When a Publishers Lunch story says a book was sold "in a pre-empt," what does that mean?
A "pre-empt" is a preemptive offer. A publisher conveys this offer in advance of an auction or an expected auction in an attempt to preempt other publishers from getting the book. Typically this offer is conveyed for a short period of time (24 to 48 hours) before it's pulled from the table.
The biggest issue is whether the offer is good enough in order to preclude going to auction. Problems also arise when the offer is for more rights than the author and the agent want to grant.