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Getting Paid a Percentage

Published by: David Garfinkel on 12-16-2019





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In the opening of the movie “Echo In the Canyon,” the late Tom Petty is showing Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob, a Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar. He plays about six chords, stops, and says, “You can’t afford the rest.” And laughs.

What’s underneath the joke is: They’re making a movie, and if he went much further, under music industry rules, the movie-makers would have to pay a large royalty for whatever song Petty was playing if it went on long enough.

It’s definitely a joke because there are many full songs throughout the movie, which I thought was excellent, by the way.

But it brings to mind an important question: What’s the story about royalties, or percentage-of-sales payments, for copywriters? We hear about them all the time but for most people, they’re a huge mystery.

I have some experience with percentage deals myself, and I have a lot of clients who do as well. So I thought we could take a deep dive into this topic today.

• What they are and how they work — or how they’re supposed to work (big picture)

• The publishing industry (includes film, TV, music, as well as books and newsletter publishers)

• Everyone else

• The type of client you want to do a percentage deal with

• The type of client you really DON’T want to do a percentage deal with

• The best type of client to do a percentage deal with

Some questions:

1. If it looks like a good deal, what’s a fair percentage to charge?

2. Does taking a percentage change your fee?

3. How do you know when you’re ready to do this?



Keywords: Copywriter Royalties

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