Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So You Want to License Your Artwork – Part 4

So you’ve submitted your work to a dozen companies, and received a dozen rejections! Congratulations, you’re doing great! Keep at it. Persistence is the key. Because the time will come when a company or an agent sees your work, likes it, and decides that they want to work with you.

When that happens, it’s a good idea to know a few things that will help you navigate the waters. So here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Agents (and some publishing companies) will typically ask you for a processing fee when you submit your work. This is because it takes a lot of time to sift and sort through all of the submissions that they receive and they cannot work for free, otherwise they could not be doing what they are doing, which is helping artists make money.
  • Also, if an agent likes your work and decides to represent you, there will usually be a small fee involved with taking you on, as well. This fee helps them to defray the initial costs of the things that they need to do in order to get you up to speed with their company, so they have everything that they need in order to represent you. (Things such as paying their web person to include you on the website.)
  • I do not recommend ever giving up the rights to your images. Although some companies will insist on this, I do not think it is worth it. There are more than enough companies out there who are willing to work with artists in a way that is mutually beneficial: you retain the rights to print and sell your work, and they pay you a commission every time they buy or sell your work. Be very careful before you sign a contract! Make sure you know exactly what the terms and conditions are before you sign, or you might make big mistakes that will haunt you down the road. If you can, have a lawyer look over it with you.
  • On the same token, many agents or publishing companies will insist that you do not compete directly with them. This means if you are licensing your image to sell on napkin holders, you promise that you will not license them on another company who is also selling napkin holders. Or, if they are selling fine art prints of your work, you agree not to sell them somewhere else at a lower price. This is only fair to agree to this, and I highly recommend that you don’t break this agreement.
  • Imaging costs are always the responsibility of the artist – which means that you need to provide high resolution digital images of all the work that they want to license from you, and you must pay for it. (More on this in next week’s post.)

Next week we will talk about ways that you can optimize your work (and your mindset) in order to work with these publishing companies and actually make sales!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So You Want to License Your Artwork – Part 3

The earlier posts in this series have talked about art licensing and helped to shift your perspective somewhat on the industry. This week we are going to talk about one of the most important things that you are going to have to deal with if you decide to move into this field: rejection.

If you were to go on Google and do a search for art, you would get an absolutely huge selection of artwork of all different types, shapes, sizes and styles. Fine art, impressionism, realism, abstract, cubism, pointillism, cartoons, photography, digital art, and on and on. Not to mention endless subject matter: everything from fantasy art to still life to patterns to children’s art to landscape. The point is, the market for art is simply massive.

Next time you take a stroll through your local department store, notice just how much art there is around you. From everything like shower curtains, bed spreads, and rugs to things like cards, wall art, and wrapping paper. There is art everywhere! And each of these items has art that someone created – that means that the artist already went through the journey that you’re possibly just beginning and has sold their image – many times over.

My point is, there are already a lot of established artists out there who are successful in this business. There is always room for more, but your work must be good in order to compete. Not only that, your art is probably not well suited for everything under the sun – it would probably work best on specific products.

Keeping that in mind, it is important for you to realize that you are probably going to get a lot of rejection before you finally get a yes. The number of rejection letters can usually be cut down dramatically by simply doing your homework: making sure that you are submitting your work to companies that are looking for the type of art you create, not just every licensing company you can find. (That’s a really big hint, by the way!)

Nevertheless, you are still going to be rejected several times. It is a fact of licensing life.

Keeping an open mind, positive attitude, and doing your best to not take any of it personally is the key to eventually reaching your yes’s. It’s easier to not take things personally when you understand that each of these companies probably receives hundreds if not thousands (depending on the size and scale of their company) artist submissions a year. Not only that, they have been doing this for a long time and have a pretty good idea of what will sell.

I say pretty good idea because no one knows exactly what is going to do well and what is not until they test it. They are basing their choices for next year on what worked last year and the year before that. Sometimes they will take chances, but usually they are simply working from statistics. However, they know what their market is and they know what type of art they are looking for, and unless you are a perfect fit for them, they are not going to choose you.

This means that your work might be incredible, beautiful, fresh and fantastic – and you still stand a pretty good chance of getting rejected. It’s not personal. It’s simply the game that you play. Until you have established yourself and proven to them that your work can be successful, most publishing companies are not interested in taking chances on you. So don’t let yourself become dejected! Recognize that rejection is simply a part of the process.

Next week I will give you a few tips about signing contracts and things you need to know about actually signing on with an agent or publishing company.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So You Want to License Your Artwork – Part 2

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the time and type of commitment that it typically takes to get started in the art licensing industry. In this post I’m going to share with you a few more of the realities that most artists don’t realize when they first dip their toe in the licensing pool.

