Friday, August 24, 2007

An Offer is Made

In a continuation of trying to let you know what happens to your work in an agency and in a publishing house, I’m going to address what happens when an editor finally does make that offer to your agent. Of course it’s different in every instance, but here is a basic look at how I handle the situation.

When a phone call is made (in rare cases an editor will email the offer) I thank the editor, let her know I’ll be getting back to her after discussing the offer with the author, and hang up. If it’s a first-time deal for an author or project I’m really excited about, my first calls are to Kim and Jacky. I know, I know, I should call the author first, but often I need to get my squealing under control before doing that. Once some semblance of professionalism has returned I’ll call the author to let her know the good news and listen to her squealing. I LOVE doing this. Once the author and I have gotten our excitement down to a dull roar we’ll discuss the steps I would like to take in negotiations.

Remember, I think this business is about teamwork and I like to include the author in all my negotiations as much as possible. I like to think it might give her a better understanding of what’s going on, and she might have some ideas, thoughts, or concerns that she would like to share at this time.

If the book is with multiple houses my goal is to try and get multiple offers. The more the merrier, I always say. In that case my first step will be to contact all the editors who still have the project, let them know we have an offer and what it is (but not who), and give them a deadline for when I need to hear of their interest.

If it’s a situation where it’s a continuation of an already established career or an offer on option material, we’ll discuss whether it’s even an offer we want to consider or if we think it’s too low or insufficient to even counter-offer. Traditionally, though, I’ll begin by counter-offering on the money issues—advances and royalties—and we’ll discuss rights (world, North American, etc.) and due dates.

At this point it’s a little wait-and-see and a little strategic planning. My conversations with the author are usually about what would make her very happy, happy, and not happy at all. I want perspective on exactly what her feelings are so that I know in what direction negotiations should be going.

From the negotiations side I’m talking to editors (in the case of multiple offers) and negotiating deal points.

The only time I’ll counter-offer on the spot (before calling the author) is when it’s an offer we knew was coming (usually an option), something from a series publisher like Harlequin, Dummies, or Complete Idiot’s Guides when I know exactly what they usually offer or what I should expect, and when negotiations are rather limited (like in the cases of the publishers mentioned above).

I’ve had negotiations take a mere few hours and I’ve had them last weeks. How intense they get can depends on a number of things—how many publishers are involved, how successful the author is, how badly the publisher wants her, and the house we’re dealing with. Of course, things like vacation can also come into play, as can forgetful editors.

When the deal is done, though, I make sure I get a finalized deal memo from the editor and then we wait for contracts. At which point my job is to negotiate all over again. Those things that we might need new boilerplate wording for or that are traditionally negotiated with a contracts person rather than the editor, things like indemnification wording, schedules, or reversion clauses.

Keep tuned in and I’ll do a future post on what exactly is negotiated with the editor versus with the legal department.



Anonymous said...

Another great post, Jessica!

Of course, you realize, that no matter how loudly the author make squeal to you over the phone, it's nothing compared to the racket we make when we're sharing the news with our friends. LOL.


Aimlesswriter said...

Wow, I'm exhausted already. Good reason why we need an agent.

Christopher M. Park said...

I'm a daily reader, but not a poster very often. I just wanted to say that this series you've been running lately has been extremely illuminating -- this last post in particular. Great insights into the agent's role in the whole publication process!


Alli Sinclair said...

It's great to know you can get as excited as an author over a deal - just goes to show the passion you have for your work and the way you truly care about your clients. Great post, Jessica!

bob said...

I love knowing that agents squeal to!

Anonymous said...

So you said if the book is with multiple houses, you'll call and tell them you have an offer -- but you won't tell them WHO you have the offer with...

Why? Does that mystery lead to more offers? Better offers?

Anne-Marie said...

it has been so informative to read all the processes authors and agents go through from submission to contract. Thank you for enlightening us about the inside of the business.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a printing-out-worthy post!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


All houses have a bit of reputation for how much they pay, what their contracts are like, etc. Letting someone know who the offer is with can sometimes tip your hand a little too much. My goal is to reveal as little information as possible when negotiating. I only tell editors what I think they need to know. And I certainly don't want to tell them what house the offer is with if that's a house that offers typically low advances. It wouldn't give anyone else much incentive to offer me a lot of money.


EYR said...

I'm a lurker here too, but do have to chime in and offer thanks for the insights you've provided. Never realized what 'poker' players agents needed to be!

Anonymous said...

Now I'm sad. My agent is a low-key person. Plus I'm not very happy with him right now. I know he will sell my novel. I also know that I won't get the squeal.

Darn. I wanted the squeal.

Anonymous said...

Informative. Definitely backs my original opinion that having an agent is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Question: is there a certain strategy for going to multiple editors, one editor at a time, or auction? Does it depend on the book? How do you know which one is the right thing to do?

I've had friends frustrated because their agents sent to only editor at a time. I had another friend devistated because her agent auctioned her novel and nobody bid. Now her book is basically dead.

My own agent hasn't sent my novel out yet (still in pre-editing condition) and he's undecided whether he'll go single editor or many at once. I guess it depends on how well we edit the novel? I sometimes think he holds this over my head in order to make me edit better and take more of his editing suggestions.

Your thoughts?

Sandra Cormier said...

You gals are definitely worth the 15%! It's nice to know that agents squeal, too.