Artist Beware

There have been some interesting happenings in internet
land. Someone from a large trendy retail and catalog chain has been emailing my fellow Etsians with a
potential lucrative offer. The email sounds like a potential goldmine.

You know the old adage “If it sounds like it’s too good to
be true?” I suspect that in this case it may be. As someone who has worked for
a large international company as a buyer I can tell people a little bit about
this process. Education is the key to making a deal like this successful for
the prospective artesian. Buyers for large companies fall into 2 categories-
those who are honest folks trying to do the right thing for the small artisans
and those who will do anything to make their bonus at the end of the money. IN
some cases companies pay their buyers based on the new product lines they bring
in and how much money they make on those lines.

There are also people whose jobs are essentially there to
bring in new lines or build into old lines- product line managers or some other
unwieldy title. These people are the folks who are scouring the internet to
find the next big thing. The big thing that’s going to get them the bonus, the
raise and the better cube. These are the people to watch out for.

So say you get an offer from a big company, is it all crap?
No at all but you need to be prepared. Large companies have at their disposal
resources we can’t imagine. This also means if you send in a sample it can
easily be sent to a manufacturing facility and millions of copies can be made
in 6 months. How can you protect yourself?

First, if someone sends you an email be sure that it’s
coming from a company email account IF it doesn’t come
from a company account don’t trust it. Secondly head to the company website and
get the number for their corporate offices. Ask to speak to that person, or for
their extension. IF you get patched through it’s likely they work there. Ask
the person answering the phone what the person does. Most secretaries will be
pretty forth coming with this info. Explain why you’re asking. Ask for their
title. Now ask to speak to Human Resources, particularly a specialist in
recruitment. Ask HR for the job responsibilities of that title. HR should be
pretty forth coming with this info- after if you are posing as a potential
applicant they will tell you just about anything. Be polite and don’t be too
aggressive- there’s another adage- more flies with honey than vinegar.

Say you get a product line manger rather than a buyer, be
aware and careful with your next steps. These are the people in charge of
making new lines and not necessarily concerned with your profit or product.
Buyers are trying to bring in new product and not create new lines. It’s a fine
line between the 2 but buyers are less likely to have the capability to send
products to a manufacturer than a Product Line Manager.

The next step is to copyright your product. Don’t send
anything to a large company without getting some sort of legal document stating
the product and idea is yours. Consult with a lawyer if you need to. But Don’t
let a company steal your idea because they are big.

The next thing or perhaps the very first thing for you to
consider is the viability of you being able to make the quantity of product
that the company needs. Can you make 1000 books to send out at the end of the
month? Can you make and ship 1000 books in a month? IF not step back and think
about sending stuff to the company. Once they have your product there is
nothing saying that they couldn’t ship it off to a facility and have something
like it made, cutting you right out of the loop. Most large companies use a net
payment method. This means that you get paid a certain number of days AFTER the
company receives your product. Common net payments are NET15 and NET30, the
number after the net stands for the number of days after receipt your check is
cut and mailed. 30 days can be a long time. Can you pay for the materials for
1000 books upfront? Can you afford to take a month off of your DayJob and not
get paid for 15 or 30 days?

Another option is a licensing deal. They pay you for the
right to make your product; a certain amount up front and you can walk away. I
would suggest that you do this with a lawyer present to make sure that your
terms are met and that you get what you want. When talking to large companies
don’t be afraid to drop the line “I’m going to consult my lawyer and see what
he/she has to say.” Whatever you do be smart and don’t let a company get away
with stealing your ideas and products.

There are valid opportunities out there that are potential
goldmines for artists but you have to be aware of the sharks in the water and
protect yourself. Be aware at all times.