Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chat with Leanin' Tree - Susan January

Hi Everyone!
Quick post letting you know Susan January, VP of Product Management with Leanin' Tree will be at the next "2nd Thursday" text chat. This is open to anyone interested in Art Licensing: Manufacturers, Art Directors, Retailers, Agents, and Artists :-D . 6:30 pm CST USA/Chicago time.

This is for any paid member on ArtLicensingShow.com.

QUESTIONS that you all sent in for this Thursday's Chat:

1. What is the best way to submit to you? And how often do you want to see new art? Do you want the art mocked up as a card?
2. Does the artist  need to come up with the copy/text for a greeting card along with the art?

3. What makes up a best selling greeting card.

4. What is Leanin’ Tree’s best selling cards (sympathy, Christmas…)?

5. When looking for new greeting cards to manufacturer - what stands out to you?

6. How can an artist best support Leanin’ Tree?

7. The greeting card industry has changed a lot. If you can, talk about that a bit. Are most of your sales online?

8. What sort of gifts do you manufacture? Do you license art for your gift line?

9. Where does Leanin’ Tree see themselves in 5 years?

From Susan's bio on ArtlicensingShow.com and Leanin' Tree's website:

Susan - I am the current Vice President of Product Management at Leanin' Tree, a greeting card and gift product manufacturer based in Boulder, Colorado. I have more than 25 years of experience in art licensing and greeting card development. I am a former President of the Greeting Card Association, and am still a current member of the Association's Executive Committee. Leanin' Tree currently works with more than 700 artists across our 6,000 product skus, and we add an average of 1500 to 2000 new products annually.

Leanin Tree - Beautifully crafted greeting cards that feature original artwork by outstanding independent artists from across the country and around the world. All our cards are created, produced and shipped from our facility in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. We strongly believe in supporting our community, our neighbors, and our customers. As for the people behind the products, Leanin’ Tree’s heritage and workforce is truly special. Please take a moment to watch our video, "Behind the Scenes at Leanin' Tree". To see how this family-owned, "made-in-America" business has thrived for over half a century, please visit our History and Goals section.

Thank you all for your interest and support - BIG thanks to Susan for stopping me at Surtex and offering to chat with us! 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Nicole Tamarin


Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught? 
I didn't start taking art until I was a Junior in HS after my French teacher suggested not taking her class again (I was terrible at it, even after 5 years) and maybe try an art class instead!  I’m not sure why I had never thought to do this but art wasn’t really something I saw a possible career in so it seemed odd to spend time on it.  I’m kind of practical in that way but I was always drawing in a sketch book and doing projects at home so I thought it might be fun.  Who knew I’d be completely switching gears from that point on!  I remember a Senior at the time telling me that I HAD to go to Mass College of Art, and again, I’m not sure I had actually thought about going to school for art as a possibility but hearing it from someone else was a weird kind of permission I’m not sure I would have allowed myself on my own.  I did end up attending Mass Art, where  I was an Industrial Design major before switching to Illustration where I graduated with departmental honors. 

Do you work in just one medium? Several? 
As far as my traditionally painted work, it’s almost always watercolor and sometimes a little white gouache.  I know I don’t use it right but I have never liked the colors I mix  so I tend to just tint it with my watercolors.  For brands I like Winsor Newton but that might also be because I still am using my original set from college!  As I’ve gotten more into Licensing and have a need to get brighter, bolder color I started to mix a bit of Dr Martin’s in with my regular pallet for a bit of a color boost. For the digital side of what I do, all my paintings are brought into Photoshop.  I am no expert by any means but it is comical to me that it was only five years ago when all I’d use PS for was scanning and sizing for email.   

How did you start licensing your art?
In all honesty it took me forever to find my niche.  I found out about licensing after losing an illustration job due to the fact that I didn't want to sell my full rights.  Since I really only had freelanced here and there since college I wasn’t sure what was realistic in the "real world" as far as keeping your rights were concerned so I reached out to an artist who had done a previous product for the same company.  That artist happened to be Bee Sturgis and she encouraged me to look at the licensing industry thinking it was a good fit for my work.  She also directed me to Tara Reed’s site who at the time was doing "Ask" calls talking to different experts about the industry.  The very first one I listened to was about Surtex, which of course I had never heard of and as soon as I found out that it was in NYC I decided to walk that spring and exhibit the following year.  This is of course before I knew anything about licensing or had a portfolio to speak of but it was just one of those lightbulb moments. 

