5 Tips for Finding the Right Licensing Agent – Part 1 of a 2-Part Agent Series

17 09 2013

If you have found an agent in this competitive industry, then thank your lucky stars. Although I’m sure luck may have had something to do with it, your talent, art and presentations to various agents probably had much more to do with it.

It’s a sales job and a difficult task to look for and sign on with a licensing agent in today’s marketplace. First of all, ask yourself if you are really prepared to have an agent? Here are five tips that will help you determine your readiness for the art licensing agent search.

1) Know what you are looking for. Starting a search without knowing what you are looking for is difficult, if not impossible. Do you know exactly what kind of agent you are looking for? I find that many artists don’t really understand the differences between the various types of agents. A good place to start is understanding exactly what these representatives (reps) or agents do and don’t do: Illustration Rep, Gallery Rep, Literary Agent, Art Licensing Agent, etc.

If you know the differences between all of these, and know which one you specifically need, then you are probably ready for the next step. Keep in mind that some agents may have skill sets and/or responsibilities that overlap. It is your contract(s) which will define and clarify the specific areas that each representative covers. The last thing you want is a duplication of effort, which will only frustrate your agents (and you). It is not unusual for an artist to have several agents covering various business aspects of their work—again—as long as their areas of work are well-defined and separate.

2) Prepare your portfolio as if you are going to be licensing your art to agents. This means learning how to present your work to manufacturers, because this is exactly what your agent will be doing and will need from you. More often than not, artists contact licensing agents for representation and are far from ready. Perhaps they have not researched the industry enough to know that an art licensing portfolio needs to include art in collections and mock-ups that feature the designs on appropriate product categories. You will also want to have enough work in your portfolio to prove that you are serious about being in this business.

3) Have your web site ready to go. This is your primary marketing tool and it should be in top notch shape before you pursue a licensing agent. I get many emails from artists presenting themselves and asking for art licensing representation, but next to their web link they will write something like: “this is my old site” or “I haven’t updated this yet.” Please don’t give me, or other agents, excuses when you are asking us to take our time and consider your artwork for a business relationship. However, all of the above is perfectly acceptable when requesting coaching or consulting advice to improve your web site or bring your business to a new level.

Also, if your site is designed specifically for your gallery or illustration rep, as a retail site for consumers, or for some target audience, other than agents or manufacturers looking to license art for products, then you aren’t ready to pitch art licensing agents.

4) Research agents carefully. There are all types of licensing agents, so you need to do your homework. Find out how large the agencies are, how many employees they have and how many artists they represent. Look for examples of their work in the trade magazines to confirm that they cover the product categories that are important to your business. Also explore what types of properties they represent and the reputations of the agency principles. Make sure they work with artists, and not just major brands and/or network properties, which would mean they are probably not a good fit. Lastly investigate their breadth of art styles to assure that your art is a potential match for them, yet is distinctively different from all their current artists. You don’t want to have a major competitor at the same agency, nor is an agency likely to choose you under those circumstances.

Most of this work can be done online through the agents’ web site, and various press articles. Another great way to find and research agents is to attend Surtex in NYC or the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. It is also a good idea to ask other artists and industry contacts about the agencies, or check in with coaches and consultants who know the industry.
Be sure to ask for references from those agencies that do express an interest in you and your art. LIMA (Licensing International Merchandiser’s Association) has a great directory of agencies, so this is a good place to start. The database is sortable, so make sure you go to the left side of the web site and choose art/artwork, plus U.S. or worldwide (or whatever territory you are looking for), and then hit search. At last count, they list 106 art licensing agents in the U.S. alone.

5) Send a formal cover letter and presentation. Make sure your presentation includes a cover letter, in the email is fine, plus a PDF presentation and a link to your up-to-date web site. This will be far beyond what I usually receive from artists looking for representation. You can send hard copies via mail if you want, but from my experience and speaking with other agents, a CD is rarely reviewed. It is okay to send your presentation to several agencies at once, but make sure that all those whom you send it to are a fit for your art style, as well as your needs, so you aren’t wasting their time.

Note: For further information and a list of questions to ask prospective agents, please check out my earlier blog post titled: Interviewing Art Licensing Agents. If you want help finding or negotiating with an agent, or need an agency contract reviewed, give me a call. You will also find my blog article 16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials very helpful.

