Blogger: Wendy Lawton
As I write this I have five excellent offers on my desk for one of my clients and am awaiting one more before the close of day. Today was the deadline for making an offer. I thought you might enjoy a peek into the process of multiple offers and how an agent and her client handle the situation.
Who gets multiple offers? In this case the author is a rising name in her genre. One of the names you immediately think of when you look for this kind of book. I made the decision to consider a move because her current house was going in a different direction and I believed they were moving away from her audience. Because she is award-winning, bestselling and her work is excellent, there is much interest. An agent usually senses when there will be multiple offers for this kind of solid performer.
But sometimes we put out a proposal and it just catches everyone’s eye. Perhaps we didn’t see this happening but when we get a couple of editors telling us they are taking the book to committee, we begin to watch carefully. If we get multiple offers, we need to be ready to manage these or move to an auction.
The best of times, the worst of times. For an agent, multiple offers for an author is a great problem to have, but there’s no getting around the problem part of the equation. We have the opportunity to compare offers and marketing plans to make the best decision for our client. The downside for me is that I only offer the work to publishers I love– houses I know will do a great job. That means that I’m going to be able to make one of those houses very happy. I will be be a hero to somebody. But, in this case, I am going to have to disappoint five other houses who put many hours into preparing a marketing plan and coming up with a great offer. Five editors I call friends. Five editors I must continue to work with.
How do we choose? Try as I might to set the parameters we always end up comparing apples to oranges. If I say they will be bidding for two books, no cross-collaterization, advance to be paid in two installments; I will get offers for three books, accounted together with three installments of the advance. So I chart out all the concrete elements on a spreadsheet so I can compare. Then we have to look at the intangibles– the things that are difficult to quantify, like the marketing plan and history of effectiveness, who the editor will be, and how well the culture of the house matches the author’s personality.
The Next Step is generally either to go to an auction in which the decision is based on who ultimately offers the best deal or to choose the publisher based on the offers in hand. An auction is the fairest way but the outcome must be based on concrete elements, the deal points. On the other hand, choosing between the offers on the table will not net the highest financial reward but will allow for the intangibles to weigh more heavily.
The Secret Weapon? Prayer. We invoke a team of people who agree to pray over these decisions. And when all is said and done, we do the best we can and have to leave it at that.
Questions about the process? What do you think are the upsides and downsides for the author in this scenario? Would it be hard for you to work under high expectations that come with an auction?
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