What Can I Expect From My Agent—and They Expect From Me? Part 2 of the 2-Part Agent Series

19 09 2013

In the last installment of this 2-Part Agent Series, I covered 5 Tips for Finding the Right Licensing Agent.

For those of you who have pursued an agent before, you know the feeling. You work hard to find those that are a fit for you personally, and your art style, as well as those that like your work. Then you pitch, pitch, pitch…and then wait, wait, wait for responses.  Do you feel tinges of a second grade playground here?

All agents have different skill sets, work ethics, and internal procedures to get the job done. But regardless, when you have found an agent and made the commitment, the big question is: “What’s next?” You now have a licensing expert on your team, however, it can still be a mystery as to what you should expect from them and what they will be expecting from you.

Here’s what you SHOULD expect from your agent:

1)      Get organized and have an initial meeting to explore how they work and all you have to offer.  Some of this may have already been accomplished, as you discussed working together and negotiated your contract.  However, there are lots of details that you need to make sure have been covered. How often will you be communicating with the agency, and in what way (email, phone, Skype, etc.)

  • How often will you be communicating with the agency, and in what way (email, phone, Skype, in-person, etc.)
  • What’s their internal processes for:
    • o Developing sales leads and following up.
    • o Sharing updates and/or progress reports.
    • o Legal and contract negotiations (including signing and record keeping).
    • o Approvals (hi-res file delivery, art approvals, sample distribution, etc.).
    • o Accounting (when will you get paid).

2)      A licensing plan should be prepared and presented (and requested, if not offered).  It can be verbal or written, and it doesn’t need to be long.  But it does need to include specifics on how and when they will be marketing your art to secure licensing deals. The following elements need to be discussed and agreed upon:

  • Target audience.
  • Primary (or often called cornerstone) property categories.
  • Retail distribution channels.
  • Sales Plan – a rough idea of how you will be marketed to manufacturers, including a time line of Trade Shows and other sales efforts to achieve the goals.

3)      More questions that need answering

  • When and under what circumstances will you interact with the manufacturers?
  • How much of your existing portfolio will they be marketing?
  • What do they need from you monthly, quarterly or annually in terms of art and/or collections?
  • What other questions do you have that need answering?

Here’s what your agent SHOULD expect from you (the artist/creator/brand manager):

1)      Create content

  • Develop collections on a regular basis and be prepared to develop new items for key trade events (such as AmericasMart, Surtex and International Licensing Expo).
  • Agents will need ‘sell sheets’ for various collections, customized presentations–on occasion—and materials for trade shows and direct mail campaigns.
    • If you don’t already develop product mock-ups and presentations, then get prepared to make these for your agent. If the agent is preparing them for you, then you’ll need to understand exactly how and by whom they will be created so you can approve the materials. 

2)      Do spec work

  • Actually creating collections, which are marketed to manufacturers, is ‘creating spec’ work. In this industry you can expect to do more than that. There are times your agent will specifically ask you to adapt a design for a manufacturer, or ask if you are interested in creating something original for one.  Neither of these scenarios may include a guarantee of a licensing deal; but to have the potential of a deal, you need to do the work.
  • Your agent will probably be a good judge of how often you should do this and request it when those opportunities have the best potential to result in a licensing deal. And if you don’t get a deal, just put the work in your portfolio and don’t forget to ask your agent where else they might be able to sell it.

3)      Website

  • Create your own art licensing web site and keep it updated.
  • If you don’t have one, get a headshot taken by a professional photographer.
  • Be sure to talk to your agent about what and how much of your work they will include on their website, and where they will link to yours.
  • Also discuss how they can be integrated together, rather than being a duplication of information.
  • Some agents don’t have an extensive website, but list their artists and simply link to their sites.

4)      Meet deadlines

  • Art licensing is a commercial business.  Agents and manufacturers alike will require you to meet their deadlines and be consistent about this. Remember that your agent is probably getting squeezed by the manufacturer who is getting squeezed by production deadlines or a retailer.  So don’t make commitments you can’t keep and keep commitments you make.  
  • If you don’t do this; it’s probably not a good industry for you and manufacturers probably won’t come back. 
  • Once you have deals, keep the momentum by staying on top of approvals and getting back to everyone in a timely manner.

In any business relationship there are two sides to every story, and tasks to be accomplished on both ends to achieve the desired goals.  You want to communicate with your agent as often as is required, and not hound them. But clearly you shouldn’t be left in the dark either.  No communication is not a good sign.

So what can you expect from your agent? To be informed, to be marketed, and to be licensed to the best of their abilities.  If you don’t believe this is happening, then start a dialogue to find out what is going on.

If you have a terrific agent with great expertise, please don’t take them for granted.  Make sure you celebrate their successes and keep them happy and updated on new ideas and places you can go together while building your business and brand. (Note: Who loves their agent? I’d love you to share.) Learning how to get the most out of your business partners, IS YOUR BUSINESS.

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2 responses

25 03 2014
Jhyll Teplin

thanks soooo much for this great article J’net 🙂

20 09 2013
Julie A

Great Article J’Net!

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