Q: Under what circumstances are manuscripts (or series) auctioned? I have seen this mentioned in several book deals and am just curious about it.
To help define both an auction and
a pre-empt, I'll just pull a paragraph
from the 2008 GLA:
A: "Your book may be bought in a pre-empt. That's when a publishing house tries to beat other potential buyers to your work and offers a solid price in the hopes of securing your book early and avoiding a bidding war. An actual bidding war - or auction - happens when a work is so stunningly marvelous that every house in town wants it bad enough to compete against each other, offering different perks such as a large advance and guaranteed ad dollars. Traditionally, the best deal (read: most money and enthusiasm) wins and signs the reader. After the auction was finished for Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, her advance was a cool $2 million. (Note: First-time novelists will likely get an advance of $50,000 to $75,000, but hey, anything can happen!)"