Pub Rants

MISTS Auction: The Lowdown

 29 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: I’m feeling good because I’m actually tackling the big items on my TO DO list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE CHRISTMAS SONG by The Carpenters

I can finally talk about my big day from last week or should I say my big days since the auction lasted for two days.

Here’s the announcement from Deal Lunch:
Helen Stringer’s debut HOUSE OF MISTS, about a girl who lives with the ghosts of her parents in the north of England and when they disappear, along with all the ghosts in the world, it’s up to her, an always-in-trouble classmate named Steve, and the one remaining ghost (from 1912) to find out why, to Jean Feiwel at Feiwel & Friends, in a significant deal for two books, at auction, by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency (NA).

This is the very first middle-grade project I’ve ever taken on so I was rather heartened that it caused quite a stir and lots of interest. As an agent I probably shouldn’t admit this but because it was my first middle-grade ever, I was kind of nervous when I submitted it. I obviously feel quite confident about my YA abilities but middle-grade is a whole other ball of wax so to speak. Now I can rest easy. At least in this case, I got what it takes!

So here’s how the auction went down.

1. Project was sent out on Wednesday. The first offer came a week and a day later.

2. All editors were notified of the offer on the table.

3. Several editors expressed serious interest, which signals that an auction might be imminent.

4. Another house makes an offer (but not a pre-empt), so now there are two offers on the table. Auction date is scheduled and that information is sent to all editors interested in participating.

5. A house with an offer already on the table attempts to pre-empt with a new offer. The Interest at this point is too high, the pre-empt is declined.

6. Agent sets auction rules and asks all interested parties to declare if they plan to attend or not. The rules are emailed to all auction participants.

7. Auction day comes and it’s a round robin one (which means participants can bid in subsequent rounds). Four participants are bidding. Auction continues until there is a winner but in this case, it came down two main bidders. As the auction continued on Friday, the publishers were asked if they wanted the option to put their best offer forward instead of doing subsequent round robin bidding that might last several more hours. Participants preferred that. Final offers were presented to the author and ultimately a final choice was made.

There can only be one publisher after all. Although I have to say, when all parties are excellent, it’s tough to call the “losing” publisher and potentially break that editor’s heart when he/she obviously has tons of enthusiasm for the project.

29 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Very interesting. Hypothetical question: what if an author has queried editors on his own and receives an offer — and no agents have shown any interest — and there are other editors who’ve requested it (and are reading it) at the same time: is there any way an author could do all this on his own?

  2. Tammie said:

    Holy cow thanks for the inside view, very exciting. I have to ask – how’d the author’s nerves fair during all this back and forth or do you keep it mum until after?

    I can imagine the heavy drinking one might have to embide in!

    Way cool.

  3. Edie said:

    Congratulations! The book sounds great! My next book will be a middle grade (I think), so it’s good to know you handle them. And so well too. 🙂

  4. soula said:

    Was this all via email? Over the phone? Presumably not in person…

    Can you give us an idea of how much the offers varied as the round robin progressed?

  5. Jeannie Ruesch said:

    How exciting to you! I love hearing how the auction works. And that story sounds really intriguing! I read the blurb to my husband who said HE would like to read it. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Anonymous said:

    Very exciting!

    Could you post Helen Stringer’s query for us? I’m curious to see how she hooked you and it would be a good example for us.

  7. Kate said:

    I would like to know the same as ‘Anonymous 4.28pm’ – would an author be able to pull this off on their own?

    Also what Soula said – what are the more specific details of how this auction took place?

    And also ‘Anonymous 10.12pm’ – Can we see the query???

    Thank you so much for sharing all your helpful tips!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Not to throw a wet blanket on the fun… but this was a first time author right? Obviously there is excitment about the project – but what happens if it doesn’t hit as big as the publishers imagine it will?

    With that kind of deal the pressure on this author to succeed must be extreme. To me a significant deal for a middle grade book means – she better have written the next Harry Potter – or she’ll have a very difficult time selling agian.

    In some respects I blame the publishers for this. They go crazy over a bidding war – but do the explain to the author what can happen if the book can’t sell through?

  9. Josephine Damian said:

    Good points, Anon 7:18. From what I gather staying in print over the long haul is harder than getting into print the first time.

    Kristin, what about co-op? Is that spelled out in the contract? How specific are the co-op details if they are mentioned?

  10. Anonymous said:

    A pre-empt is a ‘buyout’ for the auction, where one person makes a high offer in hopes of avoiding a bidding war. If accepted, their offer is taken and no one else is allowed to bid. The pre-empter believes their offer will end up lower than what would come out of a bidding war (or just don’t want to deal with the auction process), and the person hosting the auction must decide if they think a bidding war will bring a better offer in the end.

  11. Linnea said:

    What terrific news for both you and the author and thanks for an inside look at how an auction is conducted. Hope neither of you got ulcers. What tension.

  12. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous @ 7:18

    I see a lot of comments like yours. When I sold my first book, at auction, in a significant deal, I got a bunch of emails talking about all the “pressure” I’d be under, and backhandedly hoping that the publisher hadn’t made some “big mistake” with their “bidding frenzy.”

    It is a wet blanket. Big advances do *not* necessarily spell doom for the author! My book was released, performed fine (no lists, but a decent sell-through and continues to be in print), and almost ten books later, my career continues apace. I’m growing my audience with each book that’s out, and my publisher continues to offer me contracts, so they must be pleased with the results.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous 11:16

    There was nothing backhanded about my comment. I’m not hoping this woman fails. I just know the realities of publishing. And being offered a significant first deal does put pressure on the author.

    And for every story where someone is continuing to do well – there is also a list of authors who had to jump through hoops to be considered for publication again – because the first book didn’t perform.

    If you received one, and continue to receive one, it’s because your numbers bear that out. Congratulations. My comment was more toward the publishing industry that can promote a frenzy one week – then drop you the next. And my hope that this first time author understands the reality of the business.

  14. Kim Stagliano said:

    Congratulations to Ms. Stringer and you and your team, Kristin. And anon the Wet blanket? You can’t live your life wondering about all the negatives that could happen. Just savor the success.

    Fairy tales CAN come true!