Wondering how to negotiate pay in an interview or another type of hiring negotiation? Developing realistic salary expectations through careful research is a key aspect of the process. Here, we analyze a recent negotiation in the news for tips on how to negotiate pay.
An Ambitious Opening Gambit
Author Judy Blume’s writing has been beloved for more than half a century. Her books for children and teens, including the Fudge series, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Forever, have attracted fervent fans across generations, thanks in large part to Blume’s keen understanding of young people and their concerns.
But despite her enduring readership, Blume encountered obstacle after obstacle when trying to sell screen adaptations of her books to Hollywood. Meetings, scripts, and projects repeatedly fizzled out; communication breakdowns were common. The few productions that made it to TV and film failed to perform well.
In the years before the pandemic, Blume acquired a new agent, Jill Gillett, who was determined to change all that. Gillett made a “grand plan” tailor-made for the streaming era: “an entire collection on Netflix or Hulu dedicated to Ms. Blume’s vast bibliography,” Nicole Sperling reported in a New York Times profile of Blume.
“Everybody was interested; everybody wanted to do her works,” Gillett told the Times. And when decision-makers asked what kind of payment Blume was expecting, Gillett answered, “Millions, many millions of dollars.” The response was underwhelming: “It was crickets,” Gillett recounts. “I was way too lofty.”
A Piecemeal Approach
Realizing she had set her ambitions too high, Gillett scaled back and tried a new approach. Rather than aiming for an explosion of Judy Blume content, the effort became a “piecemeal enterprise,” the Times reports. “A passionate email here. A fortuitous meeting there.”
For decades, Blume had been reluctant to adapt her most beloved book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The story of sixth-grader Margaret Simon’s struggles with her faith and adolescence, the 1970 classic has been a touchstone for tween girls for decades. Blume clearly understood that if the book weren’t adapted properly, the film version could disappoint many.
But she decided the time had come after filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig sent her “an impassioned email” and visited Blume’s home in Key West., Fla., with veteran producer James L. Brooks, according to the Times. It surely helped Craig’s case that she had written and directed a critically acclaimed coming-of-age film about a teenage girl, The Edge of Seventeen.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Now the painstaking approach to dealmaking is bearing fruit. Craig’s version of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. as well as a documentary about the writer, Judy Blume Forever, were both released in April 2023 to critical and popular acclaim. Versions of Blume’s books Summer Sisters, Superfudge, and Forever are in the works as well. It seems the Judy Blume renaissance is upon us.
Blume, who is in her eighties, told the Times: “Somebody used to say to me, ‘Just wait till all these kids who grew up with you get to those positions of power in Hollywood—you will see. Of course, that is what happened. And I’m glad I’m still here to see it.”
How to Negotiate Pay in an Interview and Beyond
The recent negotiations to adapt Blume’s books offer lessons on how to negotiate pay in an interview as well as sales negotiations more generally.
First, the story reminds us that no matter how enthusiastic an employer or buyer is about you, your products, or your services, practical considerations weigh heavily on their minds. Hollywood dealmakers may have been excited about optioning Blume’s books because of their high quality and enduring popularity. At the same time, studios and streamers were reluctant to make a big financial gamble all at once. In business, a series of negotiations may be more appealing to buyers than one big deal, so consider breaking down your offer into smaller parts.
So, how to negotiate pay in an interview? Before making or responding to an offer, research what people with similar experience are being paid for similar work. In addition, look into the economic health of the organization and industry. Factor in the state of the overall economy as well. Although you might seem like the perfect candidate for a job, that doesn’t mean the employer will be ready to take a significant financial risk to hire you if times are tough or uncertain.
You can still aim for a salary at the high end of the typical range for your position. However, you should be prepared to negotiate not only on pay but also on other issues that matter to you and your prospective employer. By doing so, you can work toward ensuring that both sides are highly satisfied with the final agreement—and start your employment off on solid footing.
What other advice do you have on how to negotiate pay in an interview?