Make Money Licensing Your Art Works...

Art licensing is “the business of leasing a copyrighted or trademarked art work by means of contractual agreement (a license), for a specified product, promotion, or service for a specific time period, in an agreed upon territory, for an agreed upon fee or royalty.” Mark Woodward..
Sounds simple doesn’t it and it very often is…if done correctly…
Art licensing is a very lucrative way to make money with your art..I’ve done it, (and will be licensing again very soon), and many artists do, but here is the caveat…it’s a mine field or if you like this expression better, it is like getting into shark infested waters

There are many ways to license your work, from the simple greeting card to record album covers, book illustration, home decor products…the list goes on and on…at some time in their career, many artists are either approached by licensees or toy with the idea of sending copies of their art works to some of the big licensing companies
Everything you see around you in department stores was designed by an artist somewhere who is earning money every time that item is sold

“How much you earn varies depending on where your art appears and on how many items are sold. The royalty for images appearing on T-shirts ranges from 8-10%, posters range from 7-10%, mugs pay a 5% royalty, and royalties on limited editions will net you between 10-15% of sales.
Product sales from a single artist’s first licensing agreement were $800,000 of which she earned 10% or $80,000. Over the past 30 years, artist, licensing guru, and course developer Michael Woodward has licensed over $600 million in retail goods
" .info courtesy Changing Course..

But all is not gold that glitters, and the licensing business is also filled with many sad stories of artists who were robbed, who lost copyright to their works, and even lost the ability to sell the art works any where else…forever..

To avoid some of the pitfalls, first become very conversant with copyright law, and to get yourself an attorney who specializes in licensing agreements

Get acquainted with all the possibilities where your work would fit the bill…silkscreens, lithos, giclees, greeting cards, stationary and gift products, collectors’ plates, place mats and trays, needlecraft, tableware, children’s books, home décor products etc. etc.

Study marketing techniques…are you on social media? you will need to be..See HERE and HERE..

Discuss with your lawyer the advantages of advances v.s. royalties, terms of agreement, royalty rates, and working with companies you might never see face to face…how to research the company and their reputation is very important and whether you need to get an agent once offers come rolling in..

Say you have an offer pending right now…what do you do? where do you start?

Read the contract from cover to cover and then read it again…get an attorney who is experienced in this area to vet it for you and make any changes he feels may be to your advantage…
If there is any mention of sub-licensing your art, getting copyright of your art, full ownership of your art, or full reproduction rights of your art, (which means the same thing), do not touch it with a ten foot pole..
Never sign away your copyright and keep full control of the distribution rights of your art..e.g. even though I licensed a large number of my works, I was still able to sell the exact same images here or anywhere I pleased…
I never allow sub-licensing, because then I would have no control of where my art was placed, and for how long it could be used…e.g.I might license some images for cards and if I agreed to sublicense might find them anywhere on anything, forever amen and would have no way of stopping it

All you want to do in an agreement is simply what I said in the first paragraph, "license a specified product, or service for a specific time period, in an agreed upon territory, for an agreed upon fee or royalty or both..if they ask for more, get legal advice and read between the lines…don’t let a high fee blur your vision, or the need to see your art on place mats everywhere cloud your common sense…
Believe me, it isn’t worth the loss of your valuable work

Now I’ve scared the daylights out of you, but don’t be, with care and diligence you too can be making lots of money out of your art

Are you planning to license any of your work?
Have you been approached by a licensee or licensed any of your work.. Was it a good or bad experience?
Have you any ideas to share with our RB members


  • heatherfriedman
    heatherfriedmanover 1 year ago

    Thank you VERY much or this information…seems a bit overwhelming to me…and I do not like social media, generally speaking… oh well.. I will have to digest all this!

  • If you want to sell art or anything else for that matter, social media is a must…it is a new world and this is how people communicate…read my post…People Are Talking About You…Join the Conversation, to see why it’s so important…thanks so much for the feedback Heather..

