November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #7

7 11 2016



Q:  Can one reasonably expect advances against royalty?  How are they calculated? 


A:  To be realistic, very few people today are paying advances.  They’re harder and harder to come by.  So, if you’re just starting out and it’s your first deal, by all means, land the deal and get your work out there even if they don’t give you an advance against royalties.  As you move forward, you want to always ask about advances and royalties, but don’t count on them.

If you have the opportunity to or are in a position to request and negotiate an advance, a really fair way to calculate them is based on the manufacturer’s projected sales. In other words, once you know the estimated sales for the first and second years, after manufacturing is completed, you can request a fraction of the first year of your sales. I usually go for about 25 percent of the first year’s sales, which is really reasonable, and you can always negotiate down from there.  Hey, it never hurts to ask.

What you’re really looking for is just some kind of advance, which shows faith in you and a commitment to you as an artist/creator, and makes the manufacturer have a bit of ‘skin’ in the game, so they fulfill their commitments to you, as well.  I think that advances are important because when a manufacturer has paid you some money, any amount, they feel an obligation to manufacture your product and get it out there because they have money invested.  These are non-refundable advances against royalty.  Fight for them and ask for them, and if you don’t get them, make a decision and move on.


31 Days of Marketing Tips for All Art Licensors – Tip #6

6 10 2016


New and Old Connections Ignited on Day 2 of Licensing Expo

10 06 2015

Jim Davis cropped setLicensing celebrity sighting alert at the Art + Design Resource Center Booth (C13)! Jim Davis, iconic cartoonist, best known as the creator of the comic strip Garfield, stopped by the booth to catch up with me.  He is excited to be celebrating Garfield’s 37th Anniversary on June 19th, 2015, as well as exploring all kinds of new digital and international deals. Don’t tell anyone, but he brought a plush cat with him–AND IT WASN’T GARFIELD. Jim was so nice, but the cat was grumpy.

supapopyesSean Danconia is an old soul. He loves everything retro, and really not much of anything after 1979. A 15-year career in design, animation, film, and recently fine art, Sean has taken his love of all things classic to create a universe sealed back in time — SupaPop.  The SupaPop story universe unfolds as a Time-Capsule-Toy city, created and sealed in the 60s in San Francisco. The time capsule is “popped” open in 2016, where a classic version of the city remains unevolved. A city where heroic idealism and a classic positive attitude is rampant, the comic book inspired universe encompasses more than 20 different themes packed with licensing opportunities. You can visit the SupaPop world at Booth V200, or better yet, join him at the Joseph Watson gallery tonight, June 10, at 7:30 pm for the world premiere reception.


kokonuzzBased out of Hong Kong, Kokonuzz is just one of four brands created by Spanish graphic designer, Alexis Bautista. With magnets, headwear, clothing, baby and digital sticker licenses in place from connections made at the Hong Kong Licensing Show, Kokonuzz is attending its first U.S. Licensing Expo to take its brand global. Kokonuzz is comprised of seven characters from different parts of the world who want to be YouTube celebrities. Their YouTube channel and other content follows their struggles towards a goal for stardom. Developed as a true mobile brand with licensing as the focus from the start, Kokonuzz characters live their own reality series, even posting comic strip commentaries to real world problems. Visit Kokonuzz at Booth V198.

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.

Now the Real Work Begins as Exhibitors Head Home to Follow-Up on Leads

19 06 2014

In our last ‘during-the-show’ post, I am sharing news from some very excited Exhibitors. I look forward to hearing about all the deals that get closed.

Silverfish Press
The art of painter Stanley Meltzoff catches a wave of licensing success with high quality product that is appropriate to the brand. Meltzoff’s images of fish and fishing lend itself perfectly to certain categories. Mike Rivkin, president of Silverfish said, “We have cutting boards, calendars and puzzles already signed. We’ve had interest for commercial floor mats, sunglasses, and different storage boxes, possibly tackle boxes. It’s been a pretty good show.”

Mike Rivkin of Silverfish Press

Mike Rivkin of Silverfish Press

Ileana Grimm’s designs continue to be clever and original. Taking everyday themes and giving them a twist of “Grimm” humor, coupled with minimalist strong line, bold color characters, Grimm sparks laughter in quick quips in her designs. Her character Pearl, an outspoken woman, is a cornerstone property that is licensed through King Features, has had interest from many categories of potential licensees including new greeting cards. Meanwhile some of the other Grimm characters, such as the new cranky black cat named Zoe, have seen categories of interest for mobil stickers and publishing deals, as well as international licensing representation in France, Ecuador and other parts of South America.

Ileana Grimm and Pearl

Ileana Grimm and Pearl

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