Watch for my next blog post, What Can I Expect From My Agent—and They Expect From Me? – Part 2 of this Agent Series—which will be out on Thursday this week.


20+ Benefits of Licensing

31 07 2013

As I make calls to manufacturers, I’ve been thinking about the many benefits of licensing, and specifically those for artists and manufacturers in the industry (who are  commonly referred to as the licensor and licensee, respectively). I suggest that your understanding licensing benefits from the perspectives of the Licensor (Artist, Brand/Trademark Owner, Cartoonist, Designer, etc.), Licensee (Manufacturer, Retailer, etc.) and Agent (Representing the Licensor) is important when it comes to developing marketing plans, making sales calls, managing your trade show booth and negotiating contracts, to name a few instances.

Let’s start with the Licensee, since many of my readers are Licensors and might not have analyzed this subject from the manufacturer’s’ point-of-view.

For a Licensee, licensing can:

1. Generate incremental income from the sales of licensed products.
2. Create additional product lines by borrowing brand equity from various properties and artists.
3. Provide credibility to the manufacturer’s product line through the licensing of high profile brands and properties.
4. Expand awareness of all products in a manufacturer’s line and attract new customers.
5. Target more audiences through the use of different licenses.
6. Help build a competitive advantage when you have a variety of lines making up your product mix, and even offering exclusive properties (brands, artists, etc.) that your competition doesn’t have.
7. Develop more product lines without adding more expense or work load to the creative department.
8. Find HOT talent and trends.
9. Increase market share, which is the percentage of total sales volume in a specific product market (bedding, craft kits, tea towels, etc.) captured by one manufacturer or brand.
10. Create efficiency. Manufacturers with their own production facilities or factories gain efficiency, and more profit, when operating at an optimum level. Often manufacturers start off producing basic products and then add licensed properties so they can run their plant 24/7 and take advantage of economies of scale. Likewise, manufacturer/wholesalers gain purchasing power with suppliers by increasing quantities on production orders and building better relationships with their factories, thus obtaining lower prices and reducing their costs per unit.
11. Open new channels of distribution by offering product designs and styles which require different retail options, such as mass market, specialty stores, home shopping networks, catalogs, internet, dollar stores and deep discounters.
12. Increase a manufacturer’s retail shelf space with a broader, as well as stronger, product mix.

For a Licensor and their Agent, licensing can:

1. Generate revenue or an additional income stream based on the intellectual property (IP) rights (art, cartoon, designs, etc.) you own.
2. Leverage the equity you have built through your brand.
3. Enhance brand positioning through product design and messaging (website, advertising, catalogs, product, packaging).
4. Strategically grow the value of the brand via product (and artist’s) exposure and sales.
5. Generate product without an up-front investment.
6. Help find partners with important production expertise to create relevant brand extensions.
7. Help find partners with existing and well-targeted distribution channels.
8. Protect your intellectual property. When you register and use your trademark, such as through licensed product sales, you then have the right to use legal action in claims against fraudulent use.
9. Promote stronger relationships with existing customers and find new customers for your brand.
10. Build a competitive advantage though exclusive licensing opportunities.

Put this list on your wall or somewhere you can access it and review it over time. Perhaps when you are making a call to a potential manufacturer you can ask yourself, “Why do I want to license my art to them?” And more importantly, “Why would they want to license art from me?” Being able to understand the benefits of licensing to both the Licensor and Licensee is crucial to developing those answers.

A New Energy at the International Licensing Expo 2013

24 06 2013

Oh, there definitely was excitement in the air at the International Licensing Expo this year! From those exhibitors I spoke with, I heard there was a good flow of traffic and solid leads coming in. Many exhibitors, who I had just seen at the Surtex trade show, thought that the traffic was much better. By the end of the first day in Las Vegas, their leads exceeded those of Surtex.  Other exhibitors, who had not attended Surtex and had no basis for comparison, also seemed pleased with the amount and quality of leads.

Of course, there are lots of variables at any trade show.

The diversity of properties exhibiting at the International Licensing Expo is wide and interesting. While the major players are there with huge fortress-like booths, there are fine artists, graphic designers, agents representing lots of artists, character properties at various levels of development and international properties we’ve never heard of.  It’s such a great showcase for what’s up-n-coming!

