SURTEX licensing and design show

Art Licensing

What do you want to know about Art Licensing?

Every other month I host a new expert from the art licensing industry to answer questions, submitted by artists like you, about art licensing.  On Wednesday, May 28, 2014 – the week after SURTEX - Paul Brent will be back for his annual SURTEX Trend Review and question answering hour!

We call these events “Art Licensing Info Ask Calls” – since you ask, call in on the phone and answers are shared.  You can see the who, what and when at  That is also where you submit your questions for consideration.

WE NEED YOUR QUESTIONS.  In almost 6 years I have yet to make up a question and put a fake name to it – I promise!  I have had to beg, plead and sometimes shame people into giving us something to work with – which I HATE to do so it’s just best if you submit your questions and we do the work to keep this all running smoothly, OK?

ask Paul Brent about art licensingOur May call with Paul Brent has been the hands-down crowd-pleasing call of the year for the last 4 years.  Paul puts a lot of time, effort and skill into walking the show, looking online and putting together an amazing report on what he sees as current and upcoming trends in the art licensing industry.  Mark your calendar for May 28, 2014 (5:30 pm Pacific / 8:30 pm Eastern and everything in between and around the globe).  It is always free to listen live and the replay will be for sale after the event – along with a written Trend Review.

We know you have questions – so will you please share them with us?

The sooner you can send us questions the better – especially for this call.  Paul and I will both be at the show and then working on follow-up, in addition to putting on this event.  So they more I can prepare ahead of time the better.

Head to today to submit your questions and we will talk to you after SURTEX!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Without Promotion…

Words to Live By - PT Barnum - April 2014

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, no one wanted to go across it.  It was the first bridge made of steel and not iron. Is was also the longest suspension bridge in the world—50% longer than any previously built.

The day it opened – May 24, 1883, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

On May 30, 1883, six days after the opening, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which was responsible for at least twelve people being crushed and killed.

The city was left with a bit of a marketing problem… they had just invested a lot of time and money building a bridge to make travel easier but no one would use it.  What to do? What to do?

I can’t find any information online about who came up with this brilliant idea to prove the safety of the bridge but on May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum led 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that it was stable.  On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge’s stability—while publicizing his famous circus—when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It may have been P.T. Barnum himself seeing a great opportunity for free publicity for his circus.  The parade worked – who can argue that the bridge is doomed to collapse after seeing 21 elephants walk across it.  It was a win-win – the city had a bridge people would use and the Circus got a lot of free publicity!

Now I know (hope!) that you don’t have a marketing problem the size of the Brooklyn Bridge on your plate, but what do you do to promote your business?

Today I encourage you to take a few minutes and think about how you promote your art licensing business.  Make a list and don’t only include what you do and where, but HOW OFTEN.  Without continual promotion the marketplace will forget who you are.

Create. Market. Repeat.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed



  • I found most of the Brooklyn Bridge facts here:
  • I first heard this story in a talk given by Brian Buffini – a speaker and trainer in the real estate market but honestly – he could have been talking about the art licensing industry 99% of the time.



How to decide if you are ready to exhibit at an art licensing trade show…

“How do I know if I’m ready to exhibit?”

This is a common question artists ask as they are learning and working towards licensing their art.  There are two main shows that artists can exhibit at in our industry:

Here are a four things to think about to help you decide if you are ready to exhibit.


“Enough art” is, of course, subjective.  You can never have “enough” because people always want “new” – even if they just saw you two weeks ago.  But that said, you need to realize that when you get a booth, you will be in the show with artists who have been exhibiting for 25 years and have thousands of images and new artists who are like you and getting going and lots of things in between.

I was talking with an artist who was worried she didn’t have enough.  She will be exhibiting (money paid, space reserved, no turning back!) but she is exhibiting with a group or an agent.  Since her art doesn’t have to carry and fill the whole booth, I told her not to worry about it.  At this point, her focus is on bringing the best art she can complete before the show, preparing her portfolio and getting herself prepared to ask questions, explain who she is and what she does.

If you are going to get your own booth, you need enough art to fill it.  A good rule of thumb from Paul Brent is that an artist should have at least 20-25 collections before getting a booth.  (disclaimer: I think any advice Paul gives is a good rule of thumb and I think you should too!)  An agent once suggested 100 pieces of art as a good basis – for artists who create in a more fine-art mode of paintings and canvas vs. collections.


