It’s Just Business Tuesday!

September 30, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 6 comments

Dear Karin,
Could you tell us how auctions are handled. Do they usually lead to six figures? And what about pre-empt deals? I’m assuming a lot of money has to be on the table for an agent to agree on a pre-empt. Is there a time limit on those things? What happens if it’s a “no” on the pre-empt. And do you know of any auctions that have ever soured?

With a lot of input from my agent 😀 here are the answers:

1) Auctions can lead to six figure deals but not always.

2) A pre-empt deal is when a publisher comes in with an offer that is enough to convince the author/agent to take it off the table. Generally speaking, it’s a lot of money that can take something off the table, but other things like promises for marketing and promo and if it is a publishing house that author/agent feel is the right house for the book. Also, don’t make the assumption on what a lot of money is. $25,000 can be a lot of money for one book but miniscule for another so the actual amount of money is dependent on the project.

3) As far as time limits there is no hard time limit if that is what you mean. For a pre-empt, it’s whoever gets to the agent in time. For auction, every agent has there own way of doing things. Some send out their auction guidelines when they set an auction date. Other agents once they set an auction date kind of let things play out and are more laid back about auction rules. Everyone has their own way of doing things and there is no right way or special way that is going to get the most money. It depends on the agent, project and how author wants to proceed.

4) And yes, people do turn down preempts. It’s a decision by the author and the agent when they feel they can find a better deal elsewhere or by going to auction

5) Auctions can sour because they aren’t being handled properly by the agent or people can get upset when an agent/author decide to go with an underbidder because they feel that that house is a better fit than the house that actually wins the auction.

And thanks for asking!





  1. Edie

    Karin, this was very interesting. 🙂

  2. HollyD

    Thanks for the helpful info.

  3. Marcia

    Muchos thanks for the info! 🙂

  4. J. Carson Black

    It’s fascinating, Karin! Nothing is clear-cut with agents, editors, and writers. It’s like herding cats.

    There could be a big upside but there could be a big downside, too. The agent has to really know what she/he’s doing, because you sure don’t want to hold and auction where nobody bids. Ouch!

  5. Karin

    Hey, goils, I think it’s really interesting too, and I have hard of auctions where no on shows up! How embarrassing!!

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