Negotiating: You Don’t Have to Say Yes

Some of the writers I know say yes to everything their agent, editor or publisher asks.  In short order, they are unhappy because they feel like they’ve been taken advantage of.  Other writers, perhaps because they’ve seen this, say no.  Most of their publishing relationships are short term. I try to find middle ground, saying yes to some things and no to others.

If the question is about the manuscript itself, I try to always say yes.  That doesn’t mean that I make the requested change with no thought.  It is still my manuscript.  But if someone asks for a change so that the information will be more accessible to the reader?  I take a look at what they are asking.  If their solution doesn’t work, I look for one that will.

If someone asks me to make a change that will make something factually inaccurate, then I say no.

If the question involves money, again I take a look at what is being requested.  When my publisher offered me more for the same terms, I said “Yes, thank you!”  I have since discovered that very few people get that offer.  Why?  Because they say no so often that the relationship doesn’t last long enough to get a raise.

Another work for hire situation paid very little per piece but they were short enough that I could write several a day. The publisher bought enough that I could pay the phone bill every month.  I didn’t have many writing credits yet so this was a big deal.  But then the publisher came to all of us and said that she wasn’t making enough.  She wanted us to work for free.  Um. . . no.  You cannot tell me that you won’t get back to me for two weeks because you are going to your second home, this one in a vacation hot spot, and then ask me to work for free. She tried guilt.  Um, yeah.  You have two houses.  I did not change my answer.

If the point is to create a top-notch manuscript, look for a way to say yes.  You don’t have to compromise your artistic integrity but try to hear what is being said.

If the change is going to reduce your ability to pay your bills?  That’s a good time to say no.