If you’ve ever had success selling your work through galleries, shows, in person, or over the internet, you were probably pretty pleased with your commission. Depending on whether you sold an original, giclĂ©e, or print, you probably made a nice sum for the size and quality of the piece. Let’s just say for the sake of painting a picture in your mind, that after the printing costs, gallery or booth commission, marketing and other costs, you walk away with $45 in your pocket after selling a small print, $150 for a larger print. Obviously it would be a lot more for an original. That’s not too shabby at all.

So the general assumption that we make in our minds is that if we were to sell 100 prints, we would be rolling in the dough! If you could sell 200 prints at a show with a profit of $45, you would be making $9000! Wowza! Every artist’s dream, right?

Here’s the thing. That doesn’t usually happen. Even if you do really well at a show, you don’t typically see results like that unless you have been doing this for a very long time. And even then, that’s one heck of a good day. You simply (usually) can’t reach the number of people that you would need to in order to make sales like that from one show. Over the internet you have a higher chance of reaching large numbers of people – however, you will spend hours and days and weeks and months working on internet marketing – and that still does not guarantee you will make a lot of sales.

The key to selling a much larger volume of your work is art licensing.

Now here’s the part that most people don’t realize. If you sell 200 ‘copies’ of your work via licensing, you are not going to be making $9000 for it. No one is going to pay you $45 for the rights to make one small print of your work, because they could never make a profit this way. More likely than not, you will be making somewhere between $1-15 per copy, and sometimes those copies are really large!! (By the way, when I say copy, I mean simply a one time use of your image on a print or other product, like tile, screen, bedding, lunch box, mouse pad, puzzle, etc. You get the idea.)

Sometimes artists are horrified at these numbers. They ask, “how in the world am I going to make a living in licensing if I only make $1 every time they license my image? This is never going to work!”

By selling 5,000 copies – not 200. That’s how.

Think about it: you create a beautiful painting. It takes you a week to paint it. All things aside like marketing, agents, and all the work and money it takes to get your painting imaged so that it can be printed at a high enough quality to be reproduced, you would be making $5,000 for a few week’s work. Not bad, huh? Especially if the product that they put it on does really well and they decide that they want to do it again – and again.

See where this is going?

The thing is, you as the artist need to shift your perspective somewhat in order to realize that licensing is a completely different ballgame than the gallery circuit and doing shows. Galleries may give you more “prestige” so to speak, but they are just as much work as licensing and unless you become really well-known, you probably have a lot more potential to make more money in licensing than you would otherwise.

Of course, this also depends on the type of art you create and the market that is out there. We will be talking more about this in next week’s blog post!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So You Want to License Your Artwork – Part 1

You’ve been creating beautiful art for years, honing your talent and skills. You’ve recently determined that your work is licensable, and you’ve made the decision that you want to get into art licensing. Congratulations!

So… now what?

Well, I don’t want to discourage you – (far from it!) – but it’s probably a good idea for me to share with you a few of the realities of art licensing in order to determine if you’re ready for this type of a commitment. More often than not, I see artists and photographers with stars in their eyes and a fantasy of someone pouring buckets of money over their head as a reward for their creations a month down the road.

Possible? Sure. Anything is possible!

But probable? No.

Here’s one key fact about licensing that is important for you to grasp early on, otherwise you are setting yourself up for disappointment: it typically takes years in the art licensing industry before you begin making consistent income.

Now please understand: it is completely feasible as an artist to make a living with your art. More than anything, I want you to know that you don’t have to settle for being a “starving artist” or “hobbyist” for the rest of your life. Art licensing is a wonderful avenue for you to create income for yourself and make money so that you can spend more time doing what you love. I just don’t want you to have unrealistic expectations.

I want you to know what you are getting into, so that you can make a conscious commitment to what you are doing. When you have unrealistic expectations, you may do a lot of work for a month, see no results, and become completely discouraged. Then you’ll give up, and go back to trudging through your day job, believing that you will forever be stuck creating art in your spare time. That would really be a shame – especially if you knew that in 2-5 years time, you could be potentially making enough money to quit your day job and do what you love full time.

The thing is, artists and photographers often think that the only work that they need to do is create, and everything else will take care of itself. This is not true. Even if you are mind bogglingly talented – even if you have an agent – your success is determined for the large part by you -- especially in the beginning. Once you’ve created a solid foundation for yourself, there will gradually be less “work” and more time for you to simply create. But without the foundation, anything you try to build will simply crumble to pieces.

So, if you are ready to make the time and work commitment to make this happen, proceed with full steam ahead! Keep an eye out for next week’s blog post – I will share with you more of the nitty gritties and how to’s of the art licensing industry.