One of the questions that came in a little late for the Ask Lilla Rogers call last week was this…

I recently was asked by an apparel company to let them use my art for a mock-up. They wanted to approach big box stores for a new bedding line they were producing. They only offered me compensation IF the deal went through. Still waiting, although i did see the mock-ups by a legit designer. The process began in March and is still on-going. So far, no licensing deal for my art which was used in the mock-ups by their graphic designer. My question is: Does this sound legitimate?

Different artists have different opinions on letting manufacturers “shop” their art.  If that doesn’t make complete sense, it basically means they want to mock-up your art on products (digitally or physically) and show it to their larger clients.  They don’t want to commit to the art until they know it will sell.

This is becoming more and more common in the marketplace, especially if your art fits in the mass market channel (selling into large retailers with many, many locations – like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, WalMart, department stores and more…)

Personally, I do let manufacturers shop my art.  Sometimes it lands me a great license, other times it isn’t selected.

I don’t, however, let companies I have never worked with before shop my art without understanding what the deal will be if the art is selected – this is KEY!

You can use a Deal Memo format that Maria Brophy has been kind enough to blog about (it is also discussed in greater detail in How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts and is included as one of the templates in The Artist’s Short License Agreement Template Package.  You can learn more about both of these at

Or you can simply ask the questions and keep notes – or preferably have the answers in writing – by email, etc.  The key things to know before letting a company “shop” your art include:

  • What retailer(s) are they showing the art to and for what products?
  • When do they expect to have a decision?  (As in, how long will your art be on hold and unavailable for those products for other deals)
  • What royalty rate, term, and territory will be on the contract if your art is selected?
  • Will there be an advance if your art is selected?
  • I also want to review their basic contract – or know that they will work from mine with the above terms – before going forward as well.

It would be horrible to have your art selected and then be unable to agree to the terms of the deal.  You won’t win points with the manufacturer and will probably burn the bridge to work with them again in the future.  The retailer won’t be pleased and you will have wasted time and energy on the process.

So make sure you know what the terms of the license will look like up front before you let your art get shopped around.

Here’s to your success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  Thank you Gloria for bringing up this issue – it is one many artists wonder about!

P.P.S.  Did you get your copy of the Ask Lilla Rogers call mp3?  IT’S FREE!!!