12 Jul Game Design Lessons #16: Negotiating

I recently started reading a very interesting book called Secrets of Power Negotiators. Actually, at first the title put me off, as I’m not so all that interested in being a “power seller” or “power negotiator,” and it seemed just too… salesy.

But then I opened it.

Woah. A few things really came into focus for me, and I realised that this was one of the areas where I had been having the most trouble in creating my books and games.


You see, we are raised on a diet of not questioning prices. You go to a supermarket, and you pay the listed price. You go to the restaurant, and you pay what’s on the menu. You sure as heck don’t start haggling with the waitress! This is definitely a part of Australian culture too – generally we try not to make a fuss, and if we don’t like a place, or don’t like the deal we got, we shut up about it but don’t deal with them again.

The thing is though, many prices in business are entirely negotiable. House prices. Printing prices. Marketing prices. The prices of personal services. The prices of artists.

Of course, you don’t want to rip people off. One of the things I take pride in is that I pay my artists well for their services. But still, when it comes to the crunch, you actually need to negotiate better prices on many things. Being skilled at selling is also a form of negotiation: you want a blog, media site, or reviewer to take on your product and write a review or article… how do you get them to do it? Yes, this is a form of negotiation!

So there are a couple of simple rules I’ve learnt so far, both from personal experience and from this book:

1) Generally never accept the first price you are quoted. This is not always the case… but usually it is. For artists, writers, and other professionals, when you quote a price to someone, you’re hoping that they’ll accept that offer, and you actually should quote at the price that you really want to get. It’s the price that you think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if I got that price!”
I’ve often made mistakes on both sides of this. I have often accepted the first price I was quoted, and didn’t “haggle” over the price. Or I quoted a reasonable price straightaway – too reasonable, in fact. If someone accepts your offer straightaway, then you know that you’ve probably underquoted.

One of the people I have worked with was the best at selling his initial quote. When I asked him how much he usually charged he said, “If I told you, you would cry… so why don’t I give you this price instead?” And you know what, I was grateful to him. The brilliance of it was that he got me to accept readily, not haggle, and be grateful to him for his services – something that all artists, professionals and salesmen truly want. When you value your own services highly, and consider them worth much more than what you’re selling them for, then negotiating for rates becomes a whole lot easier!

Related:  "Infected!" Short Fiction - You Won't Believe The Ending!

2) Be willing to walk away.
If people aren’t willing to give you the terms you want, be willing to walk away. Or at the very least, make it look like you are! That enhances your bargaining position a lot. I have actually turned down the quotes of many of the artists and professionals I have queried – if they can’t do the rate I need the work at, then there’s no point carrying on the conversation. When negotiations stall, this is an Ace card – just be willing to end the whole thing and find someone else. Don’t feel that this is the only person who can do this work for you! Otherwise they can stick on their position and never budge… and you’ve then got no choice.

3) Always leave something in it for the other person.
This is something my grandfather used to say, and it is wisdom that bears repeating. Don’t go out to rip people off or chisel them down to slave wages. The respect, and even friendships, that I have forged with many my artists and professionals are relationships that I truly value – and this has only happened because both sides were honest, and wanted the other person to have a good deal. Hell, being understanding of people’s shortcomings can also go a long way in making other people appreciate what you do. So leave something in there for them – particularly if you want to work with them again!

Okay that’s my two cents worth. I’m sure there are many, many other lessons I could have touched on to do with negotiations. What do you think? What would you have added to this list?



Our book Infected! is now up on Drive Thru RPG for PDF delivery. Interested? Check it out!

Other Articles of Interest:

Game Design Lessons #15: Keeping Up Appearances

Tips for RPG Freelancers

Game Design Lessons #11: What My Cat Taught Me About Game Design

Game Design Lesson #9: Make This List

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