Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Going Going Gone Baby Gone

Hello Janet,

I’ve noticed several recent deals on Publishers Marketplace that say “in a nice deal, at auction”, and I wondered what triggers an auction for a manuscript?

It sounds like a wonderful position to be in for the agent and author.

It is!
Sold at auction means that more than one editor was interested in acquiring the project.
When that happens, the agent conducts an auction, and it's much like what you've come to expect from seeing auctions on TV.

Initial bids come in. Rounds continue until one editor "wins."

That's the GENERAL scenario and there are a lot of variations.

The bids aren't just about money either; territory, royalty rates, terms, can all come in to play.

It's a harrowing couple of days, often, but yes, it's a wonderful position to have a lot of interest in a project.

The "nice deal" refers to the ballpark level of money for the deal. Those are defined at PM if you're interested. 

You might be interested to know that PM invented those categories, and what numbers are associated with them, but I now see them used in a myriad of places, such that they are fast becoming an industry standard.


julie.weathers said...

I used to love going to horse sales, of course, I worked at a livestock ring for a while. It's part of my checkered history.

Going to a regular horse sale with a good, old-fashioned horse trader was a real show. He'd milk that audience for every dime. He'd stand on the horse. Sit on the horse's butt, legs dangling over the rear end kicking softly as he talked about all the virtues of the horse who was kid proof, bomb proof, and idiot proof. Now look at this color. It's the best color on earth. Fat. He's been roped on, dragged on, danced on. Then he'd hop up on the horse and hop a couple of steps like he was soft-shoeing on some dance floor. All this time, the horse, would stand quietly, because the horse trader knew his horse and which horses were truly bomb proof and which ones he could put on a show with.

He'd hop down and put his arm around the horse's neck, take off the halter and just lead him around with his arm around his neck and the price would go higher. The bidding would slow and he'd sit down underneath the horse and ask how many horses will let you do this? Another $200.

When the bidding finally winds down, he sadly bids Old Blue goodbye and those who know him know he's got another ten horses he's just as emotional about.

If I were ever fortunate enough to get an agent and something of mine went to auction, I'd send my agent a painting with one of these old horse traders. He or she would have no use for it and discard it, but I would hope a bit of it rubbed off on them first.

Lennon Faris said...

I always have to laugh at these terms, because they are about the most boring adjectives ever invented to describe a literary achievement.


"Very nice"


C'mon, PM...

Jenn Griffin said...

I agree with Lennon. In high school, my English teacher gave an automatic "F" to any paper that included the words "nice", "interesting", or "thing". Roget's Thesaurus was mandatory reading!!

Brenda said...

One of my sons has a future as a horse trader. The year his sister got teary-eyed in the ring over the prospect of selling her 4H steer ‘Fluffy’, she made more money than the Grand Champion. Every year after that he walked the ring with a face like Eeyore...until the gavel came down. Then he’d perk up, put on a million watt smile, and strut out of there asking when he could expect his cheque. It was embarrassing but the buyers loved the charming little scamp.
I cannot imagine how exciting an auction would be for an author. Validation after years of cribbing away in a dank cellar, surviving on mouldy bread and tepid water, reading dialogue aloud to the shadows.
Sweet dreams indeed.

CynthiaMc said...

I think if I were ever fortunate enough to be in that position, I'd either be in church or planting new flowers with a "Call me when it's over" message.

Theresa said...

Auction--yes, that's the dream.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

How common/uncommon is it for a book to sell at auction for a debut author? It sure sounds like a great position to be in. Does the agent run all bids past author or does the agent determine the best bid and then speak to the author?

Craig F said...

I have noticed that some agencies parade auctions around like they invented them. I always thought it was the book and the timing of the market that made such things happen.

Are those auction parading agencies actually any better at the game?

Kae Ridwyn said...

@julie.weathers, I love reading your stories! And @brenda, thanks for continuing the gorgeous imagery :)

John Davis Frain said...

File this under the serendipity of research. Y'all probably have similar stories.

I was trying to read into Janet's header, which likely means I was looking for something that doesn't exist, but why let such a small detail spoil your fun.

I wanted to see if Dennis Lehane's GONE BABY GONE had, ya know, gone at auction. Well, of course, I still don't know the answer to that question but check out this ironic tidbit.

I eventually found myself on a site chronicling the federal auction of Bernie Madoff's possessions. (Hofstra class ring valued at $360? Sold for six grand.) But that's not the interesting stuff for a writer. Here's the ironic part, and see if you can fit it into a 100-word story. (Not you, Steve Forti, you'd do it in 12.)

Other auction houses tried to take advantage of the Madoff craze by having their own Bernie Madoff auctions. Problem was, they didn't have any Madoff junk. Sorry, junque. When a big auction house (we won't name names, Sothebys --juuuust kidding) defended themselves by saying they were selling his victim's belongings, they got busted. But they were selling things like $20 fountain pens for hundreds or even thousands of dollars by implying (not inferring, thank you Janet) the pens belonged to Madoff.

All of which leaves the crazy irony that Madoff, even from behind bars, is able to take people's money and poof -- it's gone, baby, gone.

Now back to Dennis Lehane and the sale of Gone Baby Gone.

With apologies to Dennis and his Boston friends, Let's Go Blues!!!

MA Hudson said...

Julie - now I'm having visions of Janet conducting an auction; soft-shoeing on top of a manuscript, sitting underneath it, parading it around the room... except in her case, I imagine, it's the ones that buck and bite that would sell for the highest price!

julie.weathers said...


That's exactly how I envision Miss Janet's auction also. Nailed it.

Betsy said...

You mention "territory" and PM. Do you mean explaining what these mean?