Glossary of Publishing Industry Jargon

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 4/8/2009

Acquisitions Editor
A person working for a publisher whose primary job is to acquire manuscripts suitable for publication.
Royalties paid to the author by the publisher prior to book sales generating the royalty payment. The Advance is often paid in increments, some amount paid upon signing the contract, some amount upon completing an acceptable manuscript, etc. The Advance ranges in size from $1 to up in the millions.
Advance Reading Copy
A proof copy of the book that is sent out to reviewers so they will review the book and create Buzz, prior to the release of the book.
A section of the book in which the writer discusses a topic that is off topic from the book, but with the understanding that the reader has the benefit of having read the book.
Agent or Literary Agent
A person who handles the business aspects of an author’s career, including promoting new work to publishers and negotiating contracts. An agent typically gets 15% of what the publisher pays the author.
The character, characters or object that opposes what the protagonist hopes to accomplish. May be good or bad.
Aspiring Author
Any writer who has yet to achieve publication through a traditional publisher.
Author’s Alterations (AA)
Changes requested to the proof by the author that are no induced by the people creating the proof.
Author Questionnaire
A bunch of questions the publisher asks the author about who they can inform of the impending release of the book and hope to get media coverage or support from other sources.
Back Cover Copy (BCC)
The text on the back cover of a book. It may be written by the author or another person, though it is almost always worded so that it sounds as if someone other than the author wrote it. The purpose of the BCC is to convince the reader that the book can provide him with some benefit, either helping him doing something or entertaining him for some amount of time.
A list of books that have been in print for a while and continue to sell.
BISAC Categories
Book Industry Standards and Communications Categories are used to categorize books. Think of these as the Genre of the book.
Portion of an image that extends past the trim marks of a page. Intended to allow printing to the edge of the page.
A short statement promoting a book, usually appearing on the cover or on a website. Readers tend to be more favorable toward reading a book when someone else has already done so and gained something from it. It works best when the reader recognizes and respects the name of the person who created the blurb.
Book Block
The all of the pages of a book as a single entity.
Bound Galley
An uncorrected proof bound as a book to be sent out for review. Also call Advanced Reading Copy. The concept is to provide the book for review before it is complete so that there is less time between initial printing and release.
The type of writing that readers expect from an author. For example, the writing we expect from Tom Clancy is far different from what we expect from Steven King.
Brick & Mortar Bookstore
A bookstore with a physical storefront and shelves or stacks of books that a customer can walk in and purchase.
Buzz occurs when a significant number of reviewers, bloggers and media talk about the book. This encourages others to read the book and talk about it as well.
Case Bound Laminate
A style of hard cover in which the printed cover is wrapped and glued to the thick cardboard.
Character Based
A storyline in which the characters are chosen and defined first. The plot is determined by how the characters interact with each other.
Cliff Hanger
An event placing a character in danger, such as dangling from a cliff, at the end of a book or chapter that is intended to cause the reader to want to keep reading to learn what has happened. If at the end of a chapter, the next chapter may follow a different character, increasing the distance between the start of the event and the resolution. If at the end of a book, it may be months before the reader can learn what happened.
Close Third Person
A subset of the Third Person Limited POV. The narrator follows one character, sees what the character sees and feels what the character feels.
Commercial House
A publisher that produces books with the intent of making a profit.
Copy Editor
A person who edits a manuscript to improve formatting, style and accuracy. This person may work for the publisher or be freelance. Some authors hire such a person before submitting a manuscript to a publisher.
The right to reproduce intellectual property. This typically belongs to the person or organization that is paying the author to produce the work. If there is any question, it should be spelled out in the contract. All writing has a copyright from the moment it is produced.
Cover Art
Graphics that appear on the cover of a book.
Ornamental character that may be used for signifying the end of a section of text.
A company that warehouses books for bookstores. The primary distributors are Baker & Taylor and Ingram.
Dots per Inch. Refers to the resolution of an image. For printing, images should be at least 300 dpi and for highest quality they should be at least 600 dpi.
