Type distributor royalties and commission

selfbuildtype's picture

I just thought id post something about how much commission type distributors take from sales of foundry typefaces. MyFonts is pretty good at 20%, as is a large US distributor again at about the same. A UK distributor is offering 50/50 which sounds pretty sucky. What do people think to this? What are your experiences?

Diner's picture

Craig,

It all depends on what your professional goals are for your typefaces. If you want to do nothing more than make fonts and have other people sell 'em for you, you relinquish profitablity. If you choose to sell them yourself, you'll spend more time getting your foundry geared up and properly marketed but you'll make 100% of every sale.

There are many schools of thought with distribution but overall if you're going that route anyway, you can assume the more places you can distribute the face, the more the face will make for you.

Some places want exclusivity, and for that, you'll always get a higher royalty 50% or better. If you want to push your face through anybody that will sell it, you can expect something more like 20% of the sale which is very low but it's the going rate.

The key to distribution is wrapping your mind around your long term goals of distribution. For example, say you spend 3 weeks making a font. You distribute it like crazy. In 1 year, you make make $1,000 with it, in 5 years $6,000, in 10 years, $13,000.

Now, $13,000 sound like a great figure for 3 weeks of work, but it comes in $250* chunks over quarterly (every 3 month) cycles. So, obviously the more fonts you make and distribute, the greater the chances are that you could make fonts full-time.

*(by the way, many checks will be much closer to $7 to $130 quarterly if the face sells well)

Understand that in addition to being a font creator, you are also that font's talent agent and are responsible for how much the face makes for you over the course of its career.

You shouldn't feel that there is an us/them mentality with distributors. You are seeking these people out because you feel they can make you money. I wish it didn't sound so capitalistic, but that's what your post suggests. And with that, you've got lots of choices when it comes to how you'd like to sell your fonts. Explore them all and draw your own conclusions.

Stuart :D

hrant's picture

Stuart, great practical advice - thanks. Just one thing:

> Some places want exclusivity, and for that, you'll always get a higher royalty 50% or better.

Most of the more prominent font houses will give you a lot less than 50% even with exclusivity. Some of them keep up to 85% for themselves!

I personally think MyFonts is a great choice for many because the *mechanics* of viewing and selling (24hr credit card charging, dynamic character string display) are there. But it seems to me that *promotion* is still something you have to do yourself if you're going with MyFonts - which actually makes good sense if your target is a niche market.

BTW, Bitstream also seems to have some very flexible and fair plans for font licensing, and they actually do some promotion.

hhp

selfbuildtype's picture

Thanks for the feedback guys. The business side isnt often discussed on forums and its good to hear peoples points of view on it. Id really prefer to stick with just Myfonts but reckon Ill go with the others as well just for the exposure. Selling them directly myself will be an option in the future but not for the time being. Cheers again!

hrant's picture

Joe, all of what you say has validity, but:

> some of the best royalties available

15-20% is pretty sad, dude.

And I think a problem with some font houses is that they're not flexible. Type designers come in so many flavors these days. Bitstream is a rare case of flexibility:

http://www.bitstream.com/categories/products/nfc/submit_index.html

And their library seems to be a nice balance between the functional and the ephemeral. The only thing is that their promotion is not as heavy as some other houses.

hhp

union's picture

Hi

As someone who's just set up a foundry...

Even with us setting up our credit card processing in the cheapest way possible we have to give the bank 5% of the sale. We have server charges, bandwidth... the site cost money to build, and we paid to be in Indie Fonts 2, more marketing will be paid for...

The font designers are not getting rich but small independent foundries are in the same boat.

Jim
-----------------------------------------------------
http://www.unionfonts.com

John Hudson's picture

Ancient thread revival.

Jeremy Tankard very sensibly links percentages to marketing. When he enters into a distribution deal, he insists on receiving copies of all the distributor's promotional material. If he does not feel that his fonts are being adequately marketed, he will either cancel the deal or insist that the percentages be changed. If a company is willing to actively market his fonts, Jeremy is willing for them to take a higher percentage but, quite rightly, he isn't going to sit around waiting for pennies from someone who just wants to pad the size of their generic font library.

joevdb's picture

Myfonts.com is increasing the take on sales for all renewing licensees from 20% to 35% as they come up for renewal. It was enough of a difference to get me to set up cc processing on my own.