    – © Janis Zroback

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    – © Janis Zroback

  • © Linda Callaghan
    © Linda Callaghanover 1 year ago

    very informative article Janis…and a must would be wonderful to be able to license your work successfully….thanks for the information!

  • You’re very welcome Linda…glad you found it helpful…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Cindy Schnackel
    Cindy Schnackelover 1 year ago

    Good info, thanks! I’ve never done it, but would consider it for the right product. This is good info to know.

  • I have done it quite successfully for cards prints and illustrations, so I can vouch that done correctly it is quite lucrative..I think your works would certainly be license able…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Mui-Ling Teh
    Mui-Ling Tehover 1 year ago

    Very useful info Janis. I can’t really read into it all right now though because, as I share in my last work, I get headaches from having too much in my head; and I still have nightmares from matters relating these issues. Having started to do my art again this year though I’m trying to get back into it – one unfinished business at a time, and this is certainly the kind of thing I want to look back into again later – mostly for the protection sake, not because I want to actively license my works – but even just for sharing anything online – that may make you wonder why I do so at all; well, just because it keeps me sane…

  • Glad you found the info helpful MuiLing…whenever work is shown online there is always the danger of copyright issues, but with the proper precautions these can be minimized….thanks so much for the feedback..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Hugh Fathers
    Hugh Fathersover 1 year ago

    Very interesting, thanks for the information . . .

  • You’re very welcome Hugh…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Celeste Mookherjee
    Celeste Mookhe...over 1 year ago

    Very valuable information, Janis, thank you. I have only a little positive experience with licensing some of my photos (a book about Australian wildflowers, plus I have some photos with Getty Images that have made me some money), but I’ve also been approached several times by people who didn’t really want to pay much if anything. The most recent came in an e-mail from a publisher easily found on the web, and they specified the image they wanted, resolution they needed, distribution and number of copies, plus they would be happy to send me a FREE BOOK! I wrote back with a fee quotation and received a “no thanks” e-mail explaining that they had “no budget” for that kind of fee (and I quoted on the low side). Of course they are selling their books in the $30 range. :) I wasn’t at all surprised, as I figured the “free book” thing was supposed to make my ego get all giddy and not think about getting paid. I’m sure that kind of thing happens all too often.

  • Artists at the mercy of unscrupulous publishers or licensees, who want the world and offer them nothing in return…yes you’re supposed to be thrilled at the sight of your work in print…do you know there are artists who pay enormous sums to be included in various art books..I get daily emails from publishers who advertise for artists and the fees are hefty…worse yet they hold competitions first, and the winners pay to be included in the book, usually over $1000.00 per page…
    Thanks so much for the feedback Celeste…I am glad you found the info helpful.

    – © Janis Zroback

  • © Pauline Wherrell
    © Pauline Wher...over 1 year ago

    Thanks for all the info Janis.

  • You’re very welcome Pauline…is this an area you would like to explore?

    – © Janis Zroback

  • © Pauline Wherrell
    © Pauline Wher...over 1 year ago

    I haven’t ever been approached, Janis, and I would have to think very carefully but just interested to read all about it!

  • Yes you would have to consider very carefully before deciding something as serious a this is…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • JeffeeArt4u
    JeffeeArt4uover 1 year ago

    Art2license, JeffeeArt4u, or Lizard Lady, is computer names at, another photography site where photographers show their work and talk with one another. I haven’t been approached by a licensee or other, but have really wanted to publish some Bible Books and Garden Books. Just getting in touch with the printer seems

  • I think you haven’t finished your comment…was there a question you were going to ask?

    – © Janis Zroback

  • enchantedImages
    enchantedImagesover 1 year ago

    Thank you Janis. Your info is such a valuable asset to this community as are you and your art.
    ~ Bobbi

  • You’re very welcome Bobbi…

    – © Janis Zroback