Writer’s Corner: How Does a Publishing Auction Work?

Writer’s Corner: How Does a Publishing Auction Work?

You may think there’s nothing more exciting for a writer than receiving an offer from a publisher for your book. What about multiple offers? That’s what a publishing auction is. More than one publishing company wants to buy your book and they’re willing to go to auction for it.

Publishing auctions are often managed by literary agents and each one approaches it slightly differently. One thing to keep in mind, no matter how your agent facilitates the auction, they are in it for their client. They are highly motivated to get the very best deal because that results in a happier client, bigger advance, and yes, better income for all parties involved.

A typical publishing auction takes place in one of three ways—Round Robin, Best Bids, and Face-to-Face.

Starting with the round robin, your literary agent will get notified of interest from several publishers. They then set a deadline for their offers to be received. Once they are all in, the lowest bidder will be granted an opportunity to beat the highest bidder or drop out of the auction. After that decision is made, the next lowest bidder gets the same opportunity, and so on. This continues until there is only one bid left—the highest bid.

The other commonly employed auction is best bids. Usually, limited to just a few publishers, the agent asks acquiring editors to have their best and final bids in by a certain date and time. At that time, written offers are reviewed by the agent with their client and, together, a decision is made.

A rare type of auction is the face-to-face. This is a unique process and usually takes place for authors with large platforms, like non-fiction or celebrities. As you can imagine, a face-to-face involves direct meetings with publishers, often with legal and literary representation accompanying the author. Imagine a mediation, live auction mash-up. If it happens for your book, rest assured they are serious enough about a book deal to pitch their offer in person.

Changes in the industry are rapid and unique ways of handling business blossom all the time.

And of course, there are risks involved. Publishers can pull out of the process when they decide they’re unable to meet demands. Or they simply change their mind. Also, when you participate in an auction you’ll never know if there is a better offer out there or one that will come along if you decide to wait. That is a huge gamble. Making any publisher wait is akin to asking your date to wait outside the restaurant while you run inside to look for a better option. Not a good practice.

Another important thing to keep in mind, auctions are not a guarantee that your manuscript will be a bestseller. Although a publisher, and you and your agent, have done the homework to ensure your book is unique and poised for “big” sales, it’s always a gamble. Reading tastes and trends shift constantly, and the competition is fierce, but if an auction is in play, odds are in your favor.

For more on auctions and a birds-eye-view from those who’ve participated in them, check out these links.

Even with these cautionary tales, I don’t want to detract from the wonderful opportunity presented to you, the author.

An auction for your book is nothing to sneeze at and often breeds a bigger income for the author. So, if your literary agent announces an auction for your book, jump for joy, do a happy dance, and celebrate with family and friends. You deserve it!

I hope this article provided you with a few applicable ideas. I would be honored if you shared this on social media. And speaking of sharing, please share your own ideas and experiences below. Together, we can build an uplifting community that focuses on supporting each other’s success.

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