Kudos to Advanstar for offering the ‘launching pad’ mini booths at the back of the trade show floor this year.  Finally there is an affordable way for a creator to test the show and gain some exposure.  These small booths went for under $2,000 and were perfect for 1 person or a very tight-two.  I still always recommend going to the show before purchasing a booth. But now you can, well, launch your art licensing business without taking a loan out on your house-jewelry-dog—you fill in the valuable ‘noun.’

Another shout out to Advanstar for a new show floor plan, which improved the experience for buyers and exhibitors. Sections were organized with forethought and attention to traffic flow. The ‘art & design’ area wasn’t crammed in the back corner. In addition to, at least, feeling bigger, it was surrounded by the ‘agents & brands’ and ‘fashion’ areas, which made sense.

If you have an agent, they will undoubtedly have a presence for you in their booth at the show.  However, there is a new growing trend with artists and properties having dual booths.  One solo booth, so you can show a broad range of work, in addition to a second agent’s booth, where your property is one of many they represent. Two examples are Jim Benton, who always has his own booth, and at least one of his properties represented by Cop Corp. Also Ileana Grimm, who is represented by King Features, but has a rockin’ corner booth of her own to show off her extensive (and mind-bogglingly funny) lines of humor. This trend has grown out of the fact that there is simply not enough room in any agent’s booth to give an individual artist’s work, what I would consider, extensive coverage.

With the wide range of properties at Licensing Expo, you also get a much broader profile of manufacturers representing a full array of product categories, more international manufacturers and more ‘lookers’ (those just coming to see what it’s all about).  Yes, there are more people and opportunities. But you definitely have to filter through all of them to get those ‘A’ level leads and cultivate those relationships.  Here are just a few questions you should ask show-walkers, to filter out the ‘lookers’ from the real leads.  (Tag this blog, so you can use these questions for your next trade show).

  • What’s your company do? (What has it done that I would know/understand?)
  • What are you looking for at the show?
  • What are you interested in, or caught your eye (in my booth)?
  • How can I help you?
  • What exactly would you like me to send you?  Do you need it immediately, or can I send it by _____. How does that sound?

Don’t be afraid to ask potential clients, whether you’re in a booth at a trade show or talking with someone on the phone, about time frames.  If it’s vague, you have more time than with someone who tells you directly, ‘I will be making a final decision next week and heading into production.’

Once you determine exactly what the booth visitor has done, and can do with your property or art, then you can discuss sending them some low res samples.

This Friday you can ask me anything you want at the next Ask J’net Q&A…it’s FREE FRIDAY on June 28th from 9-10 am Pacific/12 noon-1 pm Eastern time.  Please register as soon as possible to send your question(s), and I will also send you a copy of my ‘Trade Show Follow-Up Techniques’ class (full one-hour audio and 25-page PowerPoint Presentation through a download link) just for contributing. I will answer as many questions as possible during the hour and hope you can join me!


17 06 2013

It’s still the trade show season for many in the licensing arena.  For instance, I am heading to Las Vegas today for the International Licensing Expo.

You may be reading a lot on line about the shows, or perhaps you went to or exhibited at Surtex.  Whatever the case, we all can use some help organizing, streamlining and staying excited about following-up with sales leads.  Yes, sales leads.

To address these and other pressing questions, I will be holding another FREE FRIDAY Ask J’net Q&A class, where you send me any licensing or art licensing questions and I answer them in detail at no charge.  The one-hour Ask J’net Q&A will be on Friday, June 28th at 9:00 a.m. Pacific and 12:00 noon Eastern times.

Maybe you have questions you want to ask about following-up with prospects, contracts, negotiating, pending deals that need insight or attention, trade show preparation, or a totally different subject.  It doesn’t matter!

For everyone that registers and sends in a question for this Ask J’net Q&A, I’ll also send you a copy of my one-hour, ‘Trade Show Follow-Up Techniques’ class. When you sign-up online and send in your question, you will receive a link to download the complete audio file and PowerPoint for this class. No strings attached.

The Trade Show Follow-Up Techniques’ is free to all that register AND send in their question. The course covers 11 techniques for following-up on all your sales leads, plus valuable personal check lists and future trade show check lists.  It concludes with six important sales and marketing questions, plus one critical question – you must ask yourself and answer honestly – if you want to be in this business.