It’s not a good idea to show up, set up and then assume your art will “speak for itself”. Your art will get attention and cause people to pause, but then you need to do the talking. You need to be able to talk about who connects with your art, what skills and value you will add to the equation if they choose to license your art and what makes you different from every other artist in the room.

On the SURTEX website they say the show will feature 200 artists, designers, agencies, brands featuring the works of over 1000 creatives for license.  So what makes YOU unique?

On the Licensing Expo website they report that in 2013, over 400 exhibitors representing more than 5,000 brands gathered in Las Vegas and more than 15,000 key decision making retailers, manufacturers, marketing and advertising professionals attended, across all consumer product categories.  What makes you stand out in that venue?

It’s also good to be clear about what you want.  Do you want to sell your art or license it.  Do you want to do special projects they request or find companies that are looking for the art you want to create.  etc. etc. etc.


Sorry folks but these things don’t happen for free.  SURTEX happens in the Javitz Center in New York City.  You will have expenses including but not necessarily limited to:  your booth expense, whatever you put in your booth, hotel & travel,  food (don’t forget to eat!), marketing…

At  SURTEX the 2014 cost of a booth is at $46.50/square foot – so it ranges from $3720 for an 8′ x 10′ booth, $4,650 for a 10′ x 10′ booth and on up if you get even more space.  The booth is turn-key – you get a table, chairs, trash can, walls – you can have a great set-up without adding any additional rentals or services.

The Licensing Expo doesn’t have their rates published online but you can CLICK HERE to go to their website and see who to contact for more information.

So as you can see – exhibiting isn’t something to take lightly and decide on a whim.  As I say – it’s an investment. Usually of $6,000 – $10,000 depending on where you live, where you stay, etc.  You want to be ready before you invest that money in your business.


At the end of the day, you will never feel 100% ready.  There is always a piece of “Here goes nothing!” when you make the decision to exhibit.  So the question is back in your court – is it time? Are you ready?

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

5 reasons I exhibit at SURTEX…

It’s CRUNCH TIME!  SURTEX is right around the corner – I always freak out a little on April 1st when I can say “SURTEX is next month…” it comes out more like “SURTEX is next MONTH???????” and panic and second guessing ensues…

SURTEX - distinctive design for sale & license

All kidding aside, SURTEX is a HUGE part of my marketing so I take it really seriously.  (Hence the fear sneaking in, second guessing, etc – it’s part of my process I guess.)  But here are 5 reasons why I keep going back:


SURTEX is one of two big shows in the art licensing industry where artists and brands have a booth and manufacturers and retailers come looking for art.  SURTEX is the only show that is all about art and artists. We aren’t competing with Warner Brothers, Sponge Bob Square Pants, the NFL and other entertainment brands with big budgets.  So SURTEX has been a great way for me to control my space (my booth) and connect with a lot of qualified leads in a three day period of time.


Let’s talk more about qualified leads… yes, it is possible to do research on the internet, attend industry trade shows (which I also do) and network your way into some art licensing deals.  But when you exhibit at a show, you get a lot of leads in a short period of time. (3 days)  LEADS lead to CHOICE.

If you only have one client or one person interested in your art, you don’t have a lot of choice.  You either do what they need or you don’t make any money.  Your interest in the project becomes much less relevant.  Your negotiating leverage is also diminished…

BUT if you have a lot of leads, a variety of companies interested in working with you, you get to decide what projects you do or don’t want to work on.  You also have some leverage in negotiating the deal and will be more willing to walk away from a deal you don’t like, because you know there are other options out there.


I inevitably meet someone from a company I didn’t even know existed.  While you can, as previously mentioned, search for contact and submission guidelines online, you need to know about the company in the first place.  Every year I meet someone from a company I didn’t know about.  Maybe they do private label products – meaning they are the manufacturer but they make products that carry the store brand name on them.  Or maybe I just hadn’t heard about them – might be from a market or industry I didn’t research before…


In this very online world, the value of talking face to face is being overlooked by many.  I heard a speaker the other day who said this, “You know what’s better than being on social media? BEING SOCIAL.  Like, talking to people, in person, face to face!”  We all laughed but it is so true.

