The Simple Secret to Getting Royalties

One of first things that intrigued me about copywriting was the possibility of earning royalties. I figured I'd put in my time, build a nice track record, and then one magical day my work would be "worthy" of receiving royalties.

Now that I've quit my day job, the idea of receiving residual income sounds better than ever. So I started asking around to find out exactly how to go about making it happen. That's when I discovered this simple secret: The best way to secure royalties is to ask for them. That's what a lot of the pros do … Don Mahoney and Paul Hollingshead among them.

Simply say, "What's your budget for this project? Can we negotiate a royalty if you re-mail it after this initial test?"

Paul told me that most clients are happy to pay royalties on a strong package. (And he should know. It turns out that he's been getting royalties since day one!)

So even if you're just starting out, don't be shy about asking for royalties. After all, your track record, or lack thereof, shouldn't matter – a control is a control. And obtaining royalties can make a huge difference in your income if you get a few winners that keep mailing.

Let's say, for example, that your initial fee is $2,500 per letter (without a royalty). By producing two letters a month, you'll earn $60,000 in initial fees alone (that's $2,500 x 2 times a month x 12 months a year). Now let's look at what the royalties can do to your income …

No one has all their letters become controls (well … maybe one of the Masters might but let's just talk about us members). For us, one out of three isn't bad. But let's say you're starting out and only one out of every four letters you write becomes a control. That's 6 controls a year when you do the math.

If each of these controls gets mailed to just 500,000 names (some big direct marketers mail a control 1 to 3 million times a year but we'll start with 500,000), and you get a 2 cent royalty from every name that mails you'll earn an extra $60,000 (3,000,000 names x 2 cents). And that breaks your six-figure income goal for the year. And, that’s just print. Any E efforts will earn you more royalties.

But that's not to say that you should become so focused on royalties that you pass up projects that offer only a fixed fee. Master Copywriter Arthur Johnson recommends having a balanced portfolio – some fixed-fee jobs, some royalties. That's what AWAI Board Member Bob Bly does, too – he mixes it up.

No matter how you look at it, we're fortunate to be learning about royalties now. (Bob Bly didn't get paid royalties until he'd been in the business for 15 years. Why? He had never heard of them!)

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Published: December 16, 2002

1 Response to “The Simple Secret to Getting Royalties”

  1. Thanks Krista. Looking for any info on receiving royalties based on scripts that are written for web based content. The videos will fall into one of two categories: to drive people to visit a website to generate potential sales, or to used as content within the program itself, which members will pay a fee to gain access to. Hope to hear from you soon!

    Jon A

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