Based on the popularity of the last few posts, it appears there is much my fellow scribblers could do to supplement their current cartoon efforts. I’ll write a bit more about my own experiences, and I hope the information is useful.
The often perceived path for aspiring cartoonists was to create a clever comic strip, send it to the major syndicates, wait for that life-changing phone call, then clear out the spare bed-room so you can stuff the avalanche of incoming cash there till you can close on your Scottish castle on the sea. The cartoonists of old operated in a much different world than the one we have today, and our approaches must reflect that.
In our internet-driven world of instant communication, unlimited access, and multi-tasking mania, the old syndicate models are out-dated, and the types of financial rewards in that arena are forever altered downward. We can refuse to recognise this change and spend our remaining days lamenting the stomping down of our dreams, much like the proverbial buggy-whip maker watching the Model-Ts rolling off the assembly line, or we can take stock of the new dynamics, and shift our focus to make it work for us. We have to re-write the cartoonist career path and support the new generation of artists rather than hold this information close to the chest in fear of letting loose a secret that others might benefit from. The more we work in a unified manner, the more we educate eachother as a cohesive group, the more we all benefit from better rates of pay, better terms on rights, and a general appreciation for the fact that what we do is unique, highly skilled, and worthy of compensation commensurate with the aforementioned facts.
While licensing isn’t for everyone, it has the potential to be a substantial part of a cartoonist’s/humorous illustrator’s business. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, look around in your local retailers – what are they selling that has images in the same general category as yours? Who manufactures it? A little homework can go a long, long way.
Additionally, there are numerous licensing shows held annually all over the world – the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas (my wife and I attended in 2010 – just missed the chance to meet Tony Curtis) and was blown away with the possibilities, as well as the pool of talent out there. There’s also Surtex, which I believe is in New York City and is huge among illustrators working in the licensing industry. That’s just two of the many out there, where manufacturers go to look for art to add to their product lines. Not all these shows are suitable for all types of art, so look into them and see where there might be a good fit.
Licensing is a complex, dynamic industry – use the resources available to learn more, such as Michael Woodward’s, “Art Licensing 101″ which provides probably the best overview of the important elements of art licensing, including rates, markets, contracts, and so much more. Additionally, check out Joan Beiriger’s Art Licensing Blog for an incredible amount of well-written, straight forward and exceedingly helpful advice on the art licensing business. Tara Reed also has an art licensing blog, art licensing courses, e-books, and a host of resources very helpful to artists.
Like any other vocation or industry, the more you know, the clearer your vision, and the harder you work, the farther you’ll go and the more success you’re likely to enjoy. This series of articles has hardly scratched the surface of what there is to know, and what needs to be known in order to be successful in licensing your cartoons and humorous art. But put in the time – you might just re-invent your cartooning business.