We’re all familiar with an auction format, but did you know many writers’ organizations use such auctions as a way to offer their members and even the public excellent deals on quality services while raising much-needed funds for charities, organizational activities, and more? This past October, I participated in the Florida Writers Foundation’s Silent Auction and had a lovely experience working with writer Larry Davis, who was the highest bidder on the introductory book editing package I donated for the cause.
A frequent attendee at the Florida Writers Association Annual Conference, Larry has a history of turning out award-winning stories: He won second place in the 2007 Royal Palm Literary Award for a short story, Cold Harvest, which has been accepted for publication as Ice, Pirates, and Lace, and won the 2011 Royal Palm Literary Award for Unpublished Novella with The Emporium, which was published as an e-book by SpireHouse in August. Before this year’s conference, he had just finished a new novel, Outpost Earth, and wanted some fresh eyes to look over it, so he took a chance and bid on my donation.
He won a timely prize: At the conference, the Maass Agency requested the first twenty-five pages of his manuscript, so my review would help him make sure his novel’s opening was top notch. You, too, can win useful services through auctions.
What Auctions Can Get You
You’ll most often find auction items in one of two forms: An introductory book editing package or a discount on regular services. I’ve seen participants offering everything from editing to cover designs to marketing consultations; the key is to choose an auction directed at writers.
The package I donated included a developmental edit of the first ten pages of a fiction manuscript, the kind of “taste” I and my team of book editors reserve for just such special circumstances (we normally work on complete manuscripts). And Larry got a real deal, since he won my package for half of its stated value. “Your review and input on the first chapter was precisely what I needed,” he told me afterwards. “I appreciate the ‘big picture’ view you provided, which was exactly what I was hoping for….Writers are so close to the story, they can’t see the missing information. Our brains unconsciously fill in the gaps, or grand canyons, so we can float right over a major flaw that a reader will see as a major roadblock.”
Larry felt especially reassured to find my comments touched on areas he also questioned. If you have niggling doubts about your work, winning an auction item can help you confirm your suspicions without plunking down a lot of cash—usually problems found in an excerpt of your work (especially the opening) are endemic to the manuscript. If you’re a confident reviser you can take the introductory feedback and run with it to significantly improve your manuscript before you send it for a full review or in lieu of one, if your budget doesn’t allow for professional editing.
How to Get a Great Deal
While finding a good fit with an editor through an auction isn’t the most conventional form of networking, Larry and I worked well together. “I got a great deal in this case, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” Larry shared.
- Larry advises writers to do a little research and ask for some references when possible before submitting your bid, just to make sure you’re bidding on a service you can use. Many auctions make the available items public before the auction itself for this very reason.
- Get clear on your needs and expectations before you bid. Auctions tend to get heated, which can lead enthusiastic bidders to exceed their spending limits or even to bid on items they don’t want—outfits like eBay are counting on it! Knowing what services you need and what your limits are will help keep you from suffering these fates.
- Try to familiarize yourself with the going rate for the services you intend to place bids on. If you don’t know what something usually costs, how will you know where to cap your bids? The Editorial Freelancers’ Association maintains a common rate chart for editorial services that can help you get your bearings.
Auctions to Check Out
Many writing conferences offer auctions as part of the weekend’s activities.
- The Florida Writers Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting literacy in children, youths, and adults, and the silent auction raises money for projects to help those efforts. In 2012 they had about 133 donated items up for grabs. The only way to bid is to attend the Florida Writers’ Conference. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network with other writers, meet agents and publishers, and bid on items that help out a good cause and reward you with a great value on products and services that can help you improve your writing.
- Often natural disasters and other catastrophes give rise to auctions, such as the recent Publishing Gives Back auction where publishing professionals—mostly literary agents—donated a variety of packages to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Of course these appear as needed, but next time something big happens, why not combine your desire to help the less fortunate and your need for editorial help? Look for ads in writing magazines or on websites, or try online search terms that combine the suggestions below with the name of the storm/earthquake/etc.
- Try an Internet search for terms such as “writers auction” or “literary agent auction” or “writing auction” and see what pops up. Auctions run throughout the year, so search periodically. For example, Irene Goodman, a literary agent, runs auctions every month offering new items from some of New York’s top publishing professionals. All proceeds go to Irene’s non-profit organization, Publishing for Vision & Hearing, and from there to the Hearing Health Foundation, Hope for Vision, and Foundation Fighting Blindness.
For more details on participating in charity auctions, check out this informative post by writer Kourtney Heintz.