November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #9

9 11 2016

Q: [Part 2] How do I know if I need an agent? What is the best way to approach agents…with cold calls or newsletters?

november-q-a-final

A: Pitching agents must be done in the same professional manner that you would pursue manufacturers, or the way that you would pitch the biggest account you ever tried to nail, and got it.

While agents tend to be art lovers, they probably get ten – a hundred or even more than a hundred pitches every month from all types of artists.  The bottom line is that they are in the ‘agenting’ business to make money.  Some people, especially artists, tend to forget that. I really want to make sure that you know that your objective should be to sell yourself to an agent on how they can make money from your art.  That’s the key.  And very few agents, in today’s economy, can afford the time it would take to train you in the ‘ins and outs’ of the licensing business.  It’s up to you to come to them with as much knowledge as possible and ready to ‘hit the market’ running.

This means you are going to have to do some work before you go out and get your agent.  Many artists, in fact the majority I see and hear from other agents, come to agents ill-prepared. So, my advice is to study and learn. Go about it the way you would go to school to learn something. Study all you can about the industry, spend time first organizing your art, building your portfolio, creating collections and preparing an agent presentation complete with a letter of introduction.  You need to know enough about the industry in order to talk intelligently with that agent.

There are many people that get coaching before they go out to get an agent which is smart because that way they’re not so naïve. You can get training in how to find the right agent, as well as how to protect yourself when dealing with agents (i.e. negotiating your contract, what questions to ask, etc.).

If you truly want to have an agent, then approach the process of researching, learning and pitching those agents as your full-time business for a while. There is another bonus to learning everything you need to know about managing your agent; having already done all that, if you do decide you want to represent yourself, you’re really going to be in a good position to begin.





November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #3

3 11 2016

 

 

 

november-q-a-final

Q: I’ve been in the art licensing business for more than ten years and making good money.  I know my art is still marketable and on trend, so why would I be making less money?

 

A: I appreciate your asking this and confirming that your art is still ‘marketable and on trend’ because many artists won’t question or know that.  I’ve seen it happen before; some artists create the same art for years and years and they don’t see the world changing around them because they still have passion for creating a certain type of art—even when it’s no longer viable in the marketplace. With that said, there are many reasons why this situation could be happening.

Today we are still having difficult economic times and the manufacturers are very conscience of the price they may pay for every new artist taken on that doesn’t sell enough products—so to keep costs down they have become very cautious and risk adverse. There is also more competition; more artists in the licensing arena and certainly more characters, so putting your best work forward is always important.  Let’s not forget that there are fewer retailers, even if there is more online shopping.

One of the things that I recommend you think about is how many types of products does your art will fit well on?  If you’re losing business and your art only fits in a few product categories, to see growth you will need to increase your art collections to make sure that your art extends onto different types of categories down the road. Similarly, you could be experiencing the effects of seasonal or age-related changes in the marketplace.  In these scenarios, manufacturers are looking to capitalize on seasonal trends, such as our current political fervor (don’t get me started!) and holiday sales (Halloween is now the 2nd largest holiday in retail volume!). The audiences for purchasing products is also, always, a moving target. For example, Gen Y is currently pulling many economic strings while Baby Boomers, still a huge and influential audience, has seen their buying habits as seniors has changed drastically!

Or, maybe, it’s a matter of your art working best, in a product category that’s no longer practical.  For example, 10+ years ago people made quite a bit of money in scrapbooking or rubber stamps before these industries hit a slump. (Funny note: I saw the Dilbert™ cartoon character make lots of money on screen savers, which of course today is so laughable.  Make sure your product categories aren’t becoming obsolete). There could also be retail-related reasons for your loss of income, if your artwork sold well in brick-and-mortar stores, for example, that have gone through mergers, a major reduction in ‘doors’ or even closed forever.

Some things to consider:

  1. Think about new marketing efforts, especially new themes and collections which will diversify your portfolio and create opportunities in new product areas.
  2. Develop a new lead list with manufacturers in new product areas.
  3. Have a plan for creating collections, mailing them out and following-up on a quarterly basis
  4. Contact retailers directly to tout your retail sales track record.  You might want to offer an exclusive opportunity to a retailer, rather than simply focusing on manufacturers.  Try catalog and online retailers as well, if you can’t get a foothold in the brick and mortar stores again.
  5. Try a total change in strategy, which may require getting some advice from a licensing coach on how to expand your business.

If you know your art is marketable and still viable, then there are things you can do!

 





31 Days of Marketing Tips for All Art Licensors- Tip #18

18 10 2016

18p





Eight Ways to Develop Your Licensing Lead List

24 08 2016

Whether your licensing interest is focused on art, brands or characters, it is the effort you put into selling that creates your licensing deals. Your greatest sales are achieved when you have a thorough understanding your product (what it is you are trying to license), so that you are able to connect directly to the right audience (most often a manufacturer, retailer or media).

