Publisher’s Glossary

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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

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Acquisition: When a publisher purchases the rights to publish a book.

Advance: Money paid by a publisher to an author or illustrator before the book goes on the market, in anticipation of sales. The advance is charged against royalties and is repaid by an “earn out” before any royalties are paid.

Advance Copies:  (see galleys) republication edition of the book, generally used to generate reviews and publicity; also known as ARCs.

Agent: A well-connected professional who places your work with publishers, keeps track of your royalties, and perhaps provides career guidance in return for a percentage of your earnings.

ARC: An abbreviation for “advance reader copy.” An ARC is a better-looking bound galley sent in advance to booksellers and others, often looking like an attractive paperback, intended to generate interest in a book.

Audience: The people for whom you are writing. In children’s books, this can mean a specific age level.

Author’s representative: See agent.

Authorized:  Written with the subject’s consent.

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Backlist: Previously published books. A publisher’s backlist is an important source of revenue, because backlist sales are more predictable and dependable than front-list sales.

Back matter: Supplementary material in the back of a book, such as a glossary, recommended reading lists, an index, or information about the book.

Binding: What holds a book together. A trade binding is usually sewn and glued. A library binding is more durable, with cloth reinforcement and often a different sewing method. Paperbacks are usually bound with glue only.

Bleed: Not what publishers do to artists and writers, bleed is a technical term referring to illustrations that extend off the edges of pages.

Blues or bluelines: a printing, in blue only, from the final plates for a book. This is usually seen only by editors and constitutes a final check. If changes are needed, they have to be made to the film, which is expensive.

Blurbs:  (cover quotes) endorsements of the book by well known writers or celebrities.  Often these appear on the book jacket.

Board books: Short, thick, square-shaped (usually) simple books for infants and toddlers.

Body: The main part of the text of a work, not including elements like the table of contents or index.

Boilerplate: Standard language in a contract.

Bologna: Shorthand for the biggest international gathering of children’s publishers, the Bologna Book Fair, held every April. Publishers go to buy from or sell rights to other publishers.

Book Doctor:  Someone hired by the author or publishing house to improve a manuscript.

Book packager: See packager.

Book plus: A book sold with something else, such as a plush toy.

Book proposal: Materials sent to a publisher to propose a book, including at least a description of the book or books, sample chapters, and an outline.

Bound galleys: An advance copy of a novel or nonfiction book, typeset but not proofread, and usually without the final form of the illustrations. Usually bound as a paperback.

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Chains: Companies that own many individual bookstores. The two biggest in bookselling are Barnes & Noble and Borders. They contrast with the independents.

Chapter books: Books for older children. They may be illustrated, but tell a story primarily through words.

Clips: Samples of one’s writing.

Colophon: An item in a book’s front matter that gives information about how it was produced, from typeface s to the kind of paint an artist used.

Commission: When doing work “on commission” the publisher hires you, tells you what to do, and usually pays a fee instead of royalties.

Composition: The arrangement of the various elements (figures, objects, background) in an illustration.

Concept book: A picture book that explores a concept instead of, or perhaps in addition to, telling a story.

Co-op money: Money a bookseller spends to promote a publisher’s books, which is then reimbursed.

Copy editor: The person who reviews a manuscript for style, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

Copyright: Literally, the right to create and distribute copies of a creative work. Under copyright law, you hold copyright in a work from the moment you create it.

Cover Art:  The design of the book jacket generally produced in-house by the publisher’s art department.

Cover letter: The letter that accompanies your manuscript or art samples.

Critique: A thoughtful, usually written evaluation of a manuscript, concentrating on problems of structure, tone, characterization, and the like.

Cross-collateralization:  A contract provision that allows the publisher to charge unearned advances on a book against another title.

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Draft: A version of a manuscript. The first draft is the first one written; t he rough draft is an unpolished version; the final draft is the last one.

Dummy: A manuscript laid out in book form, with sketches of all the illustrations and sample finished pieces.


Earn out: To reach the point when the royalties on a book have paid back the advance paid to the author or illustrator.

E-book (also ebook): A book that must be read in an electronic format, either on a personal computer or a handheld reader, instead of on paper.

Epistolary:  Written in the form of letters.
Error and omissions:  Insurance available to authors concerned about possible lawsuits resulting from their work.

Exclusive submission: A manuscript sent to only one publisher.

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Faction:  A recently coined term used to describe works that straddle the line between fact and fiction.

Fair use: A limited exception to copyright law, allowing others to draw on or use excerpts from a copyrighted work without formal permission.

Fiction: Writing from the imagination, or writing containing elements of imagination, fable, or tale. Also known as “lies,” or “something you’ve made up.”