From that point on I  read every book and blog I could get my hands on, I was listening to webinars, teleseminars, and podcasts.  Everything from freelancing to marketing, from entrepreneurship to small business strategies and of course if someone was sharing about art licensing in any form I was open ears.  I taught myself to make patterns from a silly “how to make a polk a dot” tutorial and started entering all the weekly Spoonflower challenges to help me learn how to make patterns.  A few months went by and when May rolled around, as soon as I stepped on to the Surtex floor I knew it was where I wanted to be.  I am a total introvert but forced myself to introduce myself to as many artists as I could find that I followed online.  It was one of the best and most terrifying things to do but everyone was very encouraging.  I also made a point to tell everyone I spoke to that I’d be back the next year as an exhibitor. 

I had never shown my work to anyone in the industry before unrolling my banners the following Spring when I arrived for my first show (this is not something I’d suggest!) but it all turned out for the best.  I was able to see that my art was indeed a fit for several industries and it wasn’t just a hunch.  Best thing I ever did, both for my business as well as for myself.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on new art for my card and gift line “Sienna’s Garden” for Pictura USA.  It’s a project close to my heart, not only because it is named after my daughter but also because it is the first project I’ve worked on that truly represents me as an artist.  The line just launched in March with 60 card designs and 9 gift collections but I’ve already completed 20 new card designs and am currently at the sketch stage for the next 20.  It’s been challenging to come up with that amount of art but I’ve been working with Pictura for the past 4 years and it’s been nice to have a company who is willing to stick with you.  In all honesty they don’t like everything I send but it only pushes me to dig a bit deeper and in the end they’re usually right! 
Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m going through a HUGE transition in my business at the moment having just signed with an agent.  It’s honestly not something I had any plans of doing when I entered Art Licensing so I’m still in a bit in shock that it’s happening.  I do, however, think it’s important to know when you may not be the best person to wear all the hats.  I know this is going to be a scary transition since I’m a classic Virgo (aka total control freak) and  I’m really proud of what I have learned and achieved on my own but I’m also looking forward to working with people who I honestly do believe will do a better job helping me achieve my long-term goals.

Any great advice for our readers? 
Creating an income from Licensing can take some time so having other income sources is a must.  Some artists teach, have etsy shops, or regular freelance work which always amazes me but sometimes it might just be a non creative source of regular income that gets you through. 

Are you an early riser? or night owl?
Definitely a night owl!  If I didn't have to get my daughter up for school I'm sure I'd work into the wee hours and sleep in.  Maybe when she's older!

What is your favorite food?
I love Indian and Thai but my favorite is Mango Curry.  My college roommate is such a good sport and gets it with me every time I come to see her, she must be sick of me getting the same thing for the past 18 years but some things never change.

You can find Nicole:

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Surtex 30+ Photo Review!

Annie with her art in rep.'s booth ArtsDG.com

Hey Everyone :-)

I made sure to get more photos this year! It is dependent on if I can catch people in their booths with a minute of free time and they agree to have the photo taken. These are in the order I took them, which is random because of the people I would bump into an speak with etc. Last year's post has that year's floor plan to give you a bit of an idea of the size of the 3 shows: Surtex/NSS/ICFF  click here

I attended Surtex on Monday only. The day Started with a meet up organized by http://artoflicensing.com. People come and go between 8:15 am - 10:00 am. There was a lot of great swag given away at this event! There was a short talk given by a publisher Judith McCabe, from Fox Chapel Publishing and by Melissa Schulz, ArtLicensingInfo.com.
This is a great meet up for anyone in the art licensing business to meet other people and get information.

