The limits of negotiation
A few months ago, a client for whom I'd ghostwritten a book contacted me with an offer to write the next three books in his serial. This client had proven a challenge to educate as to what is and is not involved in ghostwriting. He wanted to negotiate a lower, bulk rate under contract for the next three books.
My rate had increased since signing the contract for the first book. I declined and responded with a counteroffer to write the second book in the serial at the same rate as the first, but stated the third and fourth books would be negotiated at the then-current rate if he wished me to ghostwrite them. He expressed concern at my unwillingness to "add value" and accept a lower overall per-word rate.
Truthfully, I thought I'd heard the last from him.
Surprise! Last week he contacted me, stating he wanted me to write the next installment. He offered a compliment: "The reviews for Volume One have been positive, so I feel good about completing the story." I went to the book's page on Amazon and read the reviews: really they're quite flattering and complimentary of the writing. Then he lowered the boom: "I can only pay you in $100 installments every 2 weeks. Instead of stopping work, I would like for you to work on the chapters back to back and just retain ownership of the writing until I have paid off the balance."
Okay, I replied, we can do that. I would retain ownership of the content until the project fee was paid in full. Only then would he receive delivery of the document and transfer of the copyright. I also specified the limits of service: drafting, one round of revision, and a final round of review and approval. After approval, my obligation is finished. Any errors or issues with the content are then his problem, not mine. I drafted a new contract and sent it to him.
This morning he wanted to lower the overall fee: "I have few chapters that are close to completion that would just need some editing and proofreading service. Can we negotiate a flat fee for this?" Again, I declined. His writing style does not match mine, and editing will not mesh them into a cohesive narrative. Readers will notice the egregious and glaring difference between his prose and mine. If he wants me to write the story, then I write the entire story. Besides, if the client writes well, why hire a ghostwriter?
I am quickly reaching the limits of my patience. Let me say this one more time: when you hire a consultant or freelancer, you do so because you have confidence in that person's expertise to perform a task that you either have not the skill or time to do yourself. Respect that contractor's expertise. A little respect goes a long way.
In other words, if a contractor doesn't value the service he or she provides, then clients most certainly won't. Hold your ground, assert your value, and don't accept insulting offers.
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