• Ciao Chao
  • Posts
  • Going once, going twice… sold to best fit.

Going once, going twice… sold to best fit.

Ah insider’s glimpse into auction shenanigans

Today’s quick links:

People looking at an 8 foot tall orange inflatable dinosaur at Fantasy Con 2022


Over here in London, though the leaves are still green, there’s a crispness to the air. Fall is well and truly here, and with it come some of my favourite things—woolly knits, walks in the woods (with that satisfying crinkle of leaves underfoot), hot chocolate with marshmallows… and one of UK’s fantasy conventions— FantasyCon!

I attended for the first time this weekend and can’t recommend it enough. The panels were so fun. One was Sex, Love and Magic in SFF moderated by the inimitable Juliet Mushens, and another had the panelists rate first their own chances of survival if they were pitted against each other in the Hunger Games, and then their book characters.’ After so long in isolation, it was really wonderful to meet and greet other authors IRL. I got to spend social time with Hodderscape people—fellow publisher siblings Kate Dylan (her wonderful YA Marvel-esque Sci Fi thriller MINDWALKER is out now), and L. R. Lam, my editor Molly, and Hodderscape’s new commissioning editor Tash Qureshi. Fun approachable con full of fun approachable people. And one dinosaur. Picture proof above!

Going Once, Going Twice… Part I

I’ve had a few requests for this, so we’re gonna talk auctions! Because this is long, I’ve split it into two parts. Part II next week.

First, some lingo:

On submission: an agent submits their client’s work to acquiring editors at publishing houses in the hopes the editor will offer to publish their client’s work.

Acquisitions: A meeting where the publisher, editor, and sales and marketing team discuss whether to buy a book.

Now, before this summer, I pretty much knew squat about book deal auctions. All my info was gleaned from passing mentions; most recently from Amy Tan’s Unintended Memoir documentary (excellent by the way, she’s a treasure). Her friend recounts when Joy Luck Club went to auction: “One of the nights we were at Amy and Lou’s house, was the night there was a bidding war for her first book. She would excuse herself from the table, and she’d talk to her agent, and she’d come back and she goes, ‘Knopf just bid on my book!’ And then another phone call would come in and, ‘Putnam just bid on my book!’”

I imagined something akin to an art auction, fast and furious set to the beat of an auctioneer’s rapid chant—‘Five thousand dollar bid now ten thousand bid ten thousand, Ten thousand dollar bid now twenty thousand bid twenty thousand,’ with paddles flashing in a Mexican wave.

But the truth of it is rather more prosaic. I’m sorry to say there are no paddles involved, neither the staid nor saucy kind. (Tangent, but have you played pickleball? I played this summer for the first time and AM HOOKED! So much fun! Okay, back to the auction.) There is a definite lack of an auction chant, though I did do a lot of screaming, so maybe that makes up for it?

The overriding impression I have from the process is a rollercoaster ride, but moving in Matrix-esque slo-mo—which means my anxiety was stretched like taffy and braided with excitement. In the immortal words of Mrs Bennet… my poor nerves!

Sub Day

After working through my agent Jamie’s suggested revisions, I’d been patiently waiting for Jamie’s green light to go on submission. Finally at the end of May, he wrote, Drumroll please. We are submitted. My heart in my throat and my manuscript in the hands of editors, we hunkered down to wait and see if anyone would love the story enough to offer.

As you can imagine, I checked my email obsessively. Constantly pulling down to refresh. One week passed. Then two. I knew from friends this wait could be very long. A friend of mine was on submission for nearly two years, with many near misses, before their book sold to a big publisher.

Two Weeks Post Sub Day

As hubby had come down with Covid, I decamped to the garden to self isolate (read: knit and read). On a sunny afternoon, my agent called. We had our first expression of serious interest!

When querying, if an agent offers representation, protocol is for the author to let all their other queried agents know there’s been an offer and give them a chance to either offer or pass. Being on sub is similar. Jamie let the other editors know, and within days, three more had responded to say they too wanted to make an offer and were taking my book to acquisitions. This is a positive sign but by no means a guarantee, a book can still be shot down if not everyone at the acquision meeting agrees. The only thing to do is wait.

Three Weeks Post Sub Day

I was buying bubble tea on the way to my daughter’s tennis lesson when Jamie called. Our first official offer had come in! Hot on its heels came offer number two. Then nothing for a few days. More waiting. As you can probably tell, there is a LOT of waiting involved in publishing.

The next week one of the interested editors confirmed their offer was on its way, it was just taking some time to iron out the details.

This meant we had three offers, with a possible fourth still to come. We were officially in auction territory. Just in time for my birthday!

Sometimes an agent asks for best bids, so it’s one best and final offer from each publishing house, or multiple rounds where the best offers move on to the next round. Jamie chose a two round auction, laid out the rules (ie what they were bidding on, ie World English or UK English only etc), and set the closing date for participation in the auction as the following Friday. Which meant more… yes you guessed it, waiting! Thankfully, my dear friend Cookie was in town to keep me busy and distracted otherwise I would have been an email obsessed mess!

Part II to come…

On my Desk

I’m working through my edits. Most of the small stuff is dealt with, now to brainstorm the bigger edits—all the ‘so why is she doing this’ kind of questions. These aren’t big structural edits, more like adding a line or two here and there to provide subtext and support for character choices and actions. Had a chat with my editor about my proposed changes and am really happy with the direction, so will get to work on those edits, and get them back to them by mid October.

I also got to see a rough concept sketch of my cover, and the work of the proposed artists. I had the shakes after seeing them…it’s gonna be so so beautiful. Looks like the timeline going forward will be something like cover by the end of the year, proofs for blurbs and advance reviews in Jan, followed by some exciting stuff I can’t talk about yet! Suffice to say, there’s a lot of cool stuff to come and I can’t wait to scream with you about it!

Current Reads

Speaking of screaming, I’m currently listening to the newest book from one of my favourite authors, Tamsyn Muir. Nona the Ninth, the third instalment of the Locked Tomb series about queer necromancers in space, is, as ever with this author, an absolute delight. The series is a treasure trove of pop culture Easter eggs. I screamed with delight at Noodle, a dog in Nona because the real life Noodle is an adorable elderly pug whose owner does morning ‘readings.’ Basically if Noodle remains upright and awake it’s a bones day to do all the active things, but if Noodle melts into a puddle of sleepy boneless pug (you need to watch this to truly appreciate it), it’s a no bones day, a day for self care and taking it easy. It makes me chuckle because the necromancers in the Locked Tomb are all about bones while Nona definitely gives me no bones vibes.

Have a fab week week!

Alice x