If you are new to licensing, what you first want to do is organize your list of potential product categories and then prioritize them. For your reference, here is a list of product categories and their percentage of licensed merchandise retail sales in the U.S./Canada in 2015, as reported by The Licensing Letter.

SOURCE: THE LICENSING LETTER

SOURCE: THE LICENSING LETTER

Once you have developed a good strategy for your property, in terms of product categories, it will be much easier to direct the growth of your lead list. When looking for prospective manufacturers, there are many opportunities to find them and do research before including them on your list. The more targeted you are in creating your leads, the more manufacturers will respond positively to the opportunities you present.

I hear from manufacturers, over and over again, their number one complaint is that they receive too many presentations that are not relevant to their specific business needs. Do yourself, and the manufacturers you are seeking, a favor by doing your research and targeting your offerings to their business. They will appreciate and recognize your focus, and you will progress faster.

Remember that lead lists are organic in nature; they increase and decrease, again and again, over time. A list of 30 companies may grow to 100, then reduce to 40 leads, as you determine that some of the companies are not, in fact, a match.

Here are eight ways to help you develop your own licensing lead list. Some of them require an investment and others are free, except for your time and effort.

1. Trade Shows — Trade events and their directories exist in every product categories. If you attend a trade show, make sure you bring home the directory or you can ask friends to bring you a copy of the directory from the shows they attend. Sometimes you can even find exhibitor lists, before and after their annual events, on the association and exposition web sites.

Just to see what is out there, I searched the Internet for some of the most popular trade shows in product categories that are important to licensed artists. Within five minutes I found a PDF titled, ‘Exhibitors for the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show.’ This 35-page document included company names, contact information, address, and phone and fax numbers. Needless to say, if you are willing to spend the time, there are always inexpensive ways to get the information you need.

2. Trade Magazines — As you read trade magazines associated with the product categories that you have chosen to target, check out the companies that seem to be a good fit for you and your art, designs, illustrations, brand or characters. Always make notes about their product lines, employees, contact information and licensing deals, so you have the details handy when you are ready to contact them.

3. Shopping — Spend time shopping in retail stores and outlets for the products you want to license. This will be time well spent as you explore manufacturers that are already doing licensing. You will probably also see ‘private label’ products with art and characters; these are the products that don’t readily identify the manufacturer on the product itself. These D-T-R, or Direct-to-Retail, products are often branded under the retail establishment’s label (i.e. Target’s or Walmart’s instore brands) and it may be difficult to find out who manufactured them. There are more and more of these D-T-R’s deals being done every day as stores work harder to have unique product in stores. To identify these manufacturers, it may require a licensing industry agent, retail expert or a professionally compiled lead list.

4. Use the Internet — The Internet continues to be the primary source for researching manufacturers. Although, these days, larger companies are less likely to list their phone numbers and email addresses on their websites, you can still often find the information you want with a little extra effort. And when you get frustrated, just think about how we used to do it before the Internet. I also recommend connecting on LinkedIn with the executives you are trying to reach. Most professionals will consider ‘linking’ to you, since you are in the business, and then you can start a conversation.

5. Networking — Again, thank goodness for the Internet and social media! Now you can talk to other licensed artists and creators through the many specialized social groups on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, as well as at industry events and trade shows. Networking can become a primary source of ideas and leads. If you are open about sharing your connections, then others will do the same.

6. Ask for Recommendations — If a manufacturer doesn’t think you are a good fit for them, ask them what manufacturers they would recommend you talk to (and get the contact information). This is a really overlooked technique that allows you to tap into the brainpower of the manufacturers who know the business best. If you were thoughtful in your presentation, and had relevant reasons why you felt they would be interested, then you didn’t waste their time and the manufacturer may be very open to sharing their thoughts about other licensing partner options.

If you are short on time and have the money to invest, you may want to consider one of the following licensing industry directories.

7. EPM Communications — The Licensing Letter Sourcebook is annually updated to include licensing decision-makers from manufacturing companies, as well as properties, agents, attorneys and consultants. So while it is not an inexpensive resource, and you may use only a fraction of the information, I have found it to be the most reliable in the licensing industry. In the long run, it will save you valuable time and money in getting names, phone numbers and email addresses.

EPM has just announced that their updated 2016 Sourcebook is available. It includes the contact information for more 7,400 licensing professionals worldwide, 2,000 licensors, 3,600 manufacturers, 1,000 licensing agents and 730 attorneys and industry consultants. If you want more information you can contact Randy Cochran at randy@plainlanguagemedia.com and here is a link for more details.

