Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
art licensing / business of art / licensing

Help, a big company wants to license my art. What do I Do?

If you like this article, please share it!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn
Drew Brophy Beach Cruiser Licensed by Nirve

Artwork (c) Drew Brophy – Licensed by Nirve

An Emergency E-mail arrived and I know that a lot of artists find themselves in this position at sometime or another:

I found your blog a month ago and have been reading it religiously.  You give such great information!  But now I have an EMERGENCY:

I have a friend that has created some characters.  She had an interview at a collectible/toy company.  She showed her characters and they loved them and want to sell them.


The problem is my friend doesn’t have a head for business.  The company wants to pay her a flat fee for a line of these characters. I’m not even sure if they’ve talked about her retaining the rights to her work.  This company licenses many other big name properties like Star Wars and Avatar.”

First things first:  The company doesn’t decide how it’s going to work with your copyrights.  The artist does.  In a licensing deal, the artist ALWAYS retains rights to the copyrights.

And in my personal opinion, an artist should NEVER, EVER, EVER sign away their copyrights.  NEVER.

But that’s another blog post.  I’ll stay focused on the immediate need here.

It’s good news that the company is accustomed to licensing from other entities. This means that they understand how licensing works.  Companies that understand how licensing works are easier to deal with, because they know that they are expected to pay an advance up front, royalties later, and that the artist retains all rights.  This is good.

Here’s what your friend needs to do, in this order.

Forget that you don’t have a business head. It doesn’t matter. There are certain ways that things are done, and all you have to do is follow the steps. I’m giving the steps below.  If you follow them, you’ll do just fine on your own, business head or not.

Educate yourself on how licensing works. I recommend the book called Licensing Art & Design which is listed here on one of my posts:

Order that book immediately and start reading.  You can also read some tips on licensing that I’ve written:



FILE YOUR COPYRIGHTS: Be sure that you have filed copyrights.  TODAY.  It’s your duty to yourself and your licensees to have all of your works copyrighted.  Do that right away, if not already done.  You can go to  It’s cheap and it’s easy.  Just follow the directions.

DEALING WITH THE COMPANY (LICENSEE): First, ask the company the following:

  1. How many of the Licensed Articles (the product) do they plan to produce?  (They should have a ballpark idea of how many they’ll produce)
  2. Where will they plan to sell them?
  3. What will be the retail price and the wholesale price?
  4. Ask them to submit a deal memo, which will detail the advance and royalties that they propose to pay, and for how many years they are asking for the license, etc.

In the licensing world, Deal Memos are always used in the beginning of a licensing discussion.  It’s what you use to make sure that you are all on the same page before you go to the contract phase of the deal.

Review their deal memo and see what you agree to and what you don’t agree to.  And then e-mail them back letting them know what changes you’d like to make to the deal.  There will be a little going back and forth, which is completely common.

IF THEY WANT TO PAY A FLAT FEE:  If they are offering a one-time fee that you are happy with, that’s okay too.  But they should pay the fee up front, not later.  Also, be sure that your licensing agreement states the number of years that they are allowed to produce it, and that you retain all rights.  There are about 50 other little details that the agreement should touch on, and a good art licensing attorney will help you with that.

IMPORTANT:  If it’s a royalty arrangement, always get an advance of royalties up front.  The amount varies depending on how many of the product will be produced.  We always ask for a minimum of $5,000, which is payable at signing.  This way, our attorneys’ fees are covered as well as our time.

NOTE:  It’s also vital to have an agreement in place BEFORE giving over any artwork.  Even for sampling.  Don’t give any artwork until you have a written agreement.

Once you agree on the deal, have an attorney put together a license agreement for you.  I use an attorney that specializes in Art Licensing.

DO NOT USE A GENERAL ATTORNEY.  Or your uncle Joe who does divorces.  Art licensing is very specific, and general attorneys know NOTHING about it.  Trust me on this.

One of the biggest mistakes artists make is the reluctance to pay for an attorney. It’s vital to have representation.  I don’t care if you can’t afford it.  Borrow the money.  Otherwise, you’ll be whining later that you got screwed over or that things didn’t go the way you thought it would.  And I won’t feel sorry for you.  If you’re not willing to play the game right, then go get a job where you’re safe and don’t have to take any risks. (Drives me insane to hear people complain that they got into a bad deal, then to admit they didn’t use an attorney.)

Once your license agreement is drawn up, send it to the company.  They may make changes to it, and if so, you’ll have to have your attorney go over their changes and let you know if they recommend your agreement.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and a licensee won’t make any changes, they’ll just sign it.  I love when that happens!

Be sure to include in your agreement that you get a dozen samples of each Licensed Article.  Also be sure to require your name and/or logo or signature (whatever you use to identify yourself) is marked clearly on the Licensed Articles.

