Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The art of negotiation

Spring Fair on Sunday was fabulous. My stall, which specialised with romance novels only ( I was selling my romance novel collection from childhood, so it was A LOT of books,) was set up by 08h30 in the morning, though the fair was only scheduled to start at 09h30.

So I was able to get business from some early birds, which helped put me in a positive mood. Business was brisk for the rest of the day and I got to hang out with friends attending the fair, make some new friends, chat about books and make good money. Here are some of the things I learnt from selling books at the Spring Fair:

1. Romance novels are still as popular as ever - Yes, there were people who wrinkled their noses when they realised I only carried romance novels. And I did have a big sign stating that so that those who weren't interested in that genre shouldn't even bother stopping.  did. But those who stopped to look bought lots of books. For the most part, they knew what authors they liked and some had author collections and were looking to fill some gaps.

2. Hard-selling was not necessary. Most of the customers loved talking about books, so we had lots to chat about and I didn't actually have to sell to them: either I had what they wanted to buy or I didn't. Also, their decision to buy was based more on how many books the money they had could get them, rather than trying to get as cheap a price as possible for a book.

3. Lotsa men buy romance novels. Many said it was for their wives or girlfriends. But I did wonder if they also read them?

4. I learnt a harsh lesson about the art of negotiation. I had a couple of second-hand book store owners stop at my stall. One was very friendly and probably just checking out the competition. The other one, who was with his wife and some friends, I'm not so sure about. At first we joked and laughed and they looked at my books and selected what they wanted. He wanted me to give him a flat price without my actually adding up the original prices of the books. I was very friendly then because I thought he was still joking around. Eventually I got the books from him, and the price he was asking was not even the value of one book ( he was taking 4).

So I said a friendly no and informed him I would be happy to give him a 50% discount. Which is very substantial. But he insisted on his own figure. Eventually he said he's walk away unless I gave him the price he was asking for. I told him that the books were mine to sell or keep and I was under no pressure to sell to him. So he put the books down, took for 5 more books ( from the el cheapo basket) and insisted I give him the 50% discount which I'd initially offered (the original books were excellent quality and from the more expensive portion of my collection. Hence my willingness to negotiate.)

By then I was so disenchanted with him I gave him the 50% discount so he'd just go. Losing R10 to him was no great loss to me. He's what I learnt from negotiation from this man and his wife ( who condescendingly offered me "free advice" and told me my books were not good quality, were dirty and I should price them at less than half the price they were): it's great to bargain for the lowest price you can get, but don't push the seller so much that they feel you look down on them/you're trying to cheat them/they'll end up feeling that they got the slimy end of the bargain. Push enough to get a good price, but still leave them happy with the deal. Because if the seller feels like you're trying to take advantage, negotiations end.

In the case of the bookseller, I decided to take my chances with the romance readers, who interestingly enough, were happy to pay my prices and to call their friends and even mothers in laws and sisters in law to invite them to my stall.

The bookseller also invited me to bring more of my romance novels to his store, which I didn't know about, to sell to him. Not a chance! Better yet, I'm not even going to be buying from that store, or telling my friends about it, because if the way he tried to negotiate with me is any indication, he's not someone I want to do business with.

I think this very same negotiation principle applies to my writing work as well. I'll negotiate my writing fee with a client so that they get the best possible price and I get enough value for my work. But I will not allow myself to be bludgeoned into slave wages. And if the prospective client can get the quality of work they need from someone who is prepared to take the slave wages, then I wish them all the best.

So how's the week so far? What do you hope to accomplish?


po said...

I find this very fascinating because this is the way book selling used to work, in the way I was familiar with, until Amazon became huge in the UK. Nowadays second hand book selling in that format doesn't really work in the UK, but I do sell my stuff online and sometimes can make a pound or two. It's kind of cool that SA still operates that way because there are better opportunities for sellers! For now anyway.

Tamara said...

Good for you for sticking to your guns!

Pamela said...

He sounds like a bit of a slimy character. Thanks for the negotiation advice - I'm not great at it but I'm learning! I hate haggling and would just rather leave if I can't afford the asking price.

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