Should Graphic Designers be paid for reprints of past work?

Seeking “best practices” from experienced designers….

  • A design is completed for a direct mail sales piece.
  • The piece is printed, mailed, and used by the client.
  • The project is paid for and thus considered complete by the designer.
  • The client presumable gains sales due to the mailing.

  • The following year, the client reprints the same piece again,
    without any changes, and mails again.
  • The client presumably gains more sales due to the second mailing.
  • The designer receives nothing for this second mailing.

So my question is, should the designer be compensated in some manner for the reprint?

After all, if was a successful campaign when initially mailed. So successful that using it again is seen as having merit. The success is, at least in part, due to the designer’s work on the project.

I know copywriters traditionally tend to get a per-piece royalty on each printed piece. Usually a small number such as 0.01¢-0.05¢ per printed piece (which can add up). So if a piece is reprinted, the copywriter is eligible for those royalties again. I’m also aware, that in today’s world, even copywriters may be struggling to validate these royalties to clients unfamiliar with the traditional structure.

But.. designers really can’t gain clients with any sort of “royalty”. Merely using the word “royalty” in client conversations can ensure you do not gain the work, especially on something such as direct mail. At least that’s been my experience.

Is there merit to seeking a “reprint fee”?

Something such as a flat-fee paid each time a design is reprinted.
Not a “royalty” per say, but more of a reuse fee?

What I’m think is something like $500 for each time the piece is reprinted. So, the initial project may have cost something like $5,000, then the following year, the designer would be paid $500 when the piece is reprinted.
(Above uses random dollar amounts. not real dollar figures.)

I would, of course, disclose such fees prior to any work starting during contract negotiations. I am not considering some specific project after it has been created. I’m just presenting a broad, general, scenario here.

Anyone with any experience regarding this? Are there any recommended phrasing/arguments to persuade clients? Is there a solid basis for my thoughts on attempting to implement such a thing? Am I merely nuts and it’ll never work?

Of note: I am not thinking of this as an all encompassing “blanket” policy for everything I create. Certainly a client should never be charged by the designer for reprinting their business card, or stationary in general. As well as many items seen as necessary “to do business” such as general promotional items. Unless the designer is also subcontracting printing services. However, these items are typically much, much, smaller in terms of cost to print than what I’m considering.

I’m considering this for more (non-web) direct sales venues where perhaps 100,000 pieces are mailed and response rates offer direct quantification for how well a design works.

As an off-the-cuff example… a sales letter designed to get buyers to purchase lots of land. When that letter gets a response resulting in a purchase of land, the return the client sees is a direct result of the designer’s work. Wether that work was performed last month, last year, or last decade. If I were a salesman selling the land, I’d get a commission – I’m seeing a reprint fee as more of a small commission without any direct tie, in terms of dollars, to the revenue the sales piece may generate.


This could work, if its part of the original arrangement.

I’ve had my share of pieces that failed to get a decent ROI as well.

So, if this particular piece is so beautiful and successful, you’d like to have a recurring piece of it, but if other items are not so successful, will you be willing to offer discounts ?

I’d say while it does sound tempting to ask for reprint royalties (or bonuses), it is more on the unusual side.

Even if your design is so amazing and delivers a precise selling point, the client puts in internal resources into any kind of marketing effort. It is their employees who are burning time and getting paid for the campaign to work. That means phone calls, upfront payments, deliveries, distribution, taking the boxes from the car and moving them with the elevator, all of that back and forth which is done by them, not you.

The following year, the client reprints the same piece again, without any changes, and mails again.

Unless there was a specific agreement at the beginning of the contract for you to get paid reprint royalties, or provide limited usage, or be given shares in the company (which some companies actually do offer to their designers) I’m afraid they probably own what they pay for, with unlimited usage.

I know copywriters traditionally tend to get a per-piece royalty.

Probably some lucky few, with possibly a larger audience, but certainly not all of them. Look at this paragraph in that sourced article: “Are there other pay-for-performance arrangements?”

This sounds like a significant contract overall, so instead of focusing on recurring royalties for a specific item, which could be a sensitive, one-time only discussion, better focus on getting your overall rates higher with them, or be awarded some shares in the company if your work is that critical to their workflow (I’ve actually managed that with one of my clients and working on the second, similar situation).

Source : Link , Question Author : Scott , Answer Author : Lucian

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