Submitting Action Figure Prototypes to a Toy Broker
Are you an inventor? Have you made action figure prototypes that you’re looking to sell to a big toy company? Learn from my experience and find out how you can find a toy broker to represent your product. I may also answer some of your questions in the following article.
I’m the creator of The Quest for Kimel Drago. The Quest for Kimel Drago is a sword and sorcery story based on fantasy not unlike Dungeons and Dragons or He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. In early 2017, I submitted my creation The Quest for Kimel Drago to a toy broker. Here’s my story.
What is a toy broker?
A toy broker is a middleman that has the connections to the big toy companies. They act as the bridge between you and toy companies. The idea is that if you have something they like, they’ll want to represent your product and submit your idea to the big toy companies. It’s the old school way of reaching a major toy company. Allow me to break down the process for you.
How it works
First, you have to find a toy broker. At the end of this article, you’ll find a list of active toy brokers. This is the somewhat shady part. They ask for a fee upfront just to look at your product. I’ve been down this route and I believe I paid just under $200 if I’m not mistaken. I’m going to keep the highly questionable identity of the toy broker I dealt with private. Before I sent the money, the people who ran it seemed extremely eager to work with me. Once they got the money, I feel they basically blew me off.
A few days after submitting my work, I got a call back from a person who wasn’t even the first person I pitched my idea to. This person said that they weren’t going to work with me at this time. I had my figures posted on a private website that someone needed a password to view. As far as I can tell from my Google Analytics account, no one from where their location looked at the website. In fact, no one did. What I found especially troublesome was that the person I spoke to thought my product was a board game and not an action figure play set. I asked this person if they even bothered to visit my website to which I got an, “of course I did!” reply.
Red flags and rip-offs?
Ultimately, there’s a pretty good chance that I got ripped off which is why their website URL isn’t mentioned here. Another red flag is that they only take money order or cashiers check. If they’re really interested in what you have to offer, you won’t need to pay them. Also, they take a large percentage of what you sell your idea for. This is a very old school approach and I wouldn’t pay anyone to look at my productions again.
A touch of reality
I did, however, talk to another person (for free) who owns a comic book/toy store. This person has been involved with the industry for over twenty years and he pointed out to me that it would be very expensive to get my prototypes made into action figures. He also said that a company would take a big risk in such a venture. He’s right on both accounts.
Anyone who was around back in the 1980s remembers dozens of failed action figure toy-lines like The Sectaurs for example. Also, the first line of He-Man figures was cleverly created in an extremely efficient way. Certain figures arms, legs, and bodies shared common ones with others. They just added a unique head and painted them different colors. For example, He-Man had the same body as Man-At-Arms. Stratos had the same body as Beastman and Skeletor and Merman shared the exact same body casts. They took it a step further with figures like Faker, Mossman, and Stinkor. Faker was He-man painted a different color. Mossman was actually Beastman while Stinkor was originally Merman.
A very clever idea that saved them a lot of money. The way I have my figures set up now, they all need their own unique body casts. Another thing to keep in mind is trends. Are sword and sorcery figures hot right now? While there’s always some market for it one must ask oneself if it’s the big thing. Are they what’s happening now? Not really. Dinosaurs are bigger than fantasy related action figures. Even after the highly successful Hobbit trilogy, sword and sorcery remain dormant. I think it’ll eventually make a comeback. Everything always does.
A word of encouragement
I’m not trying to discourage you from looking to sell your product. If you’re really serious about what you created don’t give up. You may have the door slammed in your face a dozen times before you get a bite. Whatever your idea is, keep at it. Keep improving it. Keep spreading the word. Don’t take no for an answer. Your determination is what will ultimately make you successful. No one’s going to throw a million dollars at you on your first try. That’s just show-business.
Copyright your material
I registered all the characters I created with the US Copyright Office. At the time that I submitted my characters, I paid $55 for an unlimited amount of names. Note that this is a copyright, not a patent. Getting your product patented costs more money. The US Copyright Office is a good place to start though and I suggest you register your product for your own protection. In my opinion, I’d worry about getting a patent when/if I started getting some serious bites.
Here are a few toy brokers that are active today. I haven’t dealt with any of them personally so I cannot guarantee that they’re not going to take your money and run. Ask lots of questions. While they may insist that sending them money upfront is the only way they’ll look at what you have, if they’re truly interested, they won’t need your $150-$200. After all, it’s your product and you’re the one potentially making them money. Why would you have to pay them such a fee upfront?
The future of my own creation
I’m really not sure what the next step is for The Quest of Kimel Drago. I know that my current leader of the “good guys” is totally boring. While I’m always inspired when it comes to creating monsters, I struggle with finding ideas for “good guy” warriors. The original concept consists of having a character for each medieval warrior located geographically. A Viking, a Nile warrior, a Roman soldier, etc. I still feel this is a good concept. Still, I’d like to work with someone else on the creative side of things, preferably locally. Of course, I understand that these days one can have a partner with anyone in the world thanks to the power of the internet. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.