Getting Published or E-published/Merchandising
I'm an aspiring children's author. Lately I've had some positive query responses from agents--responses like "This project really interests me, but it isn't quite right for my list", and "You have a true gift for writing. I'm confident that this book will find placement in the future", etc. This has renewed my confidence. So now I'm thinking about future marketing strategies.
Say my picture book is picked up by an agent and published. I feel that my characters are highly commercial. Am I allowed to create merchandise like plush toys, posters, coloring books, lunch boxes, t-shirts, etc, for sale at conventions and online, or is merchandising the business of someone else--maybe I shouldn't concern myself with it?
In other words, can I take the marketing/merchandising reins and run with them, or is the marketing/merchandising business left to my agent or publishing house? Do I have to pay someone royalties or get a license to sell these products, or do the rights remain mine after publication?
I feel like I can earn some serious $$ not through book sales alone, but by selling products on my website, at conventions, at book signings, etc. By creating posters, displays, plush dolls, etc, I feel that I can exploit many more revenue streams and increase my total profits.
Is this realistic? In college, I learned that modern authors remain close to their audiences and are responsible for promoting their own books and products. Can you clarify this and expound on some of the finer points, please?
Note: I'm the author, but NOT the illustrator of my picture books, if that makes any difference.
You can merchandise characters from your books, however, you need to make sure you retain those rights when you do a deal with the publisher. Also, if you are splitting royalties with an illustrator who brought your characters to life on the page - the illustrator may need to be an integral part of any merchandising deal you make.
Did you pay the illustrator as an independent contractor where you own 100% of the rights to the pictures? If not, you may need to split merchandising rights.
Your best bet is to chat with an attorney who specializes in intellectual rights to make sure you are handling the situation correctly.