Does accepting lower royalties undermine type designers?

danman's picture

The royalties that type web sites such as MyFonts, Fonts.com, FontShop and Veer offer are across the board. MyFonts offers a fair 65% by default, while others go down to 35%, and possibly lower.

Short-term self-interest would dictate that a designer or foundry should get onto as many sites as possible, at whatever royalty rate they offer. But, this would seem to be bad strategy for the type designer community in the long-term, because a type site that offers designers/foundries a higher royalty ends up at a financial and competitive disadvantage to a site that offers less. This is because they make far less money per sale. So, in the long run, the type sites offering designers and foundries the lower rates, are the ones who will survive and thrive, thereby undermining designers and foundries.

Over time, designers and foundries accepting lower rate therefore undermine their own financial self-interest, and that of the entire type designing community, by putting those offering them the highest royalties out of business, as higher-earning type sites are able to pay for the advertising and technology to grow their business at the expense of others.

So, my question is: do people agree? and do type sites offering lower royalties have any justification at all for their lower royalties other than pure economic selfishness? Do they offer anything that a site offering a higher royalty does not? And if indeed, accepting lower royalties is bad for designers and foundries, should designers and foundries band together to protect their interests?

blank's picture

As has been noted in other threads on this subject, royalties are more complicated than what the basic rate offers. For instance, if I sell through MyFonts I get a higher royalty than Fontshop, but if I sell through Fontshop I get the benefit of Fontshop’s international direct sale, international sales partnerships and the benefits of Fontshop’s international marketing. And some vendors might pay a lower royalty on their direct sales, but a much higher royalty on fonts re-sold through a third party. Finally, when working with a foundry that pays a lower royalty, one can often get help testing and finishing production on the font—specialized labor that their staff may do much more efficiently than a single designer working alone.

.00's picture

Finally, when working with a foundry that pays a lower royalty, one can often get help testing and finishing production on the font—specialized labor that their staff may do much more efficiently than a single designer working alone.

I see you've been drinking the kool-aid!

Stephen Coles's picture

danman - Here's what I know about a type designer's retail options.

Terminal James - I know you've got something useful to add. Let's hear it.

blank's picture

I see you’ve been drinking the kool-aid!

James, not all of us are old farts with decades of experience. When starting out it’s easy to miss design details, get diacritics wrong, miscalculate OS/2 and HHEA values, botch the naming, and so on. In my mind it’s worth giving up some money to have help from someone who knows what he is doing. That allows a designer to build a good reputation from the start, as opposed to being that guy who has to fix his fonts and post an updates every other time a customer finds problems. Were your first fonts perfect?

.00's picture

And I'm suppose to add something positive after being called an old fart?

Mr Puckett, if you don't know how to do all of that stuff you list, why not hire someone to advise you on it, or do it for you. Is that work worth giving away 50 or more percent on the royalties of the design?

Yes its easy to miss details when your new to this, but hammering away at it until you get it right does give you the experience to maybe do it a little better the next time. It is a process you know.

My fonts did not start out perfect, nor are they perfect today, not with "best practices" changing as new applications get released.

For my clients, I've looked at and fixed many others designers work over the years, and trust me, font quality and design reputation have nothing to do with one another. So don't be so afraid of updates, fonts are software, and all that software stuff has to get updated now and again.

I went the foundry route when I started, and release several designs through ITC. What a laugh riot that has been these last 15 years or so. Those 20% royalties (up from the 10% ITC used to pay) really add up to a revenue stream that just about feeds my cats. When you see 95 cents as your take on an individual font sale, you quickly realize that your well-being is far down the list of whoever is selling your work.

Selling licensing exclusively, on my own, pays me a respectable income, I know where every font goes, I have a personal relationship with most of the people who license my fonts, which allows me to be flexible and respond to their needs. Like adding additional glyphs, or allowing them to do things prohibited by our EULA.

I guess I'm different than most type designers in that I like doing business. Drawing type and making fonts is great, but so is negotiating a large enterprise license. And when that large enterprise license gets sold, I get the money. (my lawyer gets some as well).

Stephen Coles's picture

Great points, James M.

> ITC royalties ... really add up to a revenue stream that just about feeds my cats

10% is meager, especially with all the relicensing ITC did, but I'm sure you agree you're doing much better work now than you did then.

> Selling licensing exclusively, on my own, pays me a respectable income, I know where every font goes, I have a personal relationship with most of the people who license my fonts, which allows me to be flexible and respond to their needs.

That's the single best reason to go solo.

> I guess I’m different than most type designers in that I like doing business.

Exactly.

dezcom's picture

Some of us are just old farts without the decades of experience in type design :-)
I greatly admire James Montalbano's business practices and hope to some day be able to follow his lead (if I don't croak first :-)

ChrisL

Jos Buivenga's picture

The 65% of MyFonts is a DIY percentage, so you've got to be able to make your own (sales) traffic.

blank's picture

Jos, that’s true to a point, but putting a new font on MyFonts can drive traffic on no budget. There are designers who check the What’s New, Best Sellers, and Hot New Fonts lists every day and constantly buy new fonts from those lists to keep their work looking fresh.

Jos Buivenga's picture

Yes, true to the "What's New" point, but from then on it either has to be really wanted or you have to have sufficient leads to get into the other lists.

jlt's picture

Jos, MyFonts' quarterly In Your Face constantly profiled new additions (foundries & fonts) - and generated plenty of new sales with each issue. The new MyFonts blog aims to do exactly the same thing, but in a much more timely fashion.

Jos Buivenga's picture

I'm very thankful of the generous extra sales I made because of the MyFonts newsletters, but for (my) Museo being in the best sellers list for almost a year now isn't entirely because of the MyFonts newsletters.

aszszelp's picture

(tracking)

dezcom's picture

Jos,
I think it sells because it is a good face and people like it.

ChrisL

danman's picture

Outside of specific instances though, do fonts have significantly higher sales on sites other than MyFonts, in a way that would justify their much lower royalties? I can't imagine those sites are paying so much for promotion that they need all the extra revenue -- but are they? If they're not generating higher sales, does it even matter?

Will type designers drive themselves out of business by accepting whatever minimal royalty they're offered? Should designers decide on a baseline that they won't go under, and force other sites to raise their royalty payments or forego the newest, greatest fonts?

paragraph's picture

Jos, I can confirm Chris's comment: it is the quality and desirability, not the marketing. I have been following in your footsteps with giving freebies, alas, there are lots of takers for the freebies and only few payers :-(

Dan: the volume MyFonts generates for me with their generous split is far greater than all of the (unnamed) others.

Stephen Coles's picture

danman - Please have another look at my article. There are factors other than royalty percentage that distinguish distributors. Beyond marketing and promotion, each retailer has a different audience, sales/support staff, reputation, and policy for accepting and presenting fonts.

Jos Buivenga's picture

I think it sells because it is a good face and people like it.

(Thanks!) How much people like a face is I guess equally important as the buzz around it.

Jos, I can confirm Chris’s comment: it is the quality and desirability, not the marketing. I have been following in your footsteps with giving freebies, alas, there are lots of takers for the freebies and only few payers :-(

Don't underestimate the power of (good) marketing. Maybe we both share the same conversion on freeloaders, but I might draw 10 times as much people to MyFonts...

Quincunx's picture

(tracking)

Syndicate content Syndicate content