Last week I received an email from an editor of a glossy magazine based in the U.S. Not the A-list, but not the C-list either.
The editor wanted me to write a feature, about 1,800 words, a company profile. The fee was half of what I normally receive for magazine work. So I told the editor what my normal rate was, and that I would lose money writing the feature at the fee offered. (I do a lot of consulting and copywriting these days, so I’ve developed a nasty habit of calculating projects at an hourly rate.)
In my email, I asked the editor if there was room to negotiate. Instead of emailing me back with a counter-offer, the editor asked “What number would work for you?”
My answer was double the fee I was offered.
The editor then emailed back to say my fee was too steep and explained that the magazine is “a very small family-run indie magazine … that carries very little advertising.”
What’s curious to me is why the editor didn’t say that earlier in the process. Perhaps the editor was hoping my counter-offer would be within their budget. Perhaps the editor is bad at negotiating. But what if the editor had responded to my overtures to negotiate with the following:
“Hi Ryan. The most I can offer is $HighNumberThanFirstNumber. I’d like to offer more, but we’re a small indie magazine without a lot of advertising. Let me know if you can make that number work.”
I’m willing to bet that kind of transparency would have made me far more likely to say yes.