My Agent Julie in Red and her partner Mary Ann behind her - No, They didn't know I took this pic ;-)

Part of the Art of Licensing Meet up, Level 1 Jacob Javits Food Court area
I barely walked the National Stationery Show (NSS) - I did catch a talk Joanne Fink gave to store owners about having coloring book parties, contests Etc. - It was great info that can apply to artist with coloring books.

Partial view of NSS entrance
Jennifer Speer, Artist, coloring on Joanne Fink's Coloring wall just outside of the NSS entrance
Before I post all the Surtex photos - Note that my '2nd Thursdays' group on Artlicensingshow.com will be text chatting about Surtex, trends and all things related and I hear there are some surprises! Spread the word and see you at 6:30 pm CST.  TOMORROW Thurs. May 19th, 2016 Link to group
We postponed this month to the 3rd Thursday for Surtex

SURTEX PHOTOS ;-) - Exhibitors, let me know if you would like to link to a different link. Click images to view larger - click link to each artists' work - this is on the fly photography :)
Kris Ruff
Lucinda Wei
Dinah, Western Illustration
PI Creative Art
Danielle Kroll
Cherian Design
Pamela Hamilton Designs - Gracefull Arts - This is a Design Next booth :-D
Dot & Flow
Tatyana Starikova
equinox art & design - Marsha Rollinger
My Favorite Designs!
Kate Mawdsley
Ella Bella Rose, England
Lilla Rogers Studio
Painted Planet Licensing Group
Wild Wings
Kitty Keller Designs
Nicole Tamarin - She also was a speaker/panelist for a Surtex Conference that was great!
Elizabeth Stirling Designs
Stacy Peterson
Marion Nixon Paintings
Figgy Pudding Designs - Shelley Brant
Suzanne Cruise Creative Services, Inc. - They recently merged with Buffalo Works: Press Release
 Altelier - Surface/Pattern section at Surtex, They do not like booth photos taken :-)
Trend Theater - Free seminars
Thank you all for giving me permission to take photos of you/your booth!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - “Flat Fee” and “Royalty” Licensing Fees


MJ Bogatin (“Bo”) of Bogatin, Corman & Gold, is an Arts and Entertainment Attorney in San Francisco.  He is also Co-President of California Lawyers for the Arts. www.calawyersforthearts.org  Bo is available to answer some of your questions surrounding the business of Art Licensing. - THANKS BO! 


A Reader asks:  What is “flat fee licensing” (for graphic design work or commissions)?

I want to use your question to compare and contrast the two common kinds of licensing fees:  Royalties and Flat Fees.  So, hypothetically, let’s assume you have been offered a License that lets you choose between a Royalty and a Flat Fee.  Which are you going to accept?  You need to have a good understanding of both, and the surrounding circumstances, to make the best choice for yourself.

“Royalties” are the compensation paid for the Artist illustration use rights based upon the Licensee’s sales of the product on which the licensed illustration is used.  The percentage rate is usually 5-10% of the merchandizer’s gross (or an appropriately-limited “adjusted gross”**).  When considering a Royalty-based License offer, there are a number of factors to weigh.

First, what kind of sales might you expect of products with your design under the License? This initial question raises a bunch of others:  Are there many different products on which your illustration will appear, or just one?  Do purchasers of the Licensee’s product have a wide choice of imagery to choose from, or just yours?  Does this manufacturer have lots of competitors with a wide range of competing imagery, or is the product reasonably unique?  Does the Licensee have a dynamic website and generate a large number of retail sales directly, or is it by and large (or entirely) a wholesaler that uses distributors?  If this manufacturer relies on its distributor to generate sales, do its goods (I mean Your goods) get distributed to the largest national chains, Walmart, Costco, Target and/or Sears?  (Greater volume sales at a lower Royalty are better than minimal sales at a higher Royalty rate.  Do the math!)

How much of the Licensee’s sales are generated through Amazon and subject to a larger discount on wholesale prices than might otherwise be the case?  What is the quality of this manufacturer’s goods?  Are they well-regarded in the marketplace?  When looking at this merchandizer’s quality and price-lines, how do they compare with those of other manufacturers?  (Are consumers more likely to pay something more for your Licensee’s goods because of the goodwill associated in the brand, or if not, is the price point remarkably less than a better-known brand, but likely to generate a much larger volume of sales due to the lower price?)

