It starts off much the same. We were exchanging chatty emails as suricattus attempted to convince me to attend a Cooking/Wine Expo. I was reluctant. The venue, the date, the cost... so, it was suggested that if there was a way to make it a research trip and tax-deductible, then I might be more amenable. And there it was. A fantasy based on wine and vineyards, and the author was off and running because it was a lovely dovetailing of her interests and passions.
The author presented a proposal, which was discussed (revised, hacked to bits, blown up, revised some more). As I recall, there were other beta readers as well. Eventually, there was a more polished version that felt ready and, though the type of fantasy was a well-trodden road, the concept had a number of fresh twists and we decided to go for the multiple submission. (As an aside, I'm the kind of agent that decides this on a project by project basis. IMO, not everything is suited to multiple submissions and I am certainly no advocate of the throw it at the wall of publishing and see if it sticks method.) Four editors were chosen for a variety of reaons - their own interests, their publisher's approach to publication, among other things. We were looking for enthusiasm, commitment, an ability to give this somewhat upmarket packaging, and a good editorial fit. Money would be nice too (we both would need to increase our wine cellar selection, after all).
One editor passed (though she craved a glass of wine while reading the proposal). A bit more time passed and then one of the remaining three editors came in with an offer. A multi-book offer. Nice. The other two editors were informed that we would now accept a best-bid* as we were looking for the best fit for the material, not necessarily a bidding war. Due to bad timing, the London Book Fair added a few days to their response time. Of those two, one declined to counter-offer, but the other wanted to make an offer and came back with more money per book, but for less of them. At this point, much debate occurred.** The sticking point seemed to be commitment issues. But, also of interest were feedback on editorial issues, packaging intentions, and positioning in the market. Questions were asked and answered before a decision was made. It was a challenging decision with many factors, and I knew that both editors would do a great job, too.
But, now... it's time for the research. suricattus always brings great wine to match up with my cooking.... She even got me into Shiraz finally, so I was recently labeled by a sommelier as an ABC consumer.
*There are several kinds of offer/counteroffer situations:
(1) Open-ended: No closing date. Everyone who wants to gets to make an offer and bid and counter-bid.
(2) Closing date: The agent sets a date on which offers are due, and then bid and counter-bid ensues.
(3) Best Bid: Can also include or not include a closing date. Best bid means that each publisher bids once and only once and then the offer that the author considers the best is chosen.
**Factors considered in bids (not an exhaustive list):
(1) advance amount per book
(2) # of books covered by offer
(3) separate vs. basket accounting
(4) territory covered by agreement
(5) intended publishing format
(6) intended publishing schedule
(7) promotional package, if any