Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Power of Minnesota Nice

Minnesotans are known to be the nicest people in America, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a native Minnesotan and bleed Vikings purple during football season. No, I’m saying that because it’s true. Really, I’ve read it in articles and seen it on TV so it must be true.

Minnesota Nice is truly a big part of who I am and who I always want to be. Even while living in Brooklyn and adopting some really great strategies for sticky situations or sidewalk arguments (and I’ve had some doozies), I’ve always held on to that Minnesota girl. Well, recently that girl came out again when I received an email from the head of contracts at one of the publishers I deal with thanking me for being so nice during contract negotiations. We had gone back and forth for more than a couple of weeks on things and finally we were able to settle on points that made us both happy and built a much stronger contract for my client. Ironically, an editor at that same house said almost the exact thing to me earlier this year. It really makes you wonder what other agents are doing.

But I digress . . . upon receiving her email I jokingly replied that next time I would try harder to make her life miserable. Her reply? She knew that would never be the case, which is why I always got my contracts so quickly. Not all agents are as lucky.

Minnesota Nice rules again!

In this business, and in all business, it never hurts to be nice, or at least polite. I’ve shown it numerous times through my “author beware” posts. It is very possible to be a bestselling author, tough businessperson, and successful negotiator and still retain your niceness. And it amazes me how many people don’t realize that. Remember, I used to be on the other side of the table. I was an editor for more than five years and I saw a spectrum of negotiation techniques. Never did the nasty agents or the whiney agents get what they wanted from me. No, sometimes I held back simply out of irritation. The agents who always got the better deals, the fastest contracts, and the smoothest negotiations were the ones who knew and respected that I was doing my job, just as I knew and respected that they were doing theirs.

And now that I sit on this side of the table the nice still rules. The editors who receive my best projects and first looks are those I know are nice, respectful, good editors, and strong author advocates. They are the editors who take the time to answer emails and make my authors feel special and they are the editors who negotiate fairly and respectfully.

In this business especially, personality matters, and while I remind authors all the time not to burn bridges, the same can be true of editors and agents. Nice and strong can actually be used in the same sentence.