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5 Salary Negotiation Lessons From Amy Schumer

Topics: Negotiation

Unless you’re a huge standup comedy nerd – the kind who can justifiably brag that you’ve seen everyone “before they were cool” – you probably hadn’t heard of Amy Schumer as recently as five years ago. Today, Schumer’s everywhere, winning an Emmy for her sketch show Inside Amy Schumer and writing and starring in Trainwreck, which was directed by Judd Apatow. Oh, and also: she just negotiated an $8 to $10 million book deal, after canceling an earlier deal for $1 million – as Vulture put it, like a boss.

amy schumer 

(Photo Credit: Mario Santor/Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s what you can learn about salary negotiation from Amy Schumer:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Know your worth.

“I had a whole deal, but I decided to wait — I thought I would make more money if I waited,” Schumer told GQ in an interview earlier this summer, The New York Times reports.

In a world where women often report feeling uncomfortable negotiating salary, and where the gender wage gap is at least partly due to women choosing (or, at least, “choosing”) lower paying work, the simple act of standing up and saying, “This is what I’m worth,” is revolutionary. (To find out what the market will bear for your skills, check out PayScale’s Salary Survey.)

2. Timing is everything.

Schumer’s 2012 book deal with HarperCollins was for $500,000. Before she signed the contract, however, Inside Amy Schumer debuted, and a competing publisher offered her $1 million. HarperCollins upped its offer to match. But Schumer’s investment in her TV and film career meant a lack of time to work on the book. She canceled her contract, leaving herself free to accept the $8 million offer later on.

3. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you’re ready.

How did Schumer parlay that initial $500,000 offer into $1 million? By not signing her contract until she was good and ready.

Of course, it’s statistically unlikely that you’re a comedy sensation who has recently won an Emmy, so you don’t want to leave offers on the vine too long. But, don’t let people pressure you into signing something before you’ve had an opportunity to do your research and determine whether the offer is right for you.

4. Play bids off one another.

Everyone wants to date the prom queen or king, even long after high school is over, and that’s why it’s a good idea to keep looking for new job opportunities, even once you’re in the interview process with one employer. Play your cards right, and you could wind up in a bidding war.

This is especially useful if you’re a woman. One reason that women are afraid to negotiate salary is that there’s a social stigma against it. When a man asks for what he’s worth, he’s a hard-nosed negotiator; when a woman does it, she’s a word we can’t print on this blog.

Negotiating experts often advise women to tie their salary request to a communal benefit – showing, in other words, that the higher rate is good for everyone, not just for you. This is great advice, but it’s not the only way to go. If you’re sick of having to tiptoe around asking for what you’re worth, showing that someone else will pay is a great way to convince others to do the same.

5. Be professional, especially when you have to say no.

When Schumer decided not to go through with her first book project, she returned the advance – with interest. As a result, her first publisher lost nothing but the investment of some time, and came away with the chance to be gracious, which they took.

“Amy is driven, hysterical and really has her pulse on the culture,” said Michael Morrison, the president and publisher of HarperCollins, in an email with the Times. “She deserves all her success and is obviously smart; she knew that delaying her book would reap huge benefits when the time was right.”

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the best negotiating advice you’ve ever received? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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