The Traditional Publishing Process Part 5: Getting an Offer!

typewriterPreviously, in Part 4, I discussed the process of sending a manuscript on submission. Now, let’s take a look at what happens when you get an offer (or more than one)!

As always, keep in mind that this is based solely on my own experience, and this process can vary for every book.

So, you’ve survived the submission process, and the most amazing thing has happened: you have an offer to publish your book! But wait—the process isn’t over just yet. What happens next?

First, your agent will contact all of the other editors who have the manuscript to let them know that you have an offer and need their response immediately. At this point, other editors might express interest . . . or they might not.

If no other offers come in, then your agent will begin to negotiate this offer with the editor. The negotiation process can take a long time, but it can also happen fairly quickly. Usually, your agent will try to get better terms for you—a higher advance, better royalty rates, limiting the number of rights on offer, etc. The publisher might be willing to accept the new terms, or they might not. (Usually, in my experience, they’re able to grant some things but not others. Editors always want to do the best they can for you, but they have to think about how much they can reasonably offer.) At this point, you and your agent will need to discuss the offer and decide whether you’re comfortable accepting it.

But what about the other scenario—what happens when you get multiple offers?

If your agent knows you will be receiving multiple offers, they might call what’s known as an auction. (Technically agents can call an auction whenever they want, but they usually won’t unless they have reason to believe there’s significant interest from multiple houses.) The agent will dictate the terms of the auction—basically, what they want to see from the offers, what the deadline is, etc. Different kinds of auctions are structured different ways, and this can get more complicated than I’d like to get into here, but suffice it to say your agent will discuss all of your options with you and make sure you know what’s going on.

Keep in mind that an auction doesn’t automatically mean that publishers will be offering you lots of money for your book. An auction is a very good thing, because it means there’s significant interest from multiple houses, and they’ll usually want to make the best offer they can. But “the best offer they can” doesn’t always—or often—translate into significant advances. This is especially true if you’re submitting to smaller houses. So, while auctions are definitely worth getting excited about, keep in mind that they don’t automatically mean a six-figure deal.

At this point, once all of the offers are in, you and your agent will need to compare the offers and make a difficult decision. Again, there will be some negotiation, where your agent will try to get the best terms possible for you.

There’s also one other scenario that I should mention: pre-empts. When a publisher really likes a project, they might make a particularly aggressive offer in order to pre-empt an auction. In other words, they believe there will be interest from other houses and are offering a more favorable deal upfront in an attempt to avoid bidding against others in an auction. With this kind of offer, you and your agent will have to decide if you want to accept this offer or take your chances with an auction.  Pre-empts are a great, of course, because they mean that the publisher is especially interested in your book. However, it’s worth noting that, as with auctions, just because an offer is a pre-empt doesn’t mean that publishers will be offering you a fortune. It’s up you and your agent to decide whether the offer is one you wish to accept.

Once both you and your agent are satisfied with the offer and everything has been negotiated, you will formally accept it. At this point, congratulations! You have a book deal! This is the time to celebrate. Your book is being published!

However, it’s worth noting that you might have to celebrate privately for the time being. Often, authors will be asked to wait to announce their book deal. There are many reasons for this—the publisher might want wait to announce until the contract is finalized, or until the title is changed, or any other number of reasons. In some cases, the announcement will be sent in to Publisher’s Marketplace right away and you can share your good news publicly within a week or less. Other times, you might be waiting months. This is something you’ll need to discuss with your agent and editor to make sure you’re all on the same page—and until then, be careful to keep your news a secret!

Also, keep in mind that you will not see a contract right away. As with everything else, timelines vary on contracts. If your publisher has an established boilerplate with your agency, the process might be fairly quick (and by “fairly,” I mean a few months). In other cases, there will be a lot of negotiation back and forth. I know authors who received contracts within six weeks, and I know others who didn’t receive it until nearly a year later. Be prepared for a long wait!

As for when you start working with your editor, that’s a discussion for next time. Stay tuned for Part 6!

Do you have any questions about this process? Have any experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!

Related Links:

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 4: Submission

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 3: Working with an Agent

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 2: Research and Querying

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 1: Writing and Revision


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