[insert goofy batman reference here]

OK, we’ve talked interests, we’ve talked goal setting, we’ve talked about various ways in which to communicate when negotiating, but we haven’t talked BATNA.

No, that wasn’t an accidental spasm on my keyboard.  That was BATNA.

Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement

Your BATNA is what you use to determine if it’s better to keep negotiating or walk away.

“Wait! Katie, you mean all this time there was something out there that I could use to determine if a deal was in my best interest, without guessing or blowing that $100 on the Precious Purple Psychic??!”

Yes, my friends. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Once you get over the business-speakiness of it, BATNA is exactly what it looks like it is. It is your very best option should the negotiation you’re engaged in go sideways and fall apart.

It is your escape hatch, allowing you to exit unproductive situations and still emerge victorious.

There are a couple of rules about BATNAs:

  1. Your BATNA can’t be dependent on someone else doing something. We are going for an independent, All On My Own, I Will Survive, BATNA, here, folks. All inchoate alternatives need not apply.
  2. Your BATNA should be something you’d actually want to do. It is the BEST alternative, after all. If you pick any old alternative and then have to use it, you’ll be frustrated and annoyed. Thus completely defeating the purpose.
  3. Your BATNA should directly support your goals.  Because what the heck is the point of working for something else?

Got it?

So remember that homework I gave you about writing out your goals?  This is where it becomes extremely, strategically important.  BATNAs are not necessarily self-evident; they do require a bit of work to uncover.

You need to clearly identify (1) your goals, (2) your interests in the negotiation and (3) your best outcome to the negotiation.  And when I say “clearly articulate” I mean, “write it out.”

Sheet of paper: on the tippity top write your goal.  Underneath it and to the left is your Best Outcome.  Directly across from your outcome we’ll stick the BATNA; leave it blank until you figure it out, but save some room.  Underneath your outcome and your BATNA list all of your interests.

Batman’s sheet might look a wee bit like:


Now the fun part: I’m going to give you a hypothetical situation and I want you to identify what the BATNA is.

Remember, it’s something you can do without having to get another party to negotiate with you (accept things as is, fine; negotiate, no); it’s something that you’d be OK doing if you had to; and it’s something that supports your goal.

Pens and paper ready?  Go:

Soooo, let’s say you’re self-publishing some of your work and you want to have the book ready by April for a series of cons you’re signed up for.  You’d like it to look professional and be affordable, but mostly, you need it to be ready by April.  You’re also pretty busy with other work right now and don’t have a ton of time to mess around with this.

You have three printer choices.  Two of them quoted you prices more than you’d really like to pay; one of the two will require you to raise the price of the book, the other will not.  Both of the high cost printers can get the book back to you well before your deadline.

The third printer has a great price but the administrative brough-haha is so convoluted that there is a very real chance the book won’t be ready by your deadline.

All three of them will happily sign you on as a client if you fully accept their terms.

You want to negotiate a firm deadline with the third printer without raising the price, and would really prefer not having to go through the administrative mess that isn’t relevant to you.  You have a phone call tomorrow morning to begin the negotiations and want to figure out what your BATNA is tonight.

Regardless of the final printer you choose, you must make a decision and get the ball rolling in the next week; you have a handful of business trips the following week and you won’t be able to address the finer details of setting up your account while you’re traveling.

A recap of your options:

1)  the expensive printer whose cost won’t make you raise the book price

2)  the expensive printer whose cost WILL make you raise the book price

3)  a life of crime

So, riddle me this:  which one do you think is your BATNA?

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