Drop Ship
Shipping directly from the manufacturer to the customer rather than going from the manufacturer to the publisher to the customer.
Earn Out
To Earn Out the Advance is to reach the point at which the Royalties from book sales exceeds the amount the publisher gave the author in advance. After a book earns out, the publisher will begin paying royalties on a periodic basis, monthly, quarterly, annually or some other period set in the contract. When a book fails to Earn Out its Advance, it is an indication that the publisher lost money on the project.
A person who works for a traditional publisher or does freelance work. The job of the editor is to suggest changes and find mistakes that will improve the quality of a book. When working for a traditional publisher, the term also refers to someone who actively seeks new talent to write for the publisher.
Citations at the end of a chapter.
Epic Novel
A novel of between 100,000 and 120,000 words
A final chapter of a book that is closely related to the rest of the book, but does not fit in terms of time, place, characters, Point of View, etc.
Fiction Novel
A term that shows inexperience on the part of the aspiring author that is often an indication to a literary agent that the person is in fact a wannabe author. The term is redundant because a novel is by definition a work of fiction.
Decorative ornamentation used to indicate a section break. May be accomplished with a Dingbat.
A section at the front of the book that tells about the book, the author, or some other topic, but is not part of the main theme of the book.
French Flaps
Flaps on a trade paperback book that imitates the paper cover on a hard bound book. The cover is made extra large and folded inside.
A list of the publisher’s newest books.
Front Matter
Anything that goes before the first chapter or prologue. This includes, but is not limited to, the title page, the copyright page, foreword, etc.
A package of information, usually electronic, sent by the author at either an agent or editor’s request, containing the full manuscript along with additional information about the author, her marketing plans and anything else the agent or editor requests.
Refers to the category into which a book falls.
Ghost Writer
A person who writes a book for another person who does not have the time or skill to do it himself.
Good Deal
On Publishers Marketplace, any publishing contract valued at less than $250,000 that is at least $100,000.
The margin where the pages of a book are bound together. In most binding techniques, a portion of this area is hidden, so anything that is printed here is lost, “goes in the gutter.”
Process of determining where the typeset pages of a book should be placed on large sheets of paper they will be printed on so that when the pages are folded and cut, the pages are in the correct order with no unintended blank pages.
The publisher. Large publishing companies are sometimes made up of multiple imprints. Each imprint focuses on a specific type of book. This can be helpful to the customers. For example, most of the readers of Steeple Hill Love Inspired books might be offended by the content of the mainline Harlequin Romances, but they are produced by the same company. Having separate imprints makes it easy for the customer to identify certain aspects of the book.
In House Copy
A copy of a book that is used internally by the publishing company or printer. An internal proof or Hard Copy Proof.
Inciting Incident
The event in a novel that influences the protagonist to try to move from whatever his situation is at the first of the to something different.
International Standard Book Number. A number that uniquely identifies each published book. The publisher owns the ISBN. A title may have multiple ISBNs if it is printed in different versions or formats. Not all books have ISBNs, but it is required in most commercial market places.
Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
Number used by the Library of Congress and other libraries to identify a book.
Line Edit
The editor moves line by line through the manuscript looking for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.
List Price
This is the price at which a publisher recommends a retailer sell a book. The Publisher gives the retailer a discount, which can be as much as 40% or 50%. The retailer then sells the book at list price, making a profit. The retailer may also give the customer a portion of the discount, if his expenses allow.
Major Deal
On Publishers Marketplace, any publishing contract valued at $500,000 or more.
A document containing the text of a book prior to publication.
Mass-market Paperback
A book designed for sale in supermarkets. Typically they are printed on newsprint paper using perfect binding and are priced much less than their trade paperback cousins.
Nice Deal
On Publishers Marketplace, any publishing contract valued at less than $50,000.
Not Right For Me
Phrase used by agents and editors to say they personally don’t think they can do anything with a manuscript, but it is possible that others can.
