Real life negotiations

Talk about talk

THIS column, which may become a regular feature in the spirit of The Rate for the Job, will relate true stories of individual negotiations on fees, rights and so on. The idea is to illustrate how-to, how-not-to, and funny things that happened on the way to the bank. Please send your contributions to the Freelance: your anonymity is guaranteed, unless you sign your email in blood to say otherwise.


In January I wrote a feature for a "customer magazine" owned by a car company. It paid well - about £400 for a thousand words - but when they sent me an all-rights contract I deleted the offensive clauses and inserted "one use only". I called the editor to explain why, too. She was fine about it, partly because the rights grab was pointless because she didn't foresee another use for the piece.

A couple of months later, however, she rang me back: "Guess what! The company want to put your article on the website. So how much do you want for a web license?"

I was so surprised - and, frankly, inexperienced at negotiating web rates - that I broke my rule about always getting the client to name a price first to avoid underbidding. The comic botch went like this:
Me: Oh. Er. I dunno. Fifty quid?
Ed: Well. You should ask for more next time. I would have paid you twice that.
Me: Bother. But it's OK, you can pay me a hundred, I won't stand in your way.
Ed: In the circumstances, it's a deal.
Exeunt both, laughing.

Moral: We must never undervalue our copyright. And never say a price first. Most editors aren't that amiable.

Jul/Aug 1999
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