‘Your advance is not even a token advance… it’s… it’s…’ My negotiation partner at the other end of the telephone line is clearly lost for words. I let her search. ‘It’s an insult,’ she finally says, venting her indignation, barely able to contain herself. Then she falls silent.
‘I can see your point,’ I eventually respond. ‘But unfortunately I can’t go higher. I never offer more money.’ Then I calmly explain that what Peirene and I offer authors instead is a unique tailor-made PR and marketing service. We only publish three books a year. We even hand sell the books outside supermarkets. In a nutshell, we ensure our authors and their books are noticed by the English public.
My negotiation partner is still unhappy. ‘I have to pass this on to my management team. This has never happened before.’
As I put down the phone, I decide to abandon the book – even though the title fits perfectly into Peirene’s 2015 programme. But I’ve tried my best. This has been my third phone call. The negotiations started six weeks ago at the end of November. Time rushes on. I need to finalise my 2015 programme. I will make an offer for the next book on my list.
I have lost deals before. Because, lets face it, my advances make no one jump with joy.
Two days later I receive an email. ‘We are delighted to accept your offer.’
‘High five!’ The Nymph holds out her palm to me. I slap her hand. ‘Thank you.’ I smile. ‘That was lucky.’
Peirene shakes her head. ‘That wasn’t luck. You negotiated brilliantly. You are now confident in what we offer our authors and what we achieve for them. You are willing to explain and persuade and you are calm. But you are firm on our financial limits. And you no longer take these negotiations personally. That’s a powerful combination. Well done!’
For a moment I am speechless.
‘Peirene, are you ok?’ I eventually ask.
‘You don’t usually pay me such compliments.’
‘Pay you compliments? Well sometimes I do, but this time I think it’s the Ancient Greek mentoring that deserves the credit,’ she says, walking back to her desk.
Two minutes later an email drops into my inbox. From Peirene. I open it. She’s wondering if she can buy herself a new dress with the money we have just saved. I email back: ‘I am delighted you like to work more hours on the stall to earn some extra cash for a new dress.’ I press the send button.
‘That’s not what I meant, ‘she pulls a face.
‘I know,’ I reply. ‘But that’s how I spend the money we save on the advances. More hands on the stalls to ensure the books receive the attention they deserve.’
Image by Don J Schulte.