8. Total Guide to the Licensing World — There is a new, less expensive, online database which will be available in October. According to Joanna Cassidy from Total Licensing, their database will include over 2,600 licensees/manufacturers. This is a worldwide licensing industry database with contacts in more than 90 countries, but approximately 30% of the contacts are in the United States. The annual subscription cost will be just under $200 for full access to the Total Guide Guide to the Licensing World. The directory includes 125 word listings, plus all contact information and social media links. If you are interesting in being included in the dirtectory you can email joanna@totallicensing.com or click here for more details.

There are quite a few options for building your lead lists. It really boils down to whether or not you want to spend your time, money or both. I can’t emphasize enough that even having a terrific lead list isn’t enough to get you deals; you have to finely target your list, learn from the manufacturer responses, continually update your list and last, but not least, spend time actually sending the presentations out and following up!





Video Interview with Designer Brand – Debra Valencia™ and Beginner’s Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference THIS WEEK!

22 03 2015

Debra Valencia LogoLast week was busier than ever with classes coming up and our seven-hour Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference for beginners starting this week (click here or see below). But I jumped at the chance to interview Debra Valencia for you…okay for me too! I enjoyed it so much and I know that you will find this wonderful video interview quite informative. We will be doing many more video interviews in the coming months, so watch for them.MiaNotecards

Debra has made a lot of progress in the art licensing arena in only six years of licensing, and in only two of those years did she have an agent. Before she found an agent she realized that getting some deals on her own would help her get a better agent, so she did (OH AROUND!) 32 deals between 2008 and 2013. Debra is also no stranger to helping fellow-artists new to licensing, as she mentors several in her geographic area of Los Angeles.

DVBathBodyI’m so excited to share this interview because it shows that you didn’t have to start 20 years ago in art licensing to become a successful branded artist. I think Debra Valencia is a perfect example for all artists, designers and creators who envision themselves as a brand. The Debra Valencia™ Brand features fashion-forward patterns that have endless applications in stationery, gift, craft and home décor. She is working with manufacturers in paper products, social expression, textiles, home fashions, tabletop, gift, craft and hobby, children’s merchandise and jewelry. Debra’s artwork is currently licensed for over a 1,000 products in stationery, home office, gift and textiles. I’m showing a few lovely products here, but of course, there are many more examples on her web site.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’ By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia 132 pages Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’
By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia
132 pages
Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

Let me also share some exciting NEW news from the Valencia camp: her sister, Cheyanne, and Debra have collaborated to create a sewing book of 12 quick and easy boutique handbags, titled ‘Sewing Pretty Bags.’ She said the concept came out of their sewing handbags and other designer prototypes with her fabulous fabrics, as a way to showcase them. Debra even wrote her own proposal and pitched it at Book Expo, landing a quick deal with Fox Chapel Publishing. The book is scheduled to be in bookstores on May 1st, so look for it.

Okay…that’s all I’ll reveal for now…please make yourself a truly delicious cup of tea in a gorgeous mug or tea-cup and sit back and watch the interview. It will be worth every drop! (We apologize in advance for the slight audio feedback that occassionally arises during the interview.)

WWCI from AALWorldwide Creators’ Intensive – Art Licensing Mini-Conference $125 (Live Events + MP3 Audio Files and Full Presentation in PDFs to review at your convenience) The Worldwide Creators’ Intensive, our first global armchair 3-day mini-conference, is an action packed 7+ hours of learning the licensing business from the comfort of your own home.

Taught by J’net Smith of All Art Licensing – March 25, 26 & 27, 2015

It’s a very well-rounded and comprehensive, intensive 7+ hours of training scheduled over 3 days, with practical and affordable art licensing information created for the domestic and international art communities. The benefit of registering for our live events is that you receive our discounted price and you get to ask questions. If you cannot attend on the day and/or at the time we are offering the courses, don’t worry—you can still ask questions prior to the class and they will be answered.  Then you will receive the full class materials and audio, so you can take the courses at home whenever you like.

  • Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1)
  • Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2)
  • Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3)
  • Art Licensing Negotiations & Contracts (Part 4)

Save when you register for the entire event! Best Price: $125/USD Register for Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – all 4 live events

Learn More by clicking here or I’ve outlined the curriculum below:

WWCI: Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1) Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (1.5 hours) $30 (if purchased separately)

This course covers:

  • insights to help you determine where you fit into this business
  • the art licensing process
  • product categories
  • timelines (how long does it take to make money)
  • artist requirements
  • challenges that are to be expected (& pitfalls to avoid)
  • distribution channels and retailers, and
  • the agent/artist relationship.

WWCI: Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2) Wednesday, March 25 – 1 p.m. EDT / 3 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course covers how to:

  • develop your marketing strategy
  • define your target audience
  • research manufacturers
  • understand important licensing perspectives (that of the manufacturer/retailer vs. the artist/brand owner)
  • create professional collections
  • develop presentations
  • create pitch letters and
  • organize and write effective websites.

