What Is an Auction (Book Bidding) in Publishing

Glossary > Auction (Book Bidding)

💬 Definition of Auction (Book Bidding):

An auction, or book bidding war, is a competitive battle between publishing houses to own the rights to publish a book. This is a dream situation for authors and can happen if multiple publishers believe a particular manuscript can generate commercial success. 

Publishing houses submit offers containing various terms to be considered and reviewed by authors and their agents, such as an increased book advance, a possible negotiation on royalties, and enhanced distribution strategies. 

Related questions about an auction:

When does book bidding occur?

Usually, the literary agent (or, less often, an author) sends the manuscript to publishing houses. Sometimes, two or three publishing houses will want to publish it. In this case, the agent can announce an auction to the interested parties.

An auction generally results in an advantageous contract for the authors, yet there are situations in which the book bid remains unsuccessful and needs to be redone to achieve the expected goals. Selecting the best offer can be tricky for authors and agents, as they need to weigh in on the proposals and consider mid and long-term publishing goals. 

What is a pre-empt?

Publishing houses may be keen on skipping the auction and securing the deal directly. This means pre-empting the auction by making a better offer to cancel the auction altogether. If the agent believes they can get a better deal, they will not accept a pre-empt. In some cases, more and more sizeable proposals continue to come. If the interest remains high, the agent may ask for a final sealed bid, the best one leading to collaboration. 

What is an exclusive? 

This is an offer directed to a particular publishing house made by the author or agent before sending the manuscript to anyone else. It is usually made based on past collaboration and the wish to work together. 

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