Negotiating Tips for Writers

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By Gerry Paran, author of 33 Ways Not to Screw Up Negotiating

Negotiating is an important skill for people in all walks of life, not just for hostage negotiators, attorneys, organized labor officials, and diplomats. It is such an important skill that all humans are born with it.

Just think of babies and children. They are fearless, shameless negotiators. And do they get what they want? Most often they do. And as writers, it is also important for us to use negotiating skills to influence the behaviors of others to do what we want them to do.

As writers, we are negotiating all the time. You probably spend more time negotiating with yourself than you do with anyone else. You negotiate with yourself over word choice, content, formats, cover design, outlines, etc. Then you negotiate with your proofreader, editor, cover designer, publisher, publicist, distributor, bookstores, libraries, potential reviewers, the media, etc.

Most, if not all of these people will want you to do or not do something that is not your preference. So it is important to be willing to negotiate for what you want—even if you are not successful. But you will never be successful if you do not try. Therefore, I would like to offer you my thoughts on how you can prepare yourself to be a better negotiator.

Understand Your Value

If you do not calculate your true value, you will probably underestimate it. And when you underestimate your value, you will leave “money on the table” (lost value or value not gained that could have been achieved). Therefore, give serious consideration to your value.

When calculating your value, you do not necessarily need to arrive upon a single dollar amount. Value is more than just dollars and cents but it is often delivered in financial terms.

Ok, let’s list your assets. This will give you a good idea of how to value yourself.

Assets (in no particular order of importance)

  • Educational credentials: degrees, certificates, licenses
  • Professional and Military credentials: licenses, certificates, rank, professional memberships (American Bar Association, American Medical Association, etc.)
  • Number of publications: books, articles, peer-reviewed papers
  • Media: films, videos, photographs, podcasts, webinars, media appearances, documentaries
  • Number of years writing on a particular subject
  • Number of speaking engagements
  • Number of years of experience as a writer or as a practicing professional in a particular field
  • Number of awards, citations, commendations
  • Knowledge gained researching a particular subject
  • Your qualifications as a subject matter expert (SME): accomplishments, experiences, deliverables
  • Your network of SME’s or association to other important people
  • Proprietary methods / techniques developed, information collected, patents, trademarks,
  • Any other unique talents, skills, accomplishments, experiences, relationships, associations
  • Dollar value delivered by projects, training, consulting
  • Experience with equipment, vehicles, procedures, patients, clients, customers, suppliers, manufacturers, publishers, etc.

Negotiating can often be boiled down to trading: trading part of your value for part of another person’s value. So now that you have a better understanding of your value, you will be better prepared to trade.

Examples of Writers Negotiating

Trading your time for money: You agree to write something for a set fee (hourly, daily). You have no ownership in any of the IP you produce. So when setting your fee, you need to take into account all of your assets (above) and potential value of the IP you will produce but receive no share in.

Collaboration: You agree to write something, maintain ownership of the IP you produced, and obtain a share in the value of the deliverable: co-author status, portion of the royalties, media appearances, training rights, rights to use proprietary methods.

Barter: You discount your asking price in return for something of value the other person controls or can grant: prestige that comes along with working for the client, use of the client’s facilities / resources, permission to use the client’s name in advertising / promotion, experience you will gain by working on a particular project, delivering follow-on training and consulting, or an opportunity to visit a desirable location (with relief on some or all expenses).

Pro Tip: Quid Pro Quo

Politicians have given this term a bad name, but it is a very legitimate negotiating tool.

“If I do that for you; what will you do for me”? The exact words are not important, but the concept is. If someone asks you for something, it should always come at a price to them. This is an important tactic used by hostage negotiators.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Book by Milton Friedman, University of Chicago, Economics Faculty

Experiment with Negotiation

Consider how you could apply the above in the following situations.

  • You are asked to speak. The person / organization asking you to speak is unable or unwilling to pay your asking price. My first thought is: why should their inability or unwillingness to pay be my problem? But perhaps there are reasons you would very much like to speak to this audience.
  • You are eager to get your book reviewed by a particular person. The person is not opposed to giving you the review but does not seem motivated to do it. Using the above, in what ways might you entice him / her?
  • You would like to get your book placed into a particular bookstore. The owner is willing but says he will only take your book on consignment. What would be your response?

So fellow writers, achieve more of what you want out of your writing career by beginning with these simple tips. 

Read More from This Author

Gerry Parran is author of the book 33 Ways Not to Screw Up Negotiating. Find the book on Amazon.

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