Talking with someone in person is different than chatting on Facebook or communicating back and forth by email.  You can see their reaction to your art, they can suggest something: “That dog would be really cute with a hot-pink plaid sweater, don’t you think?”

Then you can get inspired and respond, “No! I think it would be even better in a purple tutu on a unicycle!”

They get excited and say, “Oh that would be awesome! Can it hold an umbrella with a pirate parrot on top too?” and BOOM!  You are co-creating the next hit design.

Had you not been together brainstorming it might have gone more like this:  email: new pet art.  email response: not quite what we are looking for.  done.


There are a lot of people talking about, blogging about and learning about art licensing.  There is a lot of competition in the marketplace and a lot of people dreaming about it.  I even had someone submit a question to an Ask Call that said, “I’ve been researching how to get started for several years now…” – to which I wanted to reply, “When will you start?”

By exhibiting at a show, you are putting your flag in the sand and saying “I’m serious about this.  This isn’t a dream or a hobby.  I’m here, here is my work, let’s do business.”

When I was trying to decide if I wanted to exhibit at my first show, the show had an agent call and talk to me to help me decide.  I still remember what he said (but sadly not who it was…) “If you are going to spend the money to do a show, commit to doing it for at least 2-3 years.  There are manufacturers who want to see that you are serious and not exhibiting once never to be heard from again, before they will work with you.”

Thankfully not all manufacturers wait for 2-3 years before working with an artist but at about year 4 someone truly walked up to my booth and said, “OK, I see you’ve been here a few years.  I’m willing to talk to you and see what you have now.”

Stay tuned for my next blog post to help you decide if you are ready to exhibit.  Because while I’m a huge fan of the show, I also know that it is an investment and you need to be ready before you put your flag in the sand.

You can learn more about the show at

Here’s to your creative success -

– Tara Reed


Don’t move backwards…

I found this quote by Abraham Lincoln the other day and it struck me like a lightening bolt… YES!  That’s good stuff!  I simply had to share it…

Words to Live By - Abraham LIncoln - April2014I have DEFINITELY been (and continue to be) guilty of wanting things to happen faster than they are.  I want to build my business faster, lose weight faster, certainly clean my bathroom faster (that’s just no fun!)  …

The real point of life, weight, love and yes, business isn’t the speed, but the direction.

Are you moving FORWARD.  Are you taking action every day that is moving you in the direction of your goals, regardless of the speed?  Some things simply take more time than others.  You might be able to speed one thing up but will it be at the detriment of something else?  For example, if you work 20 hours a day to fast-track your art business, you will likely get sick from lack of sleep and have problems in your relationships from ignoring everyone around you.

Today I invite you to make a list of the the things you want.  Acknowledge what you have done to get you from the first idea of wanting it to where you are now.  Then commit to taking more steps – however fast or slow – to keep moving in the right direction.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed



Last chance to get the Ask Attorney Kyle-Beth Hilfer call replay for the discounted rate!

Tomorrow – Thursday, April 3, 2014 – is the last day to get this great Ask Call replay for the discounted price of $20.  (Of course it will be well-worth the regular price of $30 but if you are here now, why not save $10?)

Attorney Kyle-Beth Hilfer gave us great insights into the legal issues of art licensing, copyrights, trademarks and more and as one artist emailed me, “I really appreciated this conversation. Alway like how you make things real and bring down to ground level all of the content. Nothing too lofty this time for me!”  (To NOT be lofty when talking about legal issues is a huge WIN in my book!)

Attorney Kyle-Beth Hilfer talks about art licensingHere is what we covered on the call:

  • The importance of “why” and how that might relate to various questions I’ve seen online about licensing negotiations and royalty audits.
  • Can an artist learn to do their own contracts and where do they get their first contract?
  • When registering copyrights, what is considered “published work”?
  • Do you have to copyright every color way of the same pattern?
  • Does the number of images in a copyright registration affect compensation if there is an infringement?
  • What is involved in registering a trademark and how long does it take?
  • Can you use other’s art (cartoons for example, Batman, Minions, etc) if you are only doing individual pieces of art for sale and not mass producing or is that a copyright infringement?
  • What is the difference between a brand and a property?
  • Will allowing non-profits to use art for t-shirts affect other licensing deals?
  • Is it illegal to use images of celebrities in your work for licensing?


