manuscript auctions

How Manuscript Auctions Work


Dear Editor…

Can you explain how manuscript auctions work?


Dear Laurel…

Auctions! Exciting, stressful, and, for editors, sometimes crushing. Agents auction manuscripts they think are hot properties, generating early buzz and above-average advances. They’re pitting houses against each other and must protect their own reps, so agents are selective about what they auction and careful about handling it. Independent authors can’t auction their own manuscripts, lacking the access and trust that agents spend their careers cultivating. Auctions happen fast. The agent contacts the chosen publishers, pitches the project, and explains the rules and timeline. It’s usually blind, with the editors knowing the number of houses involved but not the names. They get a short time to read the manuscript and get offer approval from bosses, then they bid. The agent reports the top bid the next day, allowing others to outbid. Some auctions are one-day “best offer” affairs, others have several rounds. Publishers might add marketing promises, or a big pre-emptive bid can end the auction before it begins. Thrilling, indeed.

Happy writing!
The Editor