Recently when I was invited overseas to do a tour and while in negotiations with the hosts, this phrase occurred to me, “it should hurt a little…”. It was in reference to the whole process of negotiation.

Whenever you’re in the process of negotiation, there is ALWAYS give and take.

When I was younger, omigosh, I had no idea how to negotiate. I’m sure there were times when I came across as way too desperate. And I wonder if that’s not the case with most people.

Negotiation is a form of its less respected cousin haggling. You think of haggling when you’re on a street market in Pakistan or Mexico, you don’t think haggling has any place in ‘modern respected’ society.


Especially in the arts field, haggling is alive and well!

And it occurs to me that the end result of any negotiation is that ‘it should hurt a little’, on BOTH sides!

If one side is sitting pretty and completely contented–then you can bet that someone’s getting played.

It is NOT a good idea for ANYONE to get played, not even when the deal is to your advantage!

Know why?

Because people talk!

If someone has negotiated themselves a cream puff deal and then don’t live up to the hype, the people who paid the terms will do so grudgingly!

And they will grumble.

And in the long term it will bite  you in the behind.

Because when organizations are planning events and your name comes up, because of that whole six degrees of separation thing–someone’s bound to know that establishment that feels had, and they will say, ‘she’s not worth the price’.

Honestly there’ve been times when I’ve preferred receiving a lower price for a presentation because it means I can trot out something tried and true and not have to develop something specific for that occasion and risk not living up to the hype.

That’s when you’ve gotten to the point where you, yourself, value your own time and energy.

On the other hand, if you play it too easy, you’ll also get bitten in the behind. Because not charging enough shows that you don’t respect your work and no matter how good you are, you will be dismissed.

There’s a really good line in that Adam Sandler movie Spanglish when Flor is asked what she wants to get paid. First she quotes an exhorbitant amount, then she quotes something reasonable–even though it’s way more than she would have been willing to work for.

You don’t want to close the door to opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to feel used after you’ve done a gig.

In terms of international presentations the rules are very different!

If you’re going to the U.S. if you don’t charge a minimum of $1000 per day, they’ll think you’re worthless. Not sure if that’s changed recently, what with the recession and all,  but I know it’s been true for a while. Many authors charge way more! My bench mark is $300 for an hour presentation. That’s a fee where ‘it hurts a little’ but I still feel good. (By the way, for a keynote charge way more!)

You can’t get away with that in other countries.

And there you have to weigh how much you want to do the gig, what it will mean in terms of international exposure, do you have books to promote in that language, what kind of experience will it give you and…how good will it look on your resume–before you decide to commit or not.

Even then, when they offer you terms…always ask for something more.

It should ‘hurt’ them a little too. They should want you enough to be willing to give out a little extra–and that doesn’t necessarily mean money, but just better terms.

In the end, you want to be in a position where you’re GLAD you did the gig, it made you GROW as an artist and you don’t feel bitter or used in any way.

And even if you decided to be charitable and you gave your time for free, you know for sure that they valued your services.

That’s why I say even to Muslim schools–pay what you can.