Where to find Kyle-Beth Hilfer

Learn more about Ms. Hilfer at,
or follow her on Twitter @kbhilferlaw
or Linkedin at

Note: Attorney Advertising. This call will provide resource information and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Ask Paul Brent about art licensingNext Up… Paul Brent with his annual SURTEX Trend Review and question session

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 28, 2014 and submit your questions at

Another look at creating collections for art licensing…

Earlier this month I did post about what it means, specifically, to create collections for art licensing and how to look at products and figure out what parts and pieces the artist had to create so the manufacturer could make the product line.  If you missed this little case study of St Patrick’s Day products, you can click here to see it.

I have since realized that I forgot one important piece of the puzzle:  the artist certainly had MORE in the collection than was actually used on the products.

Let’s look at another example and not only talk about what IS there, but what ISN’T, ok?  Below is a set of Christmas mugs.

Candy Cane Snowflake Mugs by Tara Reed Designs

What they needed to make these mugs:

  • four candy cane snowflakes
  • squiggle border (like icing on a gingerbread cookie!)
  • diagonal stripe pattern – which is made from colors, the squiggle border and a border of wrapped peppermint candy
  • pantone colors to send to the factory

Cool!  That wouldn’t really take long to create, right?  Well… right, if that was all I made.

Here are some of the things from the collection they DIDN’T USE:

  • 4 gingerbread people & other misc icons
  • 7 repeat patterns
  • 5 borders

So for this mug collection, I created a lot more than they used.  And many times, that is how it goes in art licensing.

Does this mean it isn’t worth the effort?  No.  Because the sweet-spot of licensing your art is when multiple manufacturers choose to license the same designs (or collections) for different products.  The next company might make salt and pepper shakers out of the gingerbread men, or make fabric with all of the patterns… you just don’t know until you create it and find your art a home.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed


Here’s the thing about hashtags…

Some people love them, some people hate them and others have no idea what it’s all about.  You may fall into one of those categories and you may float somewhere in between.  Hashtags are easy to create, you use the # symbol and then write a word, words or phrases with no capitalization or spaces. #hashtagsareeasy  Not always easy to read, but easy to create.

The reality is, hashtags are here to stay. or… #heretostay

SO… here are a few ideas about how to #makepeace with the reality of hashtags.

1.  Hashtags actually serve a purpose.

#surtex on HootsuiteSome people think hashtags are completely random made up things that have been put on the internet with the sole purpose of annoying them.  (To them, I say – it’s really not all about you. :) )  There are times when they are right – people will just put a phrase with no spaces after a # just because they feel like it, they think they should, or they want to poke their friends that they know get annoyed by hashtags. (#innercircle #youknowwhoyouare ;) )

However – hashtags really CAN work for you!  Hashtags are a way to search for related things on social media.

When we have an Ask Call for example, I tell artists on Twitter to use #ask_art so I can see who is talking about the call.  By doing a search for that hashtag, or creating a # column in Hootsuite, you can make new friends and follow the conversation.  On Twitter it is a great way to create community and follow a topic whether you follow a person or not.

In Hootsuite I also created a column to follow #surtex so I can see who is talking about the show, what is going on, and to get to know other exhibitors long before we ever land in NYC.  You can see what that looks like in the picture to the left.  You can see how Alex Colombo and I had a little conversation about the show – I might have missed her post if I wasn’t on Twitter without the #surtex keyword search (using Hootsuite to see my Twitter – it’s confusing if you don’t use it).


2.  You can use hashtags on Google searches to find topics on social media.

Here is a screenshot of a search for #summer – it shows links to Instagram, tumblr, facebook and more.  Hastags search for topics on social media instead of everything about summer on the web.  Look at the difference in results when I search for #summer vs summer.

Google Search - #summer

3.  You can use hashtags to your advantage.

THIS is why hashtags are more than just fun and games. (Even though I admit to making up random ones sometimes – I am also strategic about them too)  Hashtags can help get your social media message seen.

