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Publisher's Marketplace: A very nice deal decoded

Updated: Jul 7

If you're reading book deal announcements on Publisher's Marketplace, or researching past sales for literary agents, you might have come across this confusing language. What's "a nice deal" you might be wondering. Is it better than a good deal? What about a significant deal or a major deal? They all sound...vaguely good.


This is a bit of a dinosaur bone left over from the old guard politeness of not wanting to talk about money...while really, really wanting to talk about money. It refers to the amount of advance given in a traditional publishing deal.


The breakdown looks like this:


A chart showing "A nice deal = $1-$49,000" "very nice deal = $50,000-$99,000" "good deal $100,000 - $250,000" "significant deal "251,000-$499,000" "major deal $500,000 and up"

To be clear, this doesn't really refer to the terms of the contract. Publisher's Marketplace isn't giving a sly wink to say this cool cat got off with great terms on their foreign rights or competing works clause. It's yup, just about the money.


Oddly, the majority of publishing deals fall into the "nice deal" category of under $50,000, so it seems like they should have broken up that category into smaller sections to give us more detail. Much how google rates all restaurants real people can afford as $ to $$ and has several more levels of the scale $$$ or $$$$ for restaurants no human would ever frequent, where you have to hand over the title to a mid-sized jet to pay for a pork chop the size of a postage stamp. Publisher's Marketplace seems to assume we're really only here gossiping about the big money deals and...okay they're probably right.


This is what a deal announcement might look like, using that code.


A book deal announcement including the words "in a significant deal, at auction"

Also, if you're wondering why some deals show this key and some don't reference it at all, that's because publishing is inconsistent.


Yes, that's the real answer.


A book deal announcement including the words "in a pre empt, in a two-book deal"

Sometimes agents or editors don't choose to share that information when submitting their deal to Publisher's Marketplace.


Other Terminology:

At auction means that multiple publishers were bidding for a book. What does a pre-empt mean? That's when one publisher threw down a big check in a "take it or leave it" deal to avoid said auction. Six-figure deal is when nobody could get up the energy to use the antiquated code, and so they just said, "Listen it's over a hundred grand, let's call it a day."


Querying Tips:

If you ARE looking for an agent, and you haven't seen these deal announcements, I should share that my #1 advice to querying authors is to research an agent's sales before submitting to them. After all, it doesn't matter how nice of a fit you are personally (or a very nice fit, or even a significant fit) if they can't sell your book. To research an agent's sales, you do have to pay for a $25 monthly subscription to Publisher's Marketplace, but you can cancel anytime you're done with your research. Start by looking up "dealmakers" for your genre. If you're just starting out querying, or you've already started but aren't getting any requests, I have more help for that HERE.


In the meantime, enjoy ogling all the deal announcements and gossiping about those big money deals!

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