A fictional book containing at least 50,000 words. Most publishers require at least 75,000 words. The average novel is somewhere around 90,000 words. A mid-length novel is between 50,000 and 70,000 words. A full length novel is between 70,000 and 100,000 words.
A fictional work of between 25,000 and 50,000 words.
A fictional work of between 15,000 and 25,000 words.
Offset Printing
A high speed printing process involving an inked plate made from a photo image of the pages that transfers ink to an offset cylinder that transfers the ink to paper. This is the typical process for large volume printing. Setup costs make it cost prohibitive for small numbers of books, but once the machines are running it costs very little to keep them running.
A typesetting mistake in which the first line of a paragraph is the last line of a page.
Out of Print
The publisher no longer has the book in stock and has declared it will print no more.
Out of Stock
The publisher no longer has the book in its warehouse, but it may print more at a future time.
Over the Transom
When a manuscript appears on an editor’s desk without going through an agent it is said to have come over the transom. This is in reference to when editors sat in the basement of buildings and passersby would literally slip manuscripts over the transom and through the windows above them.
A novelist who writes by the Seat of the Pants, not taking time to plan the novel before beginning to write.
A package of information, usually electronic, sent by the author at either an agent or editor’s request, containing a portion of the manuscript along with additional information about the author, her marketing plans and anything else the agent or editor requests. More information may be requested later.
Pen Name
A pseudonym under which an author writes.
Perfect Bound
Typical binding for paperback books, with a strip of glue holding the individual sheets of paper together.
The rights required for an author his publisher to copy the intellectual property of another person. They can range from a simple e-mail saying, “Sure, you can copy my stuff,” to a detailed contract specifying what may be copied, how many copies can be made and how much the publisher must pay for each copy.
Pixelated Image
An image in which the pixels are visible to the eye. This can happen when the dots or pixels per inch is less than 300.
Essentially, an author’s influence with people. It is often connected with the author's ability to sell books, as that seems to be the primary interest in influence that the publishing industry has. The author must have expertise in the subject. The author must have the respect of a significant number of people for that expertise. The subject must be one people are willing to spend money to learn about.
Plot Based
A storyline that begins from the plot and characters are chosen who will follow the plot.
A novelist who outlines the story before beginning to write.
To try to convince an agent or publisher that a book proposal has merit. Also, the short speech used to make such a pitch.
Point of View (POV)
A reference to how the narrator describes the scenes within a book. There are three primary points of view, First Person (I, me, mine), Second Person (You, Yours), Third Person (He, It, They). Within that, there is the Omnipotent view in which the narrator can know everything about everyone and everything, the Limited (Omnipotent) in which the narrator can know everything about one person, and Objective in which the narrator observes, but is unaware of anything that he cannot observe with the five senses.
Writing in which the author makes statements as if they are of fact when there is not sufficient supporting evidence. Writing that does not consider more than one point of view.
Preemptive Offer
An offer made by a publisher intending to prevent the author from taking his manuscript to another publisher and starting a bidding war.
Print On Demand (POD)
A high quality printing process that is capable of printing one book at a time in seconds using high speed laser printers and automated binding equipment. Most economical method for Short Run Printing, but cost prohibitive for large printings. This method is used by some publishers to keep a book in print without the need for warehouse space.
A first chapter of a book that is closely related to the rest of the book, but does not fit in terms of time, place, characters, Point of View, etc.
Proof Copy
A copy of a book that is intended to match the final version of the book and is used as final verification prior to printing.
The idea for a book or publishing venture, presented in a formal way.
The character who drives the action of the story. May be good or bad.
Publication Date
A date after printing at which point the book has had time to get to the stores and be available for purchase. The publisher hopes the news media will say something about the book after this date rather than before, when listeners will be unable to buy the book and will forget about it later.
Publish On Demand (POD)
A non-traditional form of publishing in which the publisher agrees to publish any book, with few exceptions, at the request of the author. The publisher may charge for the service, do so for no fee, but pay the author a smaller royalty, or pay the author a token advance and claim to be a “traditional publisher.” Some Publish On Demand companies can also be considered Vanity Presses.
