters, you might show those characters and make sure that they have distinct personalities that are immediately recognizable and identifiable.

You also need to make sure that people will understand what kind of products that your art and/or characters would be appropriate for—stuffed animals, napkins, tee-shirts, baby blankets, home décor, etc.  What’s going to catch the eye of the buyers – and it depends on what they’re looking for, but – don’t try to make your website look as though you’ve been in business forever, or that you’ve already done a ton of licensing, if you haven’t.  Try to be inventive and get your characters and art out there and show that you’re willing to learn. Your website should show them that you understand who your audience is, that you want to work with reputable manufacturers and call your product designs just what they are – mock-ups.

If you are targeting consumers, then you can focus your writing and images on the products you have to sell and perhaps only have a button for licensing. Just remember: Your art + products = excited consumers.  That is the message you want to get across.


November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #26

26 11 2016

Q: I’m confused about whether I should be doing a blog or website.  And how do I attract customers, if I have a website for the manufacturers?november-q-a-final

A: It’s easy to get confused with so many options out on the Internet today.  Most blogs for an artist are consumer-oriented, so they might focus on events, new art, your artistic process and thoughts, contests or promotions to entice new customers, etc.  These are all areas that help you build a following for your art.  Certainly a manufacturer might read your blog to get to know you and to see how many followers you have. And, of course, your customers will be interested in knowing what manufacturers you work with and where your products will be available. But in general, I believe manufacturers want to go to an artist’s website to view part of their portfolio and get an idea of where they are in the licensing process. So to answer your question, a blog is an option, but you must have a website.  So either go for a website or a website and a blog. (In tomorrow’s blog, with another questions, I’ll share more about what should be on your website and how to make those decisions.)

November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #25

25 11 2016

Q: Is it possible to ‘over license’ your art?


A: Yes, over exposure absolutely can become a problem (one many of us would like to encounter, eh?).  However, over exposure in licensing can be just as detrimental as it is in other types of business exposure, such as media.  If you’ve reached a place where people are just turned off to your property as opposed to turned on by it, you can expect backlash with people rejecting your art and designs.  We actually see this most often with properties that skyrocket and you’re thinking:  Enough, enough already!

As you build a licensing business, you want to be strategic about your growth. One of the ways to keep over-exposure in check is to just do the deals that really make sense and don’t be overly greedy.  Fans don’t appreciate a property that is on everything; when it gets to that point, it becomes saturation. Consumers also don’t appreciate inappropriate licensing combinations either; you wouldn’t put an infant property on a bottle of wine or an adult property on a baby blanket. You’ve got to stick with the types of products where your characters and designs really make sense.

November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #24

24 11 2016

Q: What if a non-profit organization wants to license my artwork.  How can I create an agreement and how do I make money?


A: All too often we forget that giving is the best way to receive bountifully! Hey it’s Thanksgiving Day, so let’s think about ways to give and receive through licensing. Sharing your art and creativity is such a beautiful way to share your ideas and love…and it may bring money or new connections or something totally unexpected.

A licensing agreement can actually dictate anything you want…free or paid use of an image or images, or a specific use, over a limited time period, in a designated territory. You can offer to give a non-profit group access to your art for a logo, magazine, web page, or a print or product as a prize give-away.  Non-profits often don’t have a lot to give in terms of funds, but they do have avid followers, so you might consider creating a licensing agreement that gives you access to their mailing list, an ad on their website or in their newsletter—any or all of the above.  This is especially useful when you have a target audience that matches their membership.

So think about how you can create a win-win for both you and a non-profit you love!


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