Licensing Market… some answers

On this ‘cyber’ Monday, I felt it appropriate for some reason to repost this article I wrote recently for Kathy Temean’s ‘ASK CAT’ blog contribution.  Both she and I feel this might be very helpful for many, so here it is.

I have been asked by our agency artists a few times to look over a contract that is LICENSING…not PUBLISHING.  They are similar, and can overlap, but are also quiet different.  I’m happy to do that for our artists, even though we won’t usually handle that market unless it’s connected to a book project.  About 15 years ago or so, I’d even considered going into this area also as an agent. I joined one of our artists and her booth for the 3 days of Surtex NY Show at the Javits Center! Great fun, but I realized I truly didn’t have another 8 hours a day to put into this Licensing market!

I can, however, offer a few thoughts, issues and things to be careful about with these Licensing deals.  LICENSING, is a contractual agreement to sell rights usage for your images/designs that MIGHT be used for various manufactured uses.  (It can include a published product as part of the deal, of course.) Examples are clothing, home decor, bedding, shower curtains, cards, mugs, toys, prints, other surface printing, etc. First of all,….it’s tricky…. and I do recommend getting a lawyer versed in this area if you are planning a push into the market.  Read up on everything you can as well….various artist ‘how-to’ books are available, but EDUCATE yourself and be careful!

I mentioned your work MIGHT be used.  It’s more of a ‘risk market’ for the artists than publishing as there is usually NO UPFRONT ADVANCE for the work done.  It’s all in  royalty WHEN ad IF the item sells, and you get a percentage of this sell price during certain royalty accounting periods.  (reason I, as an agent used to advances, do not get involved normally.)  The company might be buying an existing image(s) which is great!….expands the market for that image if you own ALL rights to sell.  Be sure of that fact first off so you don’t get sued. (check contracts to see if you retain the right to sell various other rights, and call past publishers if you aren’t certain.) If they want you to design something especially FOR them, in the hopes that they will pick it up and maybe sell it…. well, could be great… or come to nothing with NO compensation at all!  (you’ll have a nice sample to show off maybe?)

So  here are a few things to be watchful for in a Licensing Contract.  There are certainly others which is why I suggested getting a lawyer.

Statement of Rights Purchased:  states client name and yours and what exactly the image(s) is and what the expected sales product is: description, title, etc. and exact rights they are purchasing and for HOW long. This should include Size, number, expected due dates (this is often rather loose which can run havoc on your schedule)  The length of time terms of the rights purchased.  I would encourage limiting this to a year to three years so you can rethink, renegotiate or withdraw their usage rights.  Watch for AUTO-RENEWAL…might be ok, but have a way to get your rights back after the initial time frame should you wish that.  Usually you might have to let them know at least 30 days before the auto-renewal…but CHECK!   There should also be a statement that you RETAIN OWNERSHIP of the art work itself – paintings, design elements etc.  that their product is based on.  You should/might have the right to sell the copyrights (or the orginal) again to another product user as well as the initial one, SO ASK! You also RETAIN are merely selling them to clients for a particular item usage and time frame.  This usage needs to be stated in the contract, but in fact, being licensing, they may not know yet.  Require them to TELL you when they do know how the images will be used.  (so you’ll know how you can sell the rights for OTHER image uses.)

Royalty Amounts: they do vary greatly but often 7-10% and could be more or less due to marketability, client name, size and expectations for the range of sales, your name leverage etc.   Know WHAT is the royalty is based on…often NET sales which is what the client actually receives from sales (which might be discounted) less returns, excise and sales tax, US and transcontinental duty fees, freight, transportation and insurance costs etc.  Be sure you understand the normal ‘accounting period’ time frames when you can expect a statement of earnings and a check.  Any deductions for such things as ‘returns’ etc. will show up during the next statement period normally.