And be sure to write into me any other questions that you have!

Happy Licensing – Maria xxoo

If you like this article, please share it!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

25 Comments Help, a big company wants to license my art. What do I Do?

  1. Rick Davis

    This is very good stuff. I will learn as much… or more, from you as I did from Drew. I need “Licensing 101”

  2. Charles

    Good Evening Maria,

    That was some of the best advice I have come across in terms of art licensing. I have stepped away from the studio for awhile to focus more on networking my art to companies where feel it has relevance, such as real-estate/drafting. It is difficult to find art licensing companies that seek traditional art as they want colorful, vibrant images. Are you aware of any companies seeking detailed pen/ink creations?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Charles, that’s smart of you to take your art where it best fits. I’m sure there are many companies that want pen & ink drawings. You’d be surprised at how many times we hear that Drew’s art is too bright and colorful. It’s just a matter of finding the companies that your art fits in with best. Just start looking for products out there that you feel your artwork fits with, and then find out who makes them and approach them for a license. It’s a little work, but it’s the way to do it.

  3. Olivier Longuet

    Hello Marria,

    What a fantastic site you’re running! Thanks for this.
    I send you a mail before I saw this article.
    It already answered most of my questions, thanks . I need to keep looking for info here and other places now, as I have had a reply from another brand interested in using my work and I need to get up to speed quickly.

    well done and thanks

  4. Pingback: Ten Questions to ask Before Hooking Up Your Art With a License | art licensing - Maria Brophy

  5. Pam Sommerville

    Maria – Thank you so much for all of your helpful information!!! I always look forward to hearing from you and you are helping me TREMENDOUSLY!!! I am grateful to know you!!!

  6. Beverly Hayes

    This is a great post. (Every time i read one of your posts, I come away feeling less nervous and more clear on the process). I always learn something specific, too. This time, it was “don’t give over any art work–even samples — without a written agreement”.

    Thanks for being so generous with your time and experience. It’s incredibly helpful.

    Best regards,

    Beverly Hayes

  7. Christina

    Love your blog!
    Found it tonight looking for more information related to licensing.
    Will be a follower now for sure!
    Great advice.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Christina, thank you so much for the comment! I’m glad you found my blog – if you ever have a question that I can help you with, please let me know and I’ll try to answer it in a blog post!

  8. Jessie' Art

    Great and useful article Maria, thank you!!!!
    Now, I still don’t know where to find some companies, in France or somewhere else, that would be interested by my art. No idea how to find these … k will keep searching .. :)

  9. Reg Miles

    Hi Maria,

    Just a heads up… In checking out the link that’s provided for the attorney you mention in this post, I noticed that, when I clicked on the link, it does not take you to her site online but rather to some business entity called SNR Denton??? Just thought you should know.

  10. Martin Sardar

    How will the 4 step process work if your characters are for a possible TV series?
    Would the “licenced articles” be episodes?.
    This article is great, i’m just trying to tailor the info to my specific situation. Thanks

    1. Maria Brophy

      Martin, thanks for the question. If you are licensing characters for a TV series, you MUST hire an attorney that specializes in that niche. It’s a crooked industry, and you WILL get ripped off without proper representation. Make sure the person you hire specializes in TV deals.

      So, to answer your question, it’s a different game with TV. Sorry I don’t have an easier answer for you!

  11. Lars Opland

    Hi Maria,
    Say a major motion picture producer wants to use my artwork for a scene in a multi-million-dollar movie; just a few second’s exposure but filling most of the screen for that moment. What should the license or royalty fee be for such a thing? It’s already been done, but nobody asked me first & the lawyer wants to know a dollar figure before we proceed…
    -Lars Opland, Owner, Khee-Kha Art Products
    P.S. I’m in Wasilla, Alaska, & NO attorney in our phone book claims to have copyright experience…nor does the Alaska Bar Association know of any!
    P.P.S. The image took about 2 months of research to create.

  12. Katlynn Strickland

    Hi, I just found your blog today i’m researching art licensing for a class i have this semester and i need help i keep getting art licensing companies and not the information i need would you mind giving me some pointers?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Katlynn, thanks for reading my blog! I have written many articles about art licensing, if you Google “Maria Brophy Licensing” you will find them easily.

      And if you still have questions, please go to my consulting page and follow the instructions to set up a consultation: – thanks!

  13. antoaneta kirilova

    Very helpful article. Thank you.
    I have a question. Very big company wants to buy a crochet design from me. They have send me an offer that says that for full rights they will pay me one time 700 euro, for partial rights 500 euro. The design will be on the packaging of their new product (baby food) and they will make it for gifts and they will put the pattern on their website so people will have it for free. I do not understand much but isn’t it too low? And how exactly should I proceed?


Leave A Comment