To make an inquiry to an agent or editor about the possibility of the agent representing the author or the publisher offering a contract.
Query Letter
A letter describing the work of the author and notifying an editor or agent of an author’s desire to get his work published. A typical query letter, contains a short description of the work, pertinent information about the author and a sample of the author’s writing, as many as three chapters of the work.
A term that refers to when an agent or editor declines to represent an author or to offer a contract, respectively.
Term referring to the publisher having completed the production work of the book and making it available to the general public for purchase.
A liquidation practice. A publisher remainders a book when the book sales are no longer high enough to justify the warehouse space required. The remaining books are marked, usually with a black felt tipped marker, to indicate the books may not be returned and the books are sold in bulk at a drastically reduced price.
Number of dots per inch (DPI) in an image.
Right of First Refusal
A clause placed in a contract that gives the publisher the option to publish the author’s next book without competition from other publishers. This protects the publisher from a bidding war after an author has created a surprisingly successful book.
A percentage of either profit or revenue from each book that is paid to the intellectual property owner for the privilege of publishing the book.
Rules of Writing
A set of recommendations of unknown quantity that aspiring authors are often pointed to as a means by which they can improve their skill.
A novel with more than 120,000 words.
Seat of the Pants
Writing a novel without taking the time to outline the plot.
Process by which the author does project management work of producing a book as opposed to selling the book to a traditional publisher.
A group of books, usually by the same author and published, that have a common theme that connects them. The books may have the same characters, take place in the same location, etc. Typically, the publisher will use similar covers on each book.
Short Discount
A discount a publisher gives to retailers that is less than the typical 40% off of list price. A 20% discount would be a short discount. Retailers require a discount in order to sell the books at list price and stay in operation.
Short Run Printing
A small printing of 500 copies or less.
Short Story
A fictional work that is typically less than 15,000 words.
Significant Deal
On Publishers Marketplace, any publishing contract valued at less than $500,000 that is at least $250,000.
Slush Pile
An electronic or physical pile of manuscripts that an agent, editor or assistant wades through when looking for new talent. Approximately 98-99% of all manuscripts in the slush pile are rejected.
Latin for “let it stand.” Writing stet next to a paragraph or sentence is to tell the copy editor that a change he has made is incorrect whereas the original was correct.
Subsidy Press
Similar to a Vanity Press, a subsidy publisher is a publish on demand publisher that makes its money in part from the author subsidizing the publishing process and in part from book sales. The key difference between the two being that a true Vanity Press sells books only to the author.
Trade Paperback
A book with the approximate dimensions of a hard bound book, but with a paper cover. Typically, the book block is of higher quality than that of a mass-market paperback.
Traditional Publisher
A publisher that at no cost to the author produces and markets a book, giving the author royalties for the books sold. Traditional Publishers often pay an advance, though some do not. Traditional publishers reject nearly 100% of the manuscripts they receive from aspiring authors.
Trim Size
The dimensions of a book.
Process of preparing text for printing.
Vanity Press
A non-traditional publisher that, for a fee, will design a cover, format the book block and sent the book to the printer. Similar to a Subsidy Press, but a Vanity Press makes no attempt at selling to anyone other than the author.
Vector Image
An scaleable image that has no pixels and is composed of mathematically defined lines and curves. Most fonts are vector images.
Very Nice Deal
On Publishers Marketplace, any publishing contract valued at less than $100,000 that is at least $50,000.
Wannabe Author
A derogatory term used primarily by literary agents to refer to aspiring authors who submit manuscripts that demonstrate their complete lack of ability as a writer, people who “want to be” authors, but are not.
A typesetting mistake in which the last line of a paragraph is the first line of a page.
Word Count
The publishing industry typically measures the length of manuscripts in terms of the number of words they contain. Sophisticated word processors typically have a word counting capability. For a printed manuscript, the word count can be estimated at between 250 and 300 words per double spaced page.
Work In Progress (WIP)
Anything the author is working on that is in an incomplete state. It usually refers to something the author is actively working on.