I can think of a bunch more such questions, but these are the main ones; the ones you want to do your best to assess to determine whether a Royalty is the best way for you to go on this license, or whether a Flat Rate might be a better prospect.

** “Adjusted Gross” is Gross minus sales tax and delivery costs as applicable instead of the Licensee’s Net proceeds.  Why Gross or Adjusted Gross instead of a high Net percentage?  Because you never know what the Licensee is going to actually spend on production, marketing and distribution.  Terrible business decisions could be made by the Licensee that make the entire undertaking unprofitable.  This need not deprive the Artist of her right to Royalties. 

Of course, if possible, you also want to obtain an Advance on the Royalties you are to earn.  An “Advance” is a pre-payment (made at the time the License is signed) on the Royalties you will be entitled to once the Licensee begins receiving income on sales of products with your imagery.  The amount of the Advance is “recoupable” by the Licensee from the first Royalties you would otherwise be paid.  Even a small Advance is better than none.  Being out-of-pocket on the front end for rights serves as incentive for the Licensee to move forward on the product manufacture so that they can recoup what they have paid out in Advances.  It gives you something for your rights even if for any reason the Licensee decides not to move forward with the product use.

Before I get to Flat Fees, two negotiation strategies to offer on Advances:  1) If a Licensee is unable or unwilling to offer a reasonable Advance on Royalties, use that unwillingness to leverage a higher starting Royalty rate; and/or 2) Obtain Stepped-Up Royalty rates.  Find out as possible what the Licensee thinks would be a successful level of sales, and look to obtain an increased Royalty rate for all sales in excess of that reasonable expectation.  If product sales ‘take off,’ both parties will benefit.  If they do not, the increased Royalty rate will never have triggered and the Licensee will not have paid anything for the additional consideration to you.

(See also my October 2015 bLAWg on Minimum Thre$holds for a Licensee to maintain rights over a term of years.  http://annietroe.blogspot.com/2015/10/bos-blawg-get-back-your-rights-royalty.html )

The alternative approach for Artist compensation is a Flat Fee.  A “Flat Fee” is just what it sounds like:  A single fee paid for the Licensed rights regardless of sales.  I remember a call from a prospective client who asked if they could get out of a License that provided for a single Flat Fee for a calendar cover image.  It turns out that image was the best-selling calendar ever sold by that large publisher.  The $1,500 Flat Fee looked good at the time that the time the deal was made.  However, compared with 5% of the $5 adjusted gross received by that publisher on 500,000 calendar sales, ($125,000 in Royalties), it was a lousy deal for the Artist!  Of course, if only 5000 calendars had been sold, the $1,500 was better than the 5% royalty. 

If the License is for a term of years and a Flat Fee offered does not meet your minimum expectations, raise the prospect that a larger overall amount be paid in installments:  An Annual Flat Fee for rights.  On occasions when I have obtained Annual Flat Fees through the License Term, the manufacturer Rep has made the reasonable argument that the Annual Fee should reduce after the first few years as product sales decrease.  This refers to what is known in business as the Product Life Cycle. Historically, new product sales numbers will rise for the first couple years, then will usually fall off as the product become ‘old’ and there are new versions and increased competition.   (A good graphic image and further explanation of this can be found at this link:  http://www.tutor2u.net/business/reference/product-life-cycle )

So, going back to our hypothetical choice of Royalty or Flat Fee, how do you know which deal to take?  By finding out what the projected sales are going to be and what the Licensee’s gross receipts are expected to be.  Just ask!  These are reasonable considerations that the prospective Licensee should answer if they want your Rights!  But also do your own market research as best you can.  There is a more sales data available online than there has ever been before.  Consider asking other Licensor Illustrators what kind of sales there have been on their similar product licenses.  Make an “informed decision” on what kind of deal is in your best interest.  Do not feel compelled to take the first offer without doing this ‘due diligence!’  If despite your best efforts, you are uncertain, I suggest that you look to keep the Term shorter than you might otherwise do.  That way, if you are unhappy with the choice, as the end of the Term approaches, you may be in a position to extend the Term on alternative Royalty rates more beneficial to you.

