It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Nearly every copywriter I’ve ever spoken with has wanted to master this one aspect of the business: ROYALTIES!

If that’s you…  And specifically, if you want to know more about tracking royalties…  You’re going to love this issue.

This is a “Mailbox Monday” issue — which means this essay is a response to a reader question (copied below).

To have YOUR question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, simply hit reply, or send it to

Here’s the question all about tracking royalties…

Hello Roy,

I’ve been reading your material lately and enjoying it.

I’m looking for a specific answer to a question regarding a new client I possibly have.

The proposed project is a sequence of follow-up emails to sell his service. We agreed to a 3% royalty.

However, I need to know how to track email opt-in’s (more importantly sales).

I’ve read your articles on the subject of royalties and I do plan on having a clause that requires an audit, however, this client would like to keep our relationship transparent and would like to know how we can both see sales from emails.

Is there an article you can point me in the right direction or words of advice?



First: Congratulations!

You’ve found a client who values what we do as copywriters and marketing consultants — that is, to generate sales, as a salesperson would!

And because we fulfill that same fundamental need, just like a salesperson, we deserve to get paid on performance.  Which is where the whole subject of royalties come into play.

Let’s hit a couple principles first, because if the principles are in alignment, it makes everything else I will tell you regarding strategy, technique, and tactics fall into place too.  If you’re not aligned on principles, nothing else matters.

Principle 1: I’m assuming you got a good client to begin with…

I’ve said before and I’ll say again: The #1 factor when it comes to pay-for-performance success is working with a good client.  This is someone who is honest, ethical, and who values the relationship and will treat you well because of that.

I heard recently about a copywriter who was working with a client, and created a breakthrough Facebook campaign for that client.  What happened?  The client duplicated everything, shut down the original, told the copywriter they were stopping using it, and cut the copywriter off from future compensation.

No matter what you set up, if you deal with a scumbag like that, you will not get paid.

In fact, Gary Halbert once famously gave a rant in front of a roomful of potential clients about “The 10 Reasons Copywriters Don’t Get Paid.”  Every single one on the list was “Client Screws It Up.”

If you have a client who is going to screw it up, nothing I tell you in what follows will be useful.

Principle 2: Trust, but verify.

Although I’ve frequently mentioned the audit clause, I don’t use it myself.  The reason why is I work with A-list clients whose entire business is built on a relationship of trust with their copywriters.  Many of these businesses were built by copywriters.  If they screw over copywriters, their entire business smashes into a brick wall.

(As an aside, one A-list copywriter told me that if I recommended the audit clause to the kind of clients he and I work with, you’d be out the door so quickly it wouldn’t have time to hit you in the butt on your way out.)

However, if you are working with businesses that ARE NOT used to hiring copywriters, and that aren’t built by copywriters, I believe it’s prudent and smart business.

However, know this clause is like rose.  It’s very attractive, but thorny.  If your potential client is offended by it, you risk losing the deal.  So you have to be crystal clear about it.  Tell them you’ve never had to use it, and it’s simply to protect you in the rare instance that another client — surely not them — tries to abuse the relationship.  You don’t want to use it, you’re just protecting yourself for the rare scenario where you might actually need it.

Alongside this, any reporting should be secondary to a trusting relationship with the client.  Frankly, I don’t think twice about whether my royalties track every sale my copy made.  In fact, I know that digital tracking is really good, but it’s almost impossible for it to be perfect.

Rather, I trust that my clients will report to me any sale they believe should be reported.  And that’s good enough for both of us.

Side note: There’s an exceptionally good book on the psychology of poker, called Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.  I think of it here, because in poker, most players (including many pros) will work harder to get you to believe something that’s not true, than something that is true.  If someone is going out of their way to convince me that they’re going to report all my sales, it actually makes me trust them less, not more.  Food for thought.

With all that stated, the tech to track sales online and report it is widespread…

It’s hard to go into very many details here, because I really don’t know who your client is, what their systems look like, or anything like that.

However, most tech platforms have some kind of live sales reporting functionality.  And the client should be able to give you some kind of access to that.

Also, a lot of advertising platforms have their own tracking built in, that the client should be using to make sure they’re effectively spending their ad dollars.

So, for example, if they’re running Facebook ads to get email opt-ins and sales, Facebook can be setup to track that data.  Or, if they’re using AdWords, the same thing is true.

Some of these are limited in the time-frame they track, so it’s worth noting that if that’s what you’re basing it off of.  However, this is one option.  And by setting you up as a manager of the account on one of these platforms, you can see that data.

Alternately — and probably better — they should be able to give you some level of access to their ecommerce system, which will track sales.

And depending on where and how they’re setup, they could establish you as an “affiliate” in their system, and use your affiliate link in all the copy you write for them, which would give you access to performance data through their affiliate system (although it could disrupt or be disrupted by other affiliates’ tracking links).

My general preference is to get a sales report from the client, on whatever timeline we agree on, that tells me how many sales there were, how many refunds, and what the net revenue was on that.  If I’m more proactively in there, optimizing the campaign, there may be more data I want or need than that.  But in general, even this data sent in a printout with my royalty check is enough when I work with a good client I feel comfortable with.

What it all comes down to, is…

Online, everything can be tracked.  And there are a million tools out there to do so.

This is more about what integrates with your client’s current systems and processes.  I’ve only grown more adamant in my belief that you can’t change a client’s processes for them.  So if they didn’t track well enough to pay royalties beforehand, you’re probably not going to get them to do so in the long run.

If your client doesn’t know how to do this, it’s likely they’ll turn into a problem — whether they have any intentions of being a problem or not.

For some clients I’ve taken on, that’s been first a learning experience, then an acceptable risk (as my understanding grew).  Either way, I still haven’t figured out how to change behavior or processes completely.

It’s only when THEY are the ones initiating the change and really making it a priority (as all the A-list clients do) that it happens in an ideal way.

I know this probably isn’t the most heartening response to this enquiry, but it’s really the best advice I can give today…

Speaking of good advice…

I saw another review came in through Amazon on my book, The Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid.

(If you own it — whether you got it through Amazon or me — and you’d like to leave a review, you can do so by clicking here.)

The 5-star review, from Barry Sindlinger, says:

First MONEYMAKING book for wannabe Copywriters….

Fantastic clues, if not direct info…! Not so much on the components of masterful copywriting as much as master MONEY EARNING!

You can get the book free, if you pay shipping and handling, by clicking here.  For people in the U.S., the shipping is equal to the Kindle price on Amazon and less than the paperback price.  When you buy through me, you get the paperback plus ALL ebook versions.

You can also buy directly through Amazon here.  And if you buy the paperback through Amazon, MatchBook is setup so you get the Kindle version for free, too.

Either way, it’s a steal to get a ton of great “MONEY EARNING” advice for copywriters, in line with the royalties discussion above.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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