Warranties:  you will have to legally swear that the image(s) is yours and yours alone, to grant the rights for the client to use.  Check the jurisdiction of any injunctive relief court information too.  They might mention that they have the right to ‘assign freely’ this agreement to company purchasers or to subsidiaries.  This might be just fine if the client is sold for instance, but you might NOT want to have hour image used in ways the subsidiaries or new buyer might want to use it! watch this…ask for a relief protection should this happen.  Check too if they pay any US and international copyright registrations…are there costs to you?  The client will want the right to crop/change the work to reproduce.  This normally has to do with ‘fitting’ the image to the product, but be sure you are comfortable with it.  You can try to get copies of every piece of licensed product too…as we expect in publishing.

I hope this has been helpful for those who might have the opportunity to get some images licensed.  It can be very lucrative…or nothing at all for a lot of work and waiting!  Read the contracts very carefully and be sure it won’t HURT you or your reputation.  Talk to other artist friends who might have had experience with Licensing too…invaluable! Then have FUN with it and wait for the royalties to roll in! 

CAT Agency Ditty

thank you to Priscilla Burris for allowing me to use her SO CUTE and HAPPY ‘CAT’ agency wee lass and CAT friend!!

Posted in artist information, Artists Q&A, Biz issues, business for illustrators, industry tips, SURTEX, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A ‘nutcracker’ of a year?…..

I  have always loved Nutcrackers…. collected a few while my kids were young and every Thanksgiving they come out of the antique chest they call home the rest of the year and hang around until sometime after New Years.

This year my youngest granddaughter is turning 6 and her party today is a trip to the movie ‘Nutcracker! ‘ So I did up a life sized clock and several nutcrackers to use as decorations with her party decor at the theatre.  Seemed right and happy!

Then it occurred to me how appropriate these weirdly smiling men and woman ‘nutcrackers’ are this year!  It’s been ‘a time’ for sure.  Personally and nationally challenging.  But we stand straight, chin up and carry on with a smile and a strength that comes from somewhere deep and good…. love, loyalty and a good story that supports us!  And I’m sticking to it…..

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  In a world pitching in the waves of doubt and chaos from many sides, we DO have so much to be thankful for.  So much to hold onto.  So much to gratefully share with the next generations.  Life was never meant to be easy!!  But it is meant to be cherished.  Thank YOU!


yes I borrowed ideas from various magazines and sites but changed them all to MY ideas and interpretation.  One DOES have to be careful and respectful of copyrights !

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New Beginnings…..again

Last night’s mid term election and all that went before has led me to think about ‘new beginnings.’  They are usually well intended! full of optimism and creative thought and intentions.  We had a ‘new beginning’ around September this year  this and every year…..along with the new box of crayons, a new outfit for first day, and hair sparkling clean and brushed!  We have ‘new beginnings’ Jan 1 each year…also full of fresh intention and goals.  We clean out our studios and organize ourselves to push ahead and expand our minds and body of work.  Then after tax season we have another sort of new start….with more business creativity and awareness.  Surely there is a birthday, or several, in between where we appreciate the past years, and plan, hope and prepare for the new one with positive enthusiasm. Then summer starts again with yet another ‘new beginning’, change of rhythm and plans to do better and be better.

Thank heaven for ‘new beginnings!’….. but lets remember that we NEED these.  We NEED to reassess, reexamine, reestablish ourselves, our portfolios, our intentions, our families, our communities and country, and our lives in general.  Thank God, or the fates, for this need!  Refreshment is a lovely feeling and act…. or should be.  I have to hope that THIS community’s creativeness will jump in now, no matter what your political leanings,  and try in any way possible to help make the changes needed to our mode of governing and caring for our country and its people.

Ah….. that new box of crayons….. that need to make a new bright, maybe surprising line on the white paper…. full of color, brightness and promise!

burris HelloSchool Visit Aug 12 Coloring Pic

thanks to Priscilla Burris’ school visit for these young hands and crayon marks!

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Active ideas for book visits…

Now that ‘BACK TO SCHOOL’ is actually back, it’s seems a perfect time for some fresh ideas for your school and bookstore author/illustrator visits!  The visits are a fun and hands on way to promote sales of your new and older books, give back to the community, connect with your audience,  and make a little money on the side.  All good.  It’s time well spent for artists and writers as well!