Use popular hashtags to your advantage

Look for hashtags being used by groups of people you want to connect with, create relevant posts or content and join the conversation by using the hashtag too.  Are you a quilter?  Search #quilter to see who you find.  Want to connect with them?  Put #quilter in your posts too.

I must admit I’m not always the best about using #artlicensing but after writing this post I plan to get better. :)

Create your own hashtags to start and manage conversations

While you can’t stop others from using a hashtag you begin to use for a conversation, you can start to ‘train your audience’ to look for things you post based on your common hashtags.  Using the #ask_art for the Ask Calls is the perfect example.

While I don’t profess to be a hashtag expert – these are a few things I do know and thought I’d share.  To wrap it up and give you a laugh, be sure to watch this SNL video about hashtags. #extremeoveruseofhashtags

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Dealing with Distractions…

Have you ever had the very best of intentions – to create art, contact clients, research potential clients and more – yet at the end of the day, you find you haven’t actually done it?

Instead you have updated your Facebook status a few times, liked a few things, hung out on Pinterest “getting inspired”, did some laundry, called a friend to talk about how excited you are to get into art licensing and more…

Those are called DISTRACTIONS.

Diminish Distractions

Don’t feel bad, we all get distracted.  Sometimes it can be called PROCRASTINATION when we know we should do something and find all kinds of other things that have to be done first… but those other things are also distractions.

If they gave out degrees in “The Art of Distraction” I just might have a PhD so I assure you, I know of what I speak!

Sometimes writing this blog is a distraction… I intend to create art and then say “Well, I really need to get a blog post done for Monday…” and I start writing.  Or I get over-involved in the details of my business – things I could hire someone else to do to free up my time and head-space a bit.  Instead I do it myself… DISTRACTION.

I’m currently trying to work through my own “Diminish The Distractions” program, which I am making up as I go along… here is what I have so far:

  1. SCHEDULE YOUR TIME.  While it is sometimes tricky to say “I’m going to be super inspired and creative between 3 & 6 pm next Tuesday” – if you at least block out the time on your calendar, there will be time in your day to ride that creative wave.  If you book 40 hours a week of distractions, you won’t get much art done.
  2. HONOR YOUR INTENTIONS.  If you plan to do a new collection this week or this month, do it.  No. Matter. What.  Make it as much of a priority as going to sleep at night and eating during the day. (And while we are on the subject – GET SOME SLEEP!)
  3. MAKE IT A PRIORITY.  If you work from home you will have to be better at time management and prioritizing than if you work in an office.  In a office, you are expected to be at your desk during certain hours… your friends won’t expect you to jet off to lunch with them if the sun is shining.  In my experience, many people do when you work from home.  You need to make your work a priority and know when to say NO and when it is ok to be flexible and say YES!
  4. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR DISTRACTIONS.  Sometimes knowledge is the first step to change.  If you realize what is distracting you, you can work to change it.  Give the tasks to someone else, schedule them into your day, skip them altogether… whatever you need to do to get the real work done.
  5. CONTROL YOUR DISTRACTIONS, DON’T LET THEM CONTROL YOU.  I love Pinterest as much as the next artist but I have set some rules for myself about it.  I don’t look at it on my studio computer.  Pinterest is saved for my iPhone – when I’m waiting for an appointment, if I’m watching something on TV and for some reason I can’t fast forward through the commercials… little bits of Pinterest downtime.  I have found I can get very distracted if I look at things on my big screen… I save that for looking back at things I pinned that will help me create (like color schemes – love those Pins!)  and not for wandering about “getting inspired”.

Now I ask you… what do YOU DO to try and keep your distractions at bay so you can get the real work done?  (Hint: The “real work” is the work that only you can do…)

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Last chance to register for the Art Licensing Academy…

The first EVER Art Licensing Academy starts this coming Tuesday – March 25, 2014!

The artists who have registered and I are gearing up and getting excited – have you saved your spot?

If you are an artist who is serious about growing and becoming successful in art licensing, this might be just the class for you.  We will meet 8 times in a 4 week period for classes (by phone) and open Q&A sessions (also by phone).  We also have a private Facebook group where artists are already getting to know each other, asking questions and getting support.

Learn more at

Art Licensing Academy - FB 032114Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed