I found out a few more interesting tips & tricks and want to broadly share as they might be useful to some artists new to licensing - note that these are not my own opinions or beliefs. If you have a different view or opinion of this topic please feel free to comment on this post. I welcome multiple views.
Please also note that the last two paragraphs are a brief summary of an email comment by a licensed artist who gave me permission to share it but asked for no attribution.
• Artists just starting in licensing often are told to shop at retailers for ideal products and then research the manufacturers online. If the manufacturer's name isn't readily available on the product, as is common practice with many private label programs, they should look for an RN# (five-digit number) on the products. Artists should enter the RN# at the Federal Trade Commission's website, to disclose the manufacturer's information.
• They might also be interested in visiting trade shows in their targeted categories, such as the National Stationery Show or the International Home & Housewares Show, to find companies, view their collections, and see how their work can fit with the manufacturer's products. Same goes for Internet searches, to locate companies and review product lines that might be a fit.
• Another possible way to get started is to go to a small company of your liking to offer your design service for a product, for free, if they'll give you liberal samples. If they are interested, they might make a deal with you and you can learn from them; they may even pay you at some point. You could even end up working together with the company eventually! *** See comments below for additional information and other views about this topic.
• An alternative method of entering the world of art licensing is to get a mentor, someone who has been in the business awhile and can give the newbie "an arm around the shoulder and info when you need it." Apparently most artists are very generous this way. Starting slow may be a little frustrating but especially in this tight economy it can be smart. Working your marketing plan to get some deals before you pay the big bucks for a show might be a solution for some of you who are not sure or don't want to invest so much money up front. In a long run, this strategy might be a successful one.
In short, you don't need to go to a show and exhibit to get started!
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Again, if you have any additional or contrary tips on this topic that you'd like to share, please leave a comment here for everyone to read. Thanks!