Originally published on Advisor Perspectives
Fees are the easiest way to lose a prospect. But high fees aren’t necessarily the turn off. It’s how you broach the subject of fees with a prospect that has the potential to lose you business.
I learned this from my experience with prospective book editors.
I don’t find writing lonely, but it can be insular. I’m working on a new book (Ask: Be Liked. Be Loved. Be Better). It’s a self-help book for the general public, unrelated to investing, and based on the research in my Smartest Sales book.
With non-fiction books, if you want to be traditionally published, you need to prepare an extensive book proposal, which is then submitted to publishers and literary agents. The book proposal makes or breaks the deal. Either it persuades them to take you on or it doesn’t.
Because this is unfamiliar territory, I thought it best to have my proposal reviewed by an experienced developmental editor. I posted a job opening on the site for editorial freelancers and was surprised by the quality and number (over 40) of the replies.
Because this was an important decision, I carefully reviewed all the responses. You may be able to benefit from the factors that informed my decision.
Premature discussion of fees
I was concerned about fees, much the way fees are on the mind of your prospects. The premature discussion of fees is a major negative. The more fee detail provided, the more of a turn-off it was.
The discussion of fees ranged from simply giving me a range, to one notable response that stipulated half her fee was payable “upfront and is non-refundable.”This focus on fees struck me as putting the cart before the horse. If they knew the research underlying The Solin Process℠, there would have been no mention of fees in their initial response. Here’s how someone who understood basic principles of psychology and neuroscience would have responded:
Can you tell me more about your book? Why are you writing it? Who is your demographic? Will it be self-published or traditionally published? What are you looking for in a developmental editor?
Would it make sense for us to have a brief conversation to discuss these and other issues on your mind so that we can be comfortable we are a fit?
These questions reflect an interest in me and my book – not a focus on them and their concerns.
I can understand the preoccupation with fees. They wanted to know if I could afford their services. They assumed fees were a major issue with me. But that assumption was incorrect. My primary concern was whether I could work with them, and trust them and how they could improve my work-product.
The relationship between an editor and author, like the relationship between you and your clients, is based on trust. With the exception of one editor – the one I retained – all of the finalists had agreements they required me to sign.
These agreements were drafted to protect them and were very one-sided. I recall one that provided for disputes to be resolved in a court in a rural community in New England. I told each person who sent me an agreement that I wouldn’t sign it without significant revisions.
Before I could have further discussions, I was approached by the person I eventually retained.
When I told him it was unlikely I would sign his standard agreement, here’s what he wrote me:
You are trusting me with a very important project. I trust you to pay me my agreed-upon fee and I confirm that my fee is the only compensation I’ll ever seek from you. I don’t need an agreement.
Within five minutes of receiving that e-mail, I hired him.
You have to demonstrate trust if you want others to trust you.