Have you heard words bandied about at writers meetings like “she asked for a FULL” or “the ARCs arrive next week?” Did you get a letter from your publisher about “REMAINDERING” your book or did your first-choice agent say “your submission is buried in the SLUSH PILE?” A comprehensive list of publishing terms would run pages and pages. Here’s an abbreviated list with terms most useful to authors. ~CHU
Account—Book retailers. While “store” and “account” can refer to an individual store, “account” always means “group” of all stores with a given name.”
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. Royalties are deducted from the advance until it “earns out.” First—time authors may not be offered an advance.
ARCS—Advanced Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and un-finalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers.
BISAC Subject Headings—A list of “shelving categories” including code, major subject and, secondary subjects. Example: BIO026000 Biography and Autobiography/Personal Memoirs or HUM007000 Humor/Topic/Parodies.
Blurb—A testimonial statement from a person known to the public (a celebrity, politician, author, etc.) or an expert in the book’s subject. Blurbs are printed on the front or back of the book and used in marketing materials.
Buyer—A person who works for a given account and is charged with buying books (or a specific genre of books) from publishers or distributors for the account.
COG—“Cost of Goods.” All of the direct costs required to publish a book including editing, photography, illustrations, design, layout, plates, printing, binding, and freight-in.
Commission—The percentage of earnings paid to a literary agent, typically 15% for selling a manuscript to publisher.
Co-op—Advertising/promotional space in bookstores (front-of-store tables, in-section face-outs, end caps) that the publisher pays the account for, often on a monthly or seasonal basis.
Copy Edits—Edits that focus on the mechanics of the writing. A copy editor typically looks for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typos, and style.
Distributor—Sales company that represents a publisher’s books to wholesalers and retail accounts and often also maintains an inventory warehouse.
Fiction—A story/book based on research and imagination.
Full—A full manuscript. If an editor or agents ask for a full, that is a good sign of interest.
Genre—The classification of books. Examples of the fiction genre include fantasy, mystery, romance, science fiction and westerns and in non-fiction you might see sub-genres like architecture, art, business, current events, health, parenting or pets.
Hardcover—Also called “hardback” or “cloth,” a book with a rigid cover. Boards (heavy cardboard) are covered with cloth, leather or faux cloth or leather. Frequently includes a dust jacket and a retail price in the $20—$40 range. Hardcover books that have the printed cover adhered to the boards are called PLC (printed laminated cover).
Imprint—The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Imprints usually focus on specific genres.
Mass Market—Also called “paperback” or “rack-size,” these are the “pocket-sized,” paperbacks printed on lower quality paper and a smaller trim size. The price is generally in the $4—$8 range. Rather than being returned or remaindered, mass-market editions are often stripped.
Narrative Non-fiction—Non-fiction written in story form like memoir, biography, autobiography, etc. Also called creative non-fiction.
Non-fiction—Writing based on fact.
Novel—Book length fiction. It is redundant to say “fiction novel” or refer to non-fiction as a “novel.”
Pitch—Frequently verbal, the pitch is a one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. Often called the “elevator pitch” as the author can give it in the time of an elevator ride.
Proofs/Page Proofs—This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages and the author is given one last chance to review the designer’s proofs to check for typos or other small errors.
Proposal—A proposal is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative non—fiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non—narrative non—fiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing (usually a chapter or two). Also called a “Partial.”
Query—A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to attain representation or a publishing agent. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and website—as well as the book title, genre, author bio, and a short enticing synopsis of the book.
Remainders—Remainders are books that are no longer selling well and which are being liquidated by the publisher (sold to a third party at greatly reduced, often near-or-below-unit, cost). Oftentimes authors are given the option of buying their remaindered stock before the title is offered up to other parties.
Retailer—Seller of book to consumers including independent and chain bookstores, big box retailers, mass merchants, and online retailers.
Returns—Often expressed as a percentage, returns are the books sent back to the publisher by the account. If 100 books are shipped to the retailer, and seventy are sold to consumers, that leaves thirty returned to the publisher. Thus the title has a 30% return rate.
Royalties—The percentage of money an author receives for each copy of the book sold.
Sell-through—Usually expressed as a percentage, sell-through is the number of books sold by an account compared to how many it bought. If 100 books are shipped to an account, seventy are sold to consumers and thirty are returned to the publisher, the book had a 70% sell-through.
Slush/Slush Pile—Proposal, manuscripts, and queries sent to agents, editors, and publishers and not yet processed.
Stripped Book—A book without a cover, almost always a mass-market edition. Because it is not cost-effective to return or remainder mass-market editions, their covers are torn off by the retailer and shipped back to the publisher as proof the books have been destroyed. The retailer then destroys the books.
Synopsis—A description of the book designed to familiarize the editor or agent with the storyline including the conclusion.
Tag Line—A single line often used on the front cover of the book to grab a reader’s attention.
Trade—Trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass-market.
Trade Paperback—Also called “quality paperback,” this is the paperback edition of a book with a trim size roughly comparable to the hardcover edition (if there was one) and larger than that of a mass-market edition. The price range is generally in the $10—$20 range. “Original Trade Paper Edition” refers to books that were not published initially as hardcover.