Joe VanDerBos
http://www.joevanderbos.com/type/

Ale Paul's picture

well, in some places like Argentina is a hard deal, I and a few really good designers from Argentina are trying to launch the first foundry and maybe the southest one :-)
A ecommerce is not a easy way here so we had to choose myfonts.
If you add to hosting and server cost, the webshop cost and the bank credit card processing we have no option for now until test the way the fonts sell.

just for curious guys take a look at http://www.sudtipos.com.ar (I ll announce the launch of the foundry soon)

sorry for the bad english

union's picture

Alejandro

My new foundry launches tomorrow, check it out..

http://www.unionfonts.com

We are working with three South Americian designers, plus designers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia and the Netherlands.

And we offer a very good deal for font designers. If your interested in us distributing for you, drop me a line.

Jim

Ale Paul's picture

ops, well I read that lately, maybe we can have the fonts in both place, is that compatible with myfonts?

designalchemy's picture

As a regular I font buyer I would rather buy from smaller outfits provided goods are of high quality (well tested, superb outlines, interpolation, kerning, design, etc)
The reason is that I will often get fonts that are less circulated which translates to greater value for branding. Who wants to use fonts in branding that are obtained by thousands of designers worldwide? I think the idea of branding is to establish a unique look and feel and less distributed type (or even better-original type) is what is needed. The problem is that it is hard to find these gems, and once you find them it seems only a short matter of time before these outfits start reselling through the big distributors. Take Typotheque as an example. Peter Bilak is in my opinion one of the best designers around. His fonts are superb technically as well as unique in design. He used to distribute via FontShop and then started Typotheque to distribute new designs.
Other than typophiles who would ever find the little Dutch foundry Typotheque? Well good design sells and next thing you know Peter is doing display ads in the great GB magazine Eye to promote his Fedra face, then distribution follows with Myfonts... his Fedra is too sweet to not mass distribute, but does this actually depreciate it's value in Branding? I does in my book but
what does the rest of you typophiles think? Is it the designers who use these fonts responsibility to know
how many are in circulation when approaching a client with type choices for projects? Are most fonts tracked by distributors and if so do they willingly give this information to the designers that buy?

PS. this did not stop me from ordering additional styles and weights.

hrant's picture

> does this actually depreciate it's value in Branding?

Totally.
And right there that's another justification for pricing your fonts high.

BTW, Bilak is Czech.

hhp

union's picture

Peter does live in Holland though.

hrant's picture

mat, thanks for the correction!

Jim, so I'm almost 2% Catalan? Wonderful!

hhp

hoefler's picture

Marketing is very expensive.

Joe Pemberton's picture

Why not go with a reputable foundry and get
the best of both worlds.

Consider FontFont or Emigre or Font Bureau
(or a handful of others I'm forgetting). They
have a good reputation for treating designers
well with some of the best royalties available
(these are designer-run foundries, unlike
some of the other big behemoths).

But the equation doesn't end with royalties.
The other benefit is having a distributor
(foundry) with some muscle (reputation and a
solid distribution channel) promote your work
because they believe in it.

Adding your face to Myfonts may be a good
way to set up an online commerce option, but
the reason they can offer such high royalties
is because they're spending very little to
promote _individual_ fonts. Instead they
promote their site -- leaving designers to hope
people can find their fonts.

In the end ask yourself if it make sense to
get 100% of royalties from your micro foundry
(or 80% with MyFonts) if all of 7 people ever
find (let alone buy) your font?

hoefler's picture

Hrant, please read Joe's post. Evaluating royalties in a vacuum is not a worthwhile exercise.

anonymous's picture

In addition to Joe's comments, I'll just add that the other thing that happens with, say, Adobe, is that we do production and testing work on every font we add to our library. It is essentially remanufactured to Adobe's standards, which can include outline fixes, kerning, rebuilding with our tools, and extensive testing.

That's just for licensed, non-exclusive designs. "Adobe Originals" have a much more extensive co-development cycle.

However, it's true that the royalty rates paid by Adobe tend to the low end of the ranges being discussed. It's just a tradeoff. Also, Adobe tends to be on the high end for volume sold (not that that's saying much, when you're talking fonts!).

T

anonymous's picture

> BTW, Bilak is Czech.

btw, bilak is slovak.

mat

fontdesigner2's picture

@John Hudson - doesn't Tankard sign a contract with his distributor? How can he get out of it?

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