WWCI: Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3) Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course will cover how to:

  • create your sales tool kit of essential skills
  • understand the licensing sales process
  • find your retail fit
  • develop sales leads
  • write sales letters
  • communicate with manufacturers and
  • sell yourself to a prospective manufacturer or agent.

WWCI: Art Licensing Negotiations and Contracts (Part 4) Friday, March 27, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course teaches:

  • the essential contract elements
  • protecting the rights to your art and business,
  • generating maximum income,
  • learning industry royalty rates
  • recognizing common mistakes
  • negotiation techniques
  • how to evaluate an offer
  • when to sign a deal and when not to

For more information on the 3-day Mini-Conference Intensives or to purchase any Part separately click here





Blogs, Interviews and the Licensing Expo

6 06 2014

After 20 years of attending the Licensing Expo (I have missed only one in all those years), I still get excited about going to the event. It really feels like one of the last places where new and truly original creations can still get discovered.
In fact, there have been many properties and businesses which have been launched or grew rapidly through their exposure at the Licensing Expo. Several of these were recently pointed out in an interesting blog from Michael Dismuke, the creator of a comic called Roshambo. He has written about ‘Why The Licensing Expo And Not Comic Con?’, where he explains his decision to attend Licensing Expo.  He also talks about  how Licensing Expo helped build the  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers and My Little Pony brands. I would add The Ugly Doll, Paul Frank/Julius and Skelanimals to that list. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

All Art Licensing Update

As you can see with this video, I am adding new dimensions to my blog. It will be expanding to include interviews, video interviews and more about individual artists and companies who, like you, are developing a viable licensing business to present their creativity through the media and products.
For the next few weeks, I will be including interviews and news specifically related to the Licensing Expo, as their official Art + Design Blogger. So stay tuned, and watch for the Skype video interviews, which are filled with lots of ideas, information and inspiration.

Roshambo from GameMastersroshamboCreated and written by Dismuke, Roshambo has been called “a cross between Calvin & Hobbes and the Colbert Report.” The comic is about three children who boast the power of Rock-Paper-Scissors and battle villains named after schoolyard gags and games, such as Hopscotch, Freezetag, Red Rover, Thumb Wrestling, Leapfrog, Foursquare, and more. The comic is illustrated by Susan Tsui.





More Trade Show Tips – Presentations & Key Questions

8 05 2014

With Surtex just a couple of weeks away, followed by Book Expo and then Licensing Expo—it’s the peak of trade show season and time to get out and sell yourself, art, brand or characters.

Whether you are in a booth or walking the shows, my best advice is to spend the time preparing.  When you are getting organized, think about making presentations that are very short.  Have your quick 15 and 30 second descriptions of your business and goals well-rehearsed so it’s top-of-mind.  Then expand on them to create a more comprehensive 2-3 minute presentation for those who are interested.

Remember that anyone attending a trade show will be talking to 50, 100 or more people in a day and, in general, you shouldn’t expect long initial meetings. If you try to force them into a 10-20 minute presentation, there is a good chance you will kill the lead.

For art licensing presentations, if possible allow the prospect to turn the pages or click the images on your iPad, so they can pace the presentation themselves.  When presenting a character or story, it’s more important to quickly go through a sequential explanation to set the stage and then give the prospect some concepts to flip through.

Please be courteous if you are an artist walking any of the shows, especially where other artists and brands are exhibiting in the booths.  Agents in the booths are, of course, always interested in learning about new talent. But whether you’re meeting an artist representing themselves or an agent, they have invested a great deal to exhibit. Every year, after the shows, we read about insensitive people who try to usurp the time and energy of those in booths to learn about the industry, while the exhibitors get frustrated and are potentially missing out on viable leads with licensees. Don’t let that be you.

I recently learned that 85% of the impression you will make with potential licensees at a trade show is based on booth staffers.  So remember how critical your role is, as the owner or part of the supporting team.  Make sure you have a list of questions clear in your mind and ready to ask potential prospects. I presented these questions last year in my blog, but they are worth repeating for those of you who are now ready to attend a show or exhibit this year:

  • What does your company do?
  • What exactly do you do at your company?
  • What are you hoping to find at the show?
  • What are you interested in, or caught your eye, in my booth?
  • What products do you produce?
  • Where do you distribute your products?
  • What consumers are you interested in targeting most?
  • How can I help you?

smiley faceAlso, remember not to get discouraged by negative responses. At a trade show, as in life, a general rule is that you “must go through 10 to find the one.” So don’t give up.

Lastly—keep an optimistic attitude; don’t burn bridges; show interest in them; and keep smiling!








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