Understanding Deal Terms–Auction, Pre-Empt, and Exclusive

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 10 2020

Every author, published or not yet, should be following Publisher’s Marketplace. It’s where agents and publishers report most of their deals. It’s also where you’ll see terms like auction, pre-empt and exclusive when describing how a book was sold.

We’ve talked about these terms previously in our publishing dictionary and on YouTube, but it never hurts to give a longer lesson.


A publishing auction isn’t much different from those you attend at large estates or see on TV, except its not done in person. In a publishing auction, the publisher is the one on the phone calling in their bid.

Auctions occur when more than one publisher is interested in the book and while there are various ways an agent might run an auction, ultimately it’s all about the highest bidder.

The publisher who brings in the most (which will include advance, royalties, rights, etc) is the one who wins.


Pre-empts happen when a publisher wants a book so bad they offer an amount high enough to convince the agent and author to cancel an auction. Or, really, not even go forward with it.

In a pre-empt situation a determination will be made of how much the author would want to take the book off the table. Once those terms are met, a deal goes forward.


An exclusive is when an agent and author give one publisher an exclusive look at the book before sending it to anyone else. There are a number of reasons to give an exclusive. It could be that the editor provided revisions or even gave the author the idea. It could also be that the author just really wants to work with the publisher.

Whatever it is, an exclusive submission is given a strict time period in which the author and agent will expect an answer and an offer.

More on all of this can also be found in our YouTube video.


2 responses to “Understanding Deal Terms–Auction, Pre-Empt, and Exclusive”

  1. Avatar Michael Marino says:

    Thank you. Including YouTube was a good idea.

  2. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I was under the impression you had to subscribe to be able to follow Publisher’s Marketplace. Are there elements of the site you can follow for free? The subscription is too much for me to afford.