Just register on my website and put your question at the bottom of the registration form. Then you can listen in to the live call on Friday, June 28th when I will answer as many questions as possible (the Dial-In#/Access Code will be emailed to you the day before the event).  Whether or not your question is answered, the information you receive will be worth your time.  I always say: ‘It’s the questions you don’t know to ask that will get you!’

So REGISTER NOW and join me on June 28th to hear the answers to crucial questions, and ALWAYS, get more than you asked for!

Also, congrats to Wendy Arbeit, one of my clients who just got picked up by her top agent pick!

Stationery Show and Surtex 2013 – Part 2

5 06 2013

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog, today I will concentrate on the Surtex Trade Show.

So in between meetings with manufacturers at the Stationery Show, on this two-day whirlwind, I wanted to make sure that I got through every isle of Surtex. I was really interested in the comments I overheard and the conversations I had with exhibitors.  That is why I’ve formatted this blog in an ‘overheard at Surtex’ and then ‘my comment’ format.

OVERHEARD AT SURTEX: ‘Wow the competition is stiff.’

MY COMMENTS: Yes it is. Those that pay the price for a booth have a lot of personal and financial incentive to be organized and prepared. I believe the level of professionalism in the art licensing industry has increased exponentially in the last 10 years.

The booths were for the most part gorgeous. I think the artists that used fewer large art pieces really won the prize when it came to design and functionality.  When cruising through the isles, you really don’t want to have to squint to see the art.  You also don’t want your booth to be confusing. I hate when I have to work hard at figuring out if it’s one artist’s work or three (or 10). Keep the art clearly segmented by artist or style. Then use your headers to identify the person or theme.

I always suggest that new artists attend Surtex before deciding to have a booth. It was clear that most newcomers had done their homework, as the booths were fantastic.  Kudos.

OVERHEARD AT SURTEX: ‘Why do they insist on making the show 3 days, when 2 days would be enough?’

MY COMMENTS:  I can see both sides of this. I heard there were very slow times at Surtex on Sunday, as well many exhibitors said they were anticipating a sluggish last day on Tuesday.  Any trade show can be slow at times, but for those ambitious artists and agents who planned ahead, and set up meetings, there is really never enough time.

OVERHEARD AT SURTEX:  ‘Awesome art everywhere!  And so much to choose from.’

MY COMMENTS:  I believe most manufacturers would agree that it’s an impressive group of artists that exhibit at Surtex these days; and I heard this from many manufacturers directly.  With such a large and growing amount of art to choose from, it cannot be an easy job for the manufacturers to decide which artist, and what art choose for each type of product line. But the manufacturers know their business best and, hopefully, what their customers want.  Either way, I found them to be clear about their goals and direct with their desires and criticism.  They were certainly not mincing words, if they didn’t like something.  I appreciated that; it saves us all time and money.

Remember, you are more likely to stop your own success, not your competition.  Ask yourself:

Have you, as an exhibitor or walker of the show,

  • done everything in your power to follow-up quickly and diligently with your leads,
  • provided manufacturers with exactly what they asked for, if not more,
  • prepared presentation materials (designs, mock-ups, etc.) that will make sense to their business and needs, and
  • been enthusiastic and creative in your follow-up?

Also, don’t forget to use your intuition. If you think you are being strung along and asked to do a lot of work for nothing, then say ‘no.’

OVERHEARD AT SURTEX: ‘The show was disorganized.’ 

MY COMMENTS: I don’t know; it didn’t look that way from walking the show.  Do any of you who had booths want to comment?

OVERHEARD AT THE SHOW:  ‘I paid $750 to attend the 3-day conference, but I was not allowed to go on the exhibit floor until the third day, Tuesday.’

MY COMMENTS: This is a problem for the conference attendees, yet I’m sure it was done to help protect the Surtex exhibitors.  I hope that most new artists, by reading, conversations on social media, and taking classes have learned that interrupting exhibitors in a booth to show them a portfolio or ask questions is not appropriate. Unfortunately, a few people with inappropriate behavior continue to ruin it for those artists who just want to spend time on the trade show floor, looking around, learning and preparing for their future.

OVERHEARD AT THE SHOW:  ‘I found the conference sessions interesting, but confusing. The manufacturers who were presenting talked more about flat fees, than licensing.’

