3 Negotiating Tips for Writers

Listen to the Writer’s Market Podcast series. Each free episode includes a “Three Things” segment focused on helping writers find success with their writing. This one looks at three negotiating tips for writers.

(Click here to check out the podcast episode that includes these three things.)


Step one in negotiating a better contract, look at payment. This might seem pretty straightforward, but there are many things to consider here.

For instance, how much are you getting paid? Do you receive it all at once, or is it staggered into stages (like 1/3 of the payment as an advance, 1/3 on delivery of the manuscript, and the final third on publication? Is there a kill fee if they decide not to run the piece? Do you get any payment if the piece is reprinted?

All of these small details may affect not only how much you get paid but when you can reasonably expect that payment.


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Second, consider rights. In negotiations, rights are often as important as payment—if not more important. If you sell all rights, you’re essentially giving ownership of your writing to another party and will never have the ability to re-sell or re-use that writing again.

It might not seem like a big deal if you’re writing for a business, but it eliminates future revenue—so seriously consider whether to give up all rights to your work without getting a super nice payment in return. Most writers will sell one-time rights and/or first rights, but think about how to limit these to either first print rights, first online rights, and/or first North American rights.

Writers who keep more rights have more options available to them to monetize their writing.


Third, look for extra perks. Maybe an editor can’t give more money or rights, but maybe you can get extra contributor copies, a comp subscription to a magazine, or free admittance to an event hosted by the company.

Think outside the box for ways that you can get a little extra for your writing.


Regardless of what you negotiate, be sure to get it all in writing and in the contract. Otherwise, an editor or publisher may “forget” an informal agreement.

Professional writers should always negotiate on new assignments and wait for a contract before starting work. Such writers may or may not get what they request, but they set the tone for future rate increases, which should be the goal of any full-time writer.

Until next time, keep writing and marketing what you write.


robert-lee-brewer-featuredRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He edits the Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market books, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, maintains the Poetic Asides blog, co-hosts a podcast for writers with Brian A. Klems, speaks at conferences, leads online webinars and tutorials, and so much more.

Robert is also the author of Solving the World’s Problems, a poetry collection published by Press 53. A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, he’s been a featured poet across the country at poetry events in Austin, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, and more.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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