Priscilla Burris, as you probably know, is FULL of bright, fun, creative ideas for most everything, and has allowed me to share some images for activities from  her latest visits promoting her new book, also written by Priscilla, HELLO SCHOOL! from Nancy Paulsen books at Penguin Putnam.  (check out the book!) 

PriscillaBurris (3)photo

She is willing to share as she gets ideas also from other artists who share on Instagram and Pinterest as well, and then makes them her own by linking them to her books.  These activities make the kids very involved and engrossed in her book story, and then making the story their own with the projects.  This enhances their connection with the book(s) and the artist….always good for further sales and visits.  Priscilla notes that she brings the print-outs for everyone, and the school or bookstore provides the crayons and glue.

Take a look, borrow and enjoy!  Happy Fall and fresh beginnings all!

Priscilla brings the b/w basic page and lets the kids color, glue on little red 3D ‘apples,’ and do whatever they wish!

BURRIS Read & Count

another fun page of activity they can do there or take home to do! It relates to the book, characters and their general learning.

PBURRIS Art & Kids JULY 10there are so many ideas to do with the classroom environment…. here Priscilla uses cut-outs of the main characters from her book  HELLO SCHOOL!  in a way that makes them feel more like REAL school friends!

Thank you Priscilla for sharing your ideas …here’s to  happy school days for all!

Posted in artist interviews, back to school books, Children's Publishing Market, Promotioinal tips, school visits, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Monsters? book launch….

many of us have them in our homes….. “sweet monsters!”  but we encourage the ‘sweet’…. this week launched a book about parents who REALLY wanted to encourage the ‘monster’… but it just wasn’t working well for Maximillian Villainous, the main character in Running Press’s new release by Margaret Greanias and our ‘to the max’ artist Lesley Breen Withrow!  

Withrow MAX cover

Max is just tooooo kind! and he can’t seem to be mean…. a BIG disappointment to his family of Monsters!


The story is ingenious for commenting on being ones self and finding a way to please yourself and others while doing that!  Such a treat for ALL our little ” monsters” and their parents! Check it out for a good lesson and many laughs!

withrow 12_MAX_lowres copy

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surprise publicity punch!

Burris Mag

I just happened on this book magazine at our Fairfield Main Public Library yesterday.  Maybe it’s everywhere and always been, but I hadn’t seen it.  And what should the section for children’s books hold for me but a wonderful surprise !! It’s theme was about ‘back to school’ books.  I wondered ….. sure enough one of the three books it reviewed was Priscilla Burris’ new HELLO SCHOOL which she wrote and illustrated (a first really) for Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House!!

Burris Mag 2

SUCH a thrill!  as is the fun, sweet, very realistic visual story of those first few days and weeks of a new school.  The wee characters are darling and familiar I felt, and their discoveries have all been made by others from year to year….which is why it’s so so perfect a story.  It IS the small but important things and happenings in a youngster’s day that makes their memories… our memories!

Burris Mag 3

Made MY day…..

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I am most pleased to spread the word about what promises to be a wonderful semester class called CREATING THE PICTURE BOOK!  Author/illustrator Steve Henry and long time editor Barbara Lalicki have developed a course for Pratt that will help you bring your vision to life if you are an illustrator wishing to build your own stories.

FALL SEMESTER – 10 Sundays 9/30 – 12/16,  2-4:50,  at Pratt Manhattan (14th and 7th)

register at or by calling 877 551 7727

Course number is PMFA 451

We get so many ‘outside agency’ artists sending us their book ideas that we can tell just need a wee bit of editing and revision first.  As an agency, we only present ms/dummies from our own list of agency artist/writers, so we often can’t really help these other artists.  This course seems a wonderful possible answer for those able and interested!…. including our own CAT illustrators if they have interest! 😉


Posted in Biz issues, business for illustrators, Children's Publishing Art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments