Licensing 101: How Publishers Can Get into the Licensing Business

In Global Trade Talk by Thomas Minkus

By Thomas Minkus

Click to see more photos from the Licensing International Expo 2011

Entering the show floor at the Licensing Expo International at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas feels a bit like walking into a book fair rights center on steroids. Big media companies like CBS and Warner Bros. as well as global brands exhibit next to video game studios and interactive marketing companies. The stands are big and flashy, with glass conference rooms, lit-up displays seas of products on display…after all, this is Vegas.

The show attracts about 400 exhibitors and draws an estimated 18,000 attendees from 84 countries demonstrating that consumer appetites continue to be very strong for brand licensed products.

We spoke with Ira Mayer who publishes the Licensing Letter, one of the major trade publications for the licensing industry. Mayer gave us a brief introduction to the world of licensing and how publishers can get involved:

Licensing is all about leveraging intellectual properties and applying them to consumer products.

According to Mayer, it can take one to two years to get a strong licensing program going, but that shouldn’t discourage publishers from going after this business. Mayer suggested that publishers either work with specialized licensing agents or hire someone in house to focus on licensing.

Publishers exhibiting at the Licensing Expo International included Penguin, Scholastic and Wiley. Harlequin was represented by a licensing agency called Brandgenuity.

Children’s brands are among the more attractive categories because they lend themselves so well to merchandising. Young adult books and graphic novels are also a promising category.

Unlike from literary agents, licensing agents usually take about 30% of all licensing royalties. Royalty rates are based on wholesale prices and range from 8% up to 20% for some media properties that are in high demand.

Parallel to the show, the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) runs a three day Licensing University, with thirty conference sessions covering a variety of topics including retail strategies, legal issues, and managing brands on a global scale.

About the Author

Thomas Minkus

Thomas Minkus is VP of English Language Markets for the Frankfurt Book Fair. Based in the Book Fair’s New York City office, he spearheads the company’s activities in the fields of digital and mobile publishing, as well as new rights initiatives. In addition, he is responsible for Fair’s exhibitors and customers in all English-languages markets and those from the STM and education sectors. Thomas is also one of the co-founders of Publishing Perspectives. An online publishing newsletter, Publishing Perspectives delivers daily international news and opinion about the industry from top members of the global publishing community. Prior to joining the Fair in 2003, he worked as VP of Sales & Marketing for Learn Technologies, an educational publishing and technology company in New York City.