MY COMMENTS: I suggest you learn how to calculate when it’s a better deal for YOU to do a flat fee than a royalty, and when a royalty will be more financially rewarding than a flat fee.  Once you understand that, you can make your own decisions.  NOTE: If you want to learn how to calculate the benefits of a deal, check out my ‘Doing More Deals’ class.

OVERHEARD AT SURTEX:  ‘Traffic was down, but the quality of attendees were great.’

MY COMMENTS:  This was good to hear.  Several exhibitors commented about the number of high quality leads they were getting and, overall, artists and agents sounded very positive about the people visiting the booths.

OVERHEARD AT THE SHOW:  ‘My feet hurt.’

MY COMMENTS: Mine too.

(My thanks to Debbie Tomassi for this motivating reminder of what I need to do next….)

DT KickAstersArt

Stationery Show and Surtex 2013

4 06 2013

floral_graphics_vector_58899Once again, Stationery Show and Surtex have come and gone, amidst the latest gorgeous designs, art and products.

Many bloggers have already expressed their comments about the shows, and here are mine: a few thoughts about the Stationery Show from my perspective as an Agent, as well as a section (which will run tomorrow) with things I heard from attendees and exhibitors at Surtex and my comments.

Stationery Show

First of all, this is definitely one of my favorite trade show events. I personally felt an overall sense of optimism from both those in the booths and those walking this Show. The mood was light and energetic. It’s so an exquisite and scintillating feeling to be amidst all the latest stationery products, many of which are a direct result of licensed art and design.  It makes me proud to be in the business.

With more than a dozen scheduled appointments over 2 days, I was prepared with portfolios in both  hard copies and electronic versions. The meetings with manufacturers at the Stationery Show included meeting new people and re-connecting with those I’ve known for years.

In your first meetings with a manufacturer, I recommend you come prepared with questions.

Ask the manufacturer:

  • what are your best-selling products?
  • who is your best-selling licensed artist?
  • what trends are you seeing?
  • what exactly are you looking for at this show (short-term)?
  • anything else you are looking for (long-term)?
  • who makes the final decisions on licensing?

(Obviously this is just a start, the more questions the better! And the questions will vary, depending on whether your meeting is a generic introduction, as in this example, or whether you are discussing the need for a specific piece of art or you’re further down the road negotiating a product licensing deal.)

Whether you have scheduled a meeting with a manufacturer, or they dropped by your booth, you need to really honor their time and appreciate their attention. Answer their questions, and LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.  Nothing is more valuable that gathering information that you can use and getting to know the person.

Then you can share your background, art and news in a genuine way.

Share with the manufacturer:

  • your portfolio, if they have never seen it or
  • new portfolio items they haven’t seen before
  • anything you can think of that might fit their goals (short or long-term)
  • think fast and share examples of deals you’ve done, or experience you have that relates to things they shared (based what you talk about on something you learned from LISTENING)
  • lastly, always ask if there is anything you can do for them.  Even if your art isn’t a good fit for them, do what you can for other manufacturers and artists and leave a great impression.

Our meetings, and hopefully yours, were very productive in finding out more about our prospects’ needs and sharing with them how we can help.  Progress was made by identifying new creative to send, and in some cases to develop and send, as well as deals were struck. I love being in meetings and seeing the eyes of a creative director light up, or a chuckle escape their lips when they read a humorous note. Especially when they see exactly what they want!

For each meeting your goal should always be to leave with a very specific ‘to do’ list of items to create or adapt and send to the prospective licensee. It should also include timeframes.

(Tomorrow’s blog will be on Surtex…)

Rule #20

22 12 2011

Create art you love, but make sure it meets a market need.

It’s wonderful to create whatever you want, whenever you want.  But art licensing is a commercial business that is directed toward fulfilling consumer needs.

If you can create art that you love, while seeing where it fits in the marketplace—then your art will be more appealing to manufacturers. Art that meets a need in the marketplace and solves a manufacturer’s challenge will get licensed. It’s going to generate more excitement and more sales, as well as provide you with greater revenue potential in the art licensing business.

Stretch your creativity and see where it takes you. But to be as successful in art licensing try to find balance between creating art you that you love and art that meets a need in the marketplace.

–Thanks for joining me on this journey through the 20 Rules of Art Licensing…see you in the New Year! J’net

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