Thursday, July 16, 2009

Publishing terms every writer should know

Have you seen acronyms or heard people talking about various things related to publishing and you think, "Huh?"

There are so many terms that we writers need to know. When you first get the contract you are so focused on the "OMG! They want to publish my book!" aspect that you then get this contract you have to read three times minimum and go, "What?"

Well, I thought I would toss out a few publishing terms and their definitions (as I see them) as a sort of dictionary. There are many more! Feel free to post any you think others should be aware of.


Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance on all future earnings.

ARCS: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers. (This one I had no clue the first time I heard it.)

Blurb: A one or two paragraph description of your book. People often compare a blurb to back cover copy. This is the pitch you use in your query letter as well as the pitch you would use in pitch appointments.

Copy Edits: Edits that focus on the mechanics of your writing. A copy editor typically looks for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typos, and style. (As good as your grammar checker is, it does not beat another person reviewing your work.)

Galleys: Another word for ARCs. Galleys aren’t always bound, but are also sent to reviewers as well as other sources for publicity. Galleys are often a copy of your Page Proofs.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters, bookmarks.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets. Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4” x 7” in size.

Pitch: Usually verbal, the pitch is your Blurb. It’s a one-paragraph description of your book. It’s what you use to entice readers to read the book and describe the story.

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, and other networking Web sites. (I did not know that publicity meant free - did you?)

Royalties: The percentage of the sales an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested. (Attending conferences will help you not hit the slush pile because you can give pitch sessions and an invitation to send more to an agent/editor.)

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion. (Tell your story to an editor or agent in 5 pages or less.)

Tag Line: The one line often used on the front cover of the book to grab a reader’s attention. (Tag lines are fun and painful to write. Imagine telling your story in one line.)

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shorthand for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense.


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