Welcome to a new year of the Wednesday blog feature where we explore publishing law issues of interest to writers!
This year’s first series: The How-To’s of Contract Negotiation.
Two primary philosophies dominate negotiation theory. The first, called “Zero-Sum (Or Zero-Sum Game)” holds that in any negotiation, one person’s gains create equal losses for the other side. In simpler words: every time I “win” a negotiating point, my opponent loses something.
I’ve never liked Zero-Sum theory because it places a negative, often hostile (and always aggressive) spin on negotiations. Publishing, in particular, is a place where contract negotiations aim to create a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship – and that can prove difficult where the initial negotiations look and feel like a bloody war.
The alternative to Zero-Sum is Mutual Benefit Negotiation – the idea that, for any given contract, there is a place where both sides can maximize the benefits of and returns on a contractual relationship.
I’ve always preferred to negotiate from a mutual benefit perspective, and found it far more successful than the Zero-Sum approach. This is particularly true in publishing, where the parties are often negotiating contracts that last many years (and sometimes outlive the author).
Step 1 in the PubLaw approach is viewing negotiation as a process by which a publishing contract reaches a point of maximum mutual benefit.
You, the author, seek to maximize your returns on your work. The publisher also wants to maximize its returns.
Sometimes authors forget that those goals are not mutually exclusive. Without surrendering rights, or agreeing to terms that are less than fair, it’s important for authors to remember that the publisher’s goal is actually the same as the author’s – to sell as many copies of the author’s work as possible. Finding the right, mutually beneficial, set of contract terms is the first step in that all-important process.
What do you think of Mutual Benefit Negotiation as an alternative to Zero-Sum thinking? Do you use it in other parts of your life as well? If you have questions about this or other aspects of publishing law and negotiations, please ask in the comments – I love to hear from you!