I may tell you to work with another professional for a service I don’t offer. Sometimes I get paid a bounty for this. Here’s why I always disclose those payments.
When an author comes to me, sometimes I can help them, sometime I can’t. They might need a different kind of editor, an illustrator, a cover designer, a hybrid publisher, a ghostwriter, a publicist, or an agent. I love referring people to other professionals who can help — it feels good, it helps them succeed, and it creates business for other professionals who I respect.
I have one principle: I will match you to the best person for you.
Of course, sometimes I get paid a bounty, too.
How does this happen?
It happens because I recommended these professionals enough times — based on exclusively on their expertise — that they wanted to confirm that relationship and thank me. I didn’t ask for the bounty. And believe me, if they ever let down an author I’ve referred, I’ll stop referring people to them.
Since my referrals are based exclusively on my judgment about what’s best, why disclose the bounty? After all, it doesn’t influence my recommendation or the quality of the work the professional will do for the author.
I disclose the bounty because I don’t want that author coming back to me and saying, “I thought that was an honest recommendation — now I can’t trust you any more!”
My integrity requires that I disclose the payment. Not only that, I believe it’s better for the professional receiving the business. The last thing I want is for that author to be unaware that a secret payment has changed hands, a payment that makes them suspect both me and of the person to whom I’ve referred them.
Secret payments have a way of coming back to bite people. And my integrity is worth more than any bounty payment.
When you get referred, you should ask about bounties
When an acquaintance refers you to another professional, don’t assume it’s free.
Ask the person who’s providing the referral if there’s a bounty. Then listen closely to the answer.
If there is a payment, do you still trust the referral?
Do they recommend any alternate providers from which they don’t get bounties, or is this the only one they believe in?
A bounty shouldn’t put you off the potential of working with the other professional. But when you’re making that decision, it’s better to know about the payment than to find out later and feel you got deceived.