I can only give you my experience with one jewelry rep, but here
What do you find out before committing?
Like anybody you are going into business with you will want to
meet them, assess how long they have been in business, review the
work of the other artists they represent to see if you fit in,
get a list of references and check them out.
What kinds of promotional material do you provide?
My rep wanted my bio available on paper or cards that she could
pass out, my artists’ statement (fudged on that one, I did), and
a form with my name and address and terms of sale (net 30, FOB
shipment, return policies, etc). I think other artists’ of hers
also provided post cards, pictures of Mrs. Clinton in India
wearing their jewelry, etc.
And samples…the whole line?
It seemed to me that the rep doesn’t sell what she can’t show.
Now that doesn’t mean that if you are offering 6 different stones
on 10 different pins, that you need to give the rep 60 pieces,
but it would probably help. It’s like the time I fell in love
with a couch that had a high quality (read cost) fabric on it and
wanted the cheapest but I couldn’t visualize it. The store clerk
showed me another couch in paisley - I hated it. It was the same
couch. I ended up with the expensive fabric.
Should they be able to sell your line straight out of the catalog?
Don’t worry about fancy catalogs. Use a price list. The rep has
the pieces in her/his hand. I discovered, in fact, that if the
rep WORE it, it sold better.
For those who want to know: I don’t have a rep any more. What I
was selling with very inexpensive, bracelets $14 and up
wholesale. She replaced me with a jeweler who took found objects
and put them on premade chains and sold them for $90+ wholesale
and could make 4-8 per hour. This artist also had a following. My
price structure was designed to get me into some of the best
stores, and it worked beyond my worst nightmares. But 15% of not
much is even less and even a rep has to eat.