Font Foundry Commission

Thinkdust's picture

HI Guys,

I've been trying to research into dafont.com and fonts.com with regards to commission, but I haven't been successful. I know dafont markets fonts on the back-end of having advertising sponsors, but do they offer a paid commission to the type designers submissions or is it all purely for free? Also, which would you say are the top 6 - 7 foundries to start building your collections within, I'm already with myfonts.com, and have a lot of new more developed faces to put out into the market,

Thanks for your help,
Alex.

Stephen Coles's picture

[EDIT - For an updated and expanded version of this post, please see Typographica]

Hi Alex. It's funny you should ask, because we just discussed this in a panel at TypeCon on Saturday. I didn't get to say a lot of what I wanted to say in that session, so I'll let it all spill out here. I welcome any rebuttals or filling of holes. Disclaimer: the information below comes from 10 years of experience examining the retail font industry and is intended to be unbiased, but my perspective is inevitably shaped by four years as an employee of FontShop.

It's important to understand the difference between a foundry (AKA vendor or publisher) and a reseller (AKA distributor or retailer). If you are a font maker, here are your options for getting that font to the public and making some money:

1. Signing with a Foundry
A foundry can be considered a product manufacturer such as Monotype, P22, or FontFont. Foundries can be distributed through multiple channels, such as their own web shop and the shops of their resellers. When you submit a typeface to a foundry for release it is usually an exclusive deal. They will maintain the right to sell the font according to their contract. Royalties range from 20%-50% but there is also an important distinction: most foundries pay a percentage of the wholesale price of the font. So as the font goes further down the distribution chain, the designer is getting less of the retail price. Other foundries, like FontFont, give a percentage of the suggested retail price. So no matter where the font is sold, the designer gets the same cut.

Advantages:
The foundry will handle all customer support (big!), marketing, and reseller contract relationships. Some offer technical and design assistance to complete font production. Spend less time on business, more on drawing and designing fonts.
Disadvantages:
Less control of where your font is sold. Earn less from each sale.

2. Signing with a Reseller
A reseller offers fonts from multiple foundries. Examples are Fonts.com, MyFonts, Veer, and FontShop. Resellers usually sign contracts with a foundry/publisher (in your case, Thinkdust) and offer all the fonts in that foundry's library. Resellers usually give the foundry between 50-65% of the retail price of the font. Each reseller has a different clientele and produces different types and quantities of marketing. I could go into the major differences later if you like. Some independent foundries (like Shinntype and Mark Simonson) find best results by offering their fonts through many different resellers while others go for a more exclusive strategy (like Porchez Typofonderie at FontShop, Jukebox at Veer). In the latter case, the reseller will often give a foundry more promotion exchange for being an exclusive retailer.

Advantages:
Reach far more customers and different markets. Maintain some control of brand, pricing, and the ability to sign with multiple resellers.
Disadvantages:
Must be somewhat business savvy. Earn less from each sale.

3. Going it Alone
Building a foundry and selling them exclusively on your own web shop gives you 100% of sales, of course. Exclusivity has its benefits, as Hoefler & Frere-Jones and Lineto will attest. It can give your brand a certain boost in value. But unless you are already well known, it can be a lot of very hard work to get customers to your shopfront, while lesser fonts are benefitting from broader exposure and marketing.

Advantages:
Full control of brand and pricing. Get 100% of sales.
Disadvantages:
Labor intensive. Must be business savvy. Less time for making fonts. Potential for major overhead. Responsible for customer support (major resource draw).

So the first decision to be made with each of your typefaces is whether you want to go the foundry or reseller route.

If you decide to submit to a foundry, the question of royalty rate is only one of many. Which foundry would be the best fit for the typeface design? What foundries do you respect? Where are they sold and how are they marketed? What production assistance do they offer? How many fonts are already in their library?

If you choose to build your own foundry, decide whether you want to sell the fonts exclusively on your own, or through one or more resellers. Again, which resellers do you respect? Who is their clientele and what do they offer in the form of marketing and other tools and services to draw customers? How many foundries are already in their shop?

P.S. Dafont.com is simply a free font archive. Any commercial fonts listed on their site link to fonts.com and the publisher of Dafont.com gets an affiliate commission. The site is not a foundry or reseller in any way.

eliason's picture

What a helpful rundown! I'd suggest putting this stuff in the typophile wiki.

Si_Daniels's picture

Great write-up. That needs to go in the wiki.

Could add something about control over EULA terms, IP policing, and OEM/ISV sublicensing between the three options.

Cheers, Si

Thinkdust's picture

Wow, thanks ever so much for your time Stephen, that's a real help!

Thinkdust's picture

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your help. The reason I ask, is that I am currently at the start of setting up an online type foundry with Paris company Hello Hikimori. The company is going to be called 'Hypefortype.com) and I'm just researching into the field in detail. I realise marketing and driving traffic is a difficult thing on a very large scale, so would you have any recommendations here. We're going to have two different sections of type. One is corporate which hopefully will be snapped up by agencies, and the other is creative. What would you say was the best savvy business decision in order to make this a successful?

I have a friend in London who is friends with Identikal, a pair of designers who have been extremely successful from type design apparently. So I was wondering what kind of promotion and marketing occurs, and whether it's best to submit to resellers also?

Would appreciate any comments from anyone, and thanks for your help above Stephen,
Alex.

Stephen Coles's picture

> What would you say was the best savvy business decision in order to make this a successful?

I'd need to see some of your type before I could give you a useful recommendation. Also, how much time are you willing to spend on marketing, customer support, and financial tasks? Are you willing to sacrifice a portion of your sales to be relieved of some of that work?

> So I was wondering what kind of promotion and marketing occurs

Examples: web marketing (a useful website, web ads, SEO, backlinks), print marketing (magazine ads, catalogs, reference material, mailers), PR, build a customer database, create convincing type samples and copy, get active in the type community, develop relationships with designers and agencies.

Sye's picture

Thanks Stephen for your wisdom, one day I hope to get some fonts out in the wild, so this is very helpful.

Cheers - sye :)

Quincunx's picture

Is that neat information Stephen posted already added to the wiki?

Stephen Coles's picture

A revised and expanded version of my post is now published at Typographica.

HaleyFiege's picture

That's a great post. Thanks Stephen.

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