As for the situation where you have been asked to create new graphics or “commissions” for prospective licensing purposes, I recommend that there be a minimum ”service fee” for the preparation of such new imagery.  The fee can be on a ‘per image’ basis or hourly.  All or part of this fee can be attributed as an Advance, and recoupable by the Licensee from your future Royalties.  That’s an appropriate issue for negotiation.  If you are going to incur significant costs in conjunction with the graphics or commission, by all means, look for a right to recoup such costs from the Licensee.  This is the very least they should pay unless you are guaranteed some minimum for the work involved in preparing imagery for prospective licensing that may not be selected for product use or generate meaningful sales.

Finally, do not fail to make sure that you have Reversion Rights.  Whether there is a set Term that will expire sooner or later and revert rights, or if you have minimum thresholds that must be met for the Licensee to continue to maintain exclusive or non-exclusive rights, you want every License to have an ‘expiration date.’  Get your rights back, and perhaps you can find a better deal with a more successful – and ultimately profitable – Licensee. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation may differ from the next, we cannot assume responsibility for any actions taken based on information contained herein. Also, be aware that the law may vary from state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold, www.bcgattorneys.com
© 2016 mjbogatin

Have a legal question? email it to info@AnnGraphics.com. I will forward it to Bo. It might be a blog post! You can search "Bo's bLAWg" to read more posts. I am looking forward to your comments and thanks for sharing this great information on social media.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Beth Grove

Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?
I did go to art school, but I’d have to say my biggest teacher has been experience and PRACTICE - a lot of PRACTICE. I learned a lot about design from my first job doing page layout for a crop-dusting magazine. My second job using my skills as an artist was working in the art department of a greeting card company called Carol Wilson Fine Arts, Inc., where I put in a lot of hours painting watercolors. For the last four years I’ve been painting in my home studio, and licensing to home decor and gift markets.

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I mostly work in watercolors, but to keep up with the constantly changing trends in licensing, I’ve started creating watercolors in a new style. My newest work is a loose watercolor over a pen and ink drawing, or sometimes watercolor over graphite.

What inspires you. Where do you get inspiration from?
I love to create Pinterest boards. They are the ultimate in what used to be called mood boards. For every new collection I create, I start a Pinterest board with a color story and style concept. I refer back to it throughout the project to make sure I keep on track with what the collection needs to look like.

How did you start licensing your art?
While I was working at the greeting card company, I felt I needed to look into how an artist might make a living if they didn’t have a full-time position within a company. As the job market was changing, I saw a trend of artist becoming self employed, finding contract work and doing freelance jobs. That’s when I discovered licensing. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly where I first learned about it, but I quickly got to work looking for an agent, and have been working with Wild Apple Graphics for the past four years.

What are you working on now?
SURTEX!! I’m trying to create as much art as possible to send to the show with my agent.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m very excited about a new contract for my Lilac Dream Collection. It will be used to produce boxes, wine tubes, journals, diaries, sketchbooks, and photo albums. Here’s a picture of the journal. 

Any great advice for our readers?
It works well for manufacturers when the art is in layers so they can move things around, and build the art in different formats to fit all types of products. I scan my watercolors as separate pieces and work in Photoshop to complete the art.

Are you an early riser? or night owl?
Early riser. I’m a lot sharper in the morning, and it’s a quiet time of day when I can get a lot of work done without interruptions.

You can find Beth:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ArtistBethGrove/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Agent’s Website: www.wildapple.com
My Website: http://bethgrove.com
Email: bgrovework@aol.com
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/colorcollector/

Do you want to be spotlighted? Send an email: info@AnnGraphics.com

Make my day! and Buy me a cup of coffee (PayPal Link in right side bar, you don't need a PayPal acct.), follow this blog, and/or click an ad (you don't need to buy ;-)

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