How Good Are You at Negotiating?

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

Do you realize how often you negotiate in any given day? It happens at the dinner table when children don’t want to eat their vegetables. When your teen wants to borrow the family car. When you and a friend decide which movie to go see. Little did you know these situations that go unnoticed most of the time have been preparing you for entrée into the world of publishing negotiation.

First, you negotiate with your agent about defining your brand and the direction of your writing career. This should be the easiest environment to Negotiation1handle because she is your champion. She wouldn’t have taken you on as a client if she weren’t committed to your success. It’s the mutual win-win.

A contract offer presents another season of negotiation. I advise you not to do this one yourself. Most agents love to receive queries from writers who have an offer in hand. Why is it so important to have an agent negotiate your agreement? Because even the best publishing contracts will naturally be slanted to benefit the publisher’s interests. One little word or phrase can drastically alter the meaning of a clause. Your agent is experienced and will represent your best interests. Your intellectual property and your career are at stake.

Once your contract is signed and your manuscript has been delivered to the publisher, you’ll be negotiating with the editor on changes to your work. Your initial approach should be to acknowledge that he or she is the professional and also is working to bring your manuscript to the publisher’s standards. In other words, the editor is working hard to make your book a success.

There are times, though, when you won’t see eye to eye. For instance you may feel strongly about retaining the portion that the editor wants to take out. You’ll need to draw on your negotiation skills in order to work through to an acceptable solution for both of you. But if it isn’t going well, don’t risk damaging your relationship and earning “difficult author” status. It could ruin your chances of getting another contract—anywhere. Editors talk among themselves across publishing lines. Instead, bring your agent in to negotiate a reasonable solution.

The same advice applies with regard to your cover. I always negotiate to include a phrase in my clients’ contracts allowing them input on the cover design. Why is this so important? Because covers sell books. Always show the proposed cover to your agent. He or she will be able to offer market savvy feedback and intercede for a better cover, if necessary.

Negotiating skills will be needed when you interact with your marketing team too. Remember those items you listed in the marketing section of your proposal? Your publisher will expect you to follow through on them. It’s no secret that most of the marketing of your book will fall to you, the author. But there are some things you might be able to request that your publisher do for you. For example, they might be willing to provide bookmarks for you to send out. Or they might be willing to provide extra free copies of your book for a promotion you’re running.

Two tips for learning successful negotiation

  • Pay attention to all the times you negotiate each day. Note if your attitude going into it was amenable, not stubborn.
  • Analyze your successes and failures. What did you do or say that made for a successful resolution?

It’s helpful practice, and the learning experience will prepare you for when your author stakes are high.

Are you comfortable in negotiating situations? Why or why not? What did you learn about successful negotiating from the times it went well for you?

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Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

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But you can avoid DOA titles by keeping these  3 principles in mind:

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