|This panel discussed how children's book illustrators might want to consider licensing their art as another means of income.
Penny Sikalis, VP and show manager of SURTEX (a trade show specific to the licensing of art for merchandise) and Suzanne Cruise, an art licesning agent spoke on this panel, moderated by SCBWI's Illustrator Director Priscilla Burris (who is also a published illustrator, by the way).
Penny Sikalis talked first to the illustrators about how we can take our art a step beyond books and maybe license it for merchandising as an additional form of income. She explained how it works, starting with the players:
Before jumping into this field, ask yourself a few questions which will then help you move forward:
THE NEXT STEP
Licensed art is typically:
The idea is that you want to take the same piece of art or collection and license to several manufacturers, so you can be paid multiple times.
Penny recommended looking for an agent because their job is to help you:
So, again, do the right research to find the right agent for you.
Manufacturers, Penny explained, create, sell and ship the products that you create the artwork for. They use three resources for art:
PROS AND CONS
Penny broke the licensing spectrum down into product categories so you can see all the possibilites of where your art has the potential to fit in. They are:
The retailer's role is to buy products from the manufacturer; help promote and sell those products and—if sales are good—might want more work licensed from the same artist.
For the artist, Penny also emphasized the importance of understanding the business side of art licensing which involves legal formation; contracts with an agent; creating a brand for yourself; creating and maintaining a Website to show off your art; self-promotion and contracts with manufacturers.
She continued by explaining the basics of contracts:
Next to talk was Suzanne Cruise, who has been working as an art-licensing agent for more than twenty years. She began as an artist herself selling jewelry at art fairs. Her career has also included a staff postition as an illustrator for Hallmark, Inc.
"I started as an artist and so now I have a sense of both sides of the fence," she said.
Suzanne explained the difference between art for books and art for products like this:
"When given a manuscript, you have 32 pages of story you have to tell," she said. "There has to be a consistency from page to page. When you approach product, you design one image for a vast number of people."
"Books are very specific becase you must appeal to the child and the parent," Suzanne added. "But with products, think that the art has to appeal to every possible consumer possible—worldwide."
Joy Allen is an illustrator who Suzannne uses to show as an example of how an illustrator creates books, then takes her characters to convey to products.
"Think about a character pulling a wagon with a birthday cake in it," she said. "The image is central and very focused. And when you do product, ninety-five percent of the folks who buy that product are women."
With character [for licensing], you have to tell a story in simple terms with just one image. It's a 'me-to-you' situation.
Priscilla explained, that the surface design show for the textile industry is how it all started twenty-five years ago. Seventy-five percent is now art licensing. She also recommmended looking at the licensing Expo, where you'll see a small segment of art licensing— primarily for TV, Film & Entertainment—but worth a look.
She recommended Websites such as: The Art of Licensing (artlicensing.com) Also, Penny suggested visiting surtex.com and signing up for the monthly newsletter—which talks about the business, shows examples of how to promote and brand and includes links to other sites.
Question: How does licensing differ from books to products?
Answer: Licensing is very product driven—furniture, rugs in a kitchen, mugs, plates, etc. Always try to keep up on trends and color trends. For the most up-to-date color trends, go to Target and look at their gift bags and towels. Suzanne suggested a good way to stay on track with color trends.
"Buy the smallest giftbags of every color at Target and date each bag on the back," she said. "Then, go back every three months and look for any new colors [and buy those bags]. Target is the leading retailer in trends, especially for color."
Q: What does a portfolio look like for licensing art. What should a portfolio contain, image-wise?
A: Create about twenty-four images. Snowmen are always popular, and holidays, so say, six snowmen, six santas, etc. You want the characters to be doing differnt things. Merchandise rights, make sure you keep your rights, if selling your art to a book pubisher!
Suzanne also suggested going to the gallery section of art-licensing rep Websites to see how artists present their work. Then go away and mock up a collection. Maybe manipulate your art on a product to shows retailers how your work translates. Help manufacturers see what your art can look like.
Q: What are the benefits of attending or showing work at a trade show, such as SURTEX?
A: It allows illustrators to meet with as many manufacturers as possible in a short time frame who are specifically looking for art.
Q: What are the politics at Surtex? Who do you approach and is it okay to ask for attention?
A: Penny explained that there is a trade show ettiquette.
"Bear in mind the people who have boothes have paid a lot of money to display their work, Penny said. "Artists [walking the floor] with portfolios who try to transact business on the show floor is a no-no. Be professional and ask questions. When walking the show remember you are there for education. Pick up business cards and catalogs."
"When asking for a card, emphasize that you want to talk to the right people and stress that you want to talk to them AFTER the show has ended," she added. "They [manufacturers] don’t want to be bothered, they are there to sell. If professionals are talking or conducting business, do NOT approach them. Wait. Agents especially don’t want to be bothered. If they don't appear to be talking to anyone, politely ask : "Are you looking at portfolios?" But most are too busy, but might be willing to converse with you AFTER the show."
Q: What if you have never been to SURTEX?
A: If you have never been to SURTEX, remember the manufacturers are the ones who are walking the floor, not exhibiting. Go to a show for manufacturers such as the Gift Fair. Do not intrude if they are doing business, just ask how you can present at a later time.
Q: When creating patterns and patterns for textiles, how accurate does the pattern need to be?
A: Most manufacturers will put your pattern into repeat for you, but some other companies ask you to repeat. Try to avoid the latter as best as possible.
Q: How does an illustrator handle follow up [with manufacturers]?
A: Keep e-mailing and be persistent. If you are only interested in being creative, however, you need an agent.
The industry is usually planning in Feb/March for holidays collections for 2012. Find out what are they are planning for and check a manufacturers schedule—they might not be reviewing yet for a season, so check!
So, maybe art licensing is something you want to pursue. Consider going to SURTEX which takes place at te Jacob Javitz Center in NYC from May 15 to May 17, 2011. And remember, educate yourself, be polite and professional and take oodles of notes!