Film: What most books today are printed from.

First Pass:  An early printed edition of the manuscript, which is reviewed for accuracy by the author and copy editor before publication.

First Serial Rights:  The right to except a work in a periodical.

Flap Copy:  Synopses of the story, blurbs, review quotes, or other information designed to help sell the book.

Folded and gathered (F&G’s): A sheet or sheets from a print run, folded, cut, and generally made ready for binding, but not bound. F&G’s are often used as review copies for picture books.

Frankfurt: Frankfurt is the site of the largest international publishing convention, in the autumn every year. Like Bologna, but for all publishers.

Freelancer:  An independent contract worker who is employed by the publisher. This person doesn’t work on salary or as a full-time employee for the publisher. Many writ ers find extra income by freelancing; children’s publishers may send out design and copyediting work to freelancers.

Frontlist:  The books a publisher is releasing this year or season: the new books.

Front matter: The material before the body of a book, including such elements as the title and copyright pages, a table of contents, or an introduction.

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Galleys: Long pages of typeset text, not yet broken out into book pages, not much used today due to computerized typesetting and page layout.

Genre:  Sales and marketing category into which the title falls (e.g., mystery, suspense, horror, how-to, self-help, fiction, non-fiction, children, religious)

Ghost Writer:  A writer or co-writer who is not credited on the work.

Glossary: What you are reading now.


Hardcover: A book produced with a hard, stiff outer cover, usually covered by a jacket. The covers are usually made of cardboard, over which is stretched cloth, treated paper, vinyl, or some other plastic.

Historical fiction: Fiction in a historical setting, in which the main character, and often
many others, are invented, while the setting and other details are based on careful research.

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Imprint: A part of a publisher with a distinct identity, name, and staff.

Independents: Bookstores not owned by large companies, usually free-standing or having only a few branches.

Index: An alphabetical list of topics and key words to be found in a book, with their page number locations.

Institutional: One of the markets in children’s publishing, named for the institutions the books are sold to–schools and libraries.

IRC: Short for International Reply Coupon: good for postage anywhere in the world. Send one or more to a foreign publisher along with a self-addressed envelope for the response.

ISBN: The acronym for International Standard Book Number. This number gives the book a unique ID, like your Social Security number, for orders and distribution. The first part of the number identifies the language of publication (“0” for English), and the second part is the publisher’s number.


Jacket: Short for “dust jacket,” this is the paper cover on a book. Originally intended to keep it clean, it’s now used as a way of catching the eye of the reader, through dramatic art and type.


Kill Fee:  Pre-negotiated amount paid to the author of an article which ahs been assigned but not slated for publication.

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Layout: The arrangement of all the elements of a book’s design, from text paragraphs and illustrations to chapter titles and page numbers.

License: The right to do something. In publishing, the right to publish a book or books, or to use something from one book in another product. An “audio license,” for example, gives a company the right to produce an audio tape of a book.

Line-editing: Close, line-by-line editing of a book, concentrating on tone, style, flow, sequencing, clarity, and such matters.

Lists: Semi-annual (or more frequent) groups of books produced by a publisher, announced and placed in a catalog together. A publisher’s list is simply the books that company produces.

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Manuscript: A writer’s work before it is typeset and printed; originally “hand written,” as the word implies, now it is likely to be produced on a word processing program..

Mass market: Books sold through general retail outlets, usually with wide appeal and low prices.

Middle grade: An age category roughly corresponding to the middle grades of school, perhaps the fourth through eighth grades, to which many of the classic children’s novels belong.

Midlist: Books with reliable but not outstanding sales–the ones in the middle of the list.

Model release: Written permission for the use of one’s likeness in print. Needed if you take someone’s picture for a book.

Ms./mss.: Short for manuscript or manuscripts.

Multiple submission: A manuscript sent to two or more publishers at the same time (hence the alternative term, “simultaneous submission.”)

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Niche publisher: A publisher who specializes in a subject of interest to a small group of people and sells its books nationally, but only in specialized outlets.

Nonfiction: Also known as an “informational book,” writing in which the author retells historical events, crafts a biography, passes on knowledge, or presents activities or experiments.

Novelty book: Any book with features added to it beyond the binding and pages; for example, foldout page, die-cut holes, lift-the-flap, pop-ups, or sound chips.

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On spec: Work done without a contract, in the hope that one will be forthcoming: “on speculation.”

OP: Out of print, meaning that the publisher has no copies of a book on hand and does not intend to reprint it.

Option clause: An item in a contract granting a publisher the right to consider an author’s next work.

Original expression: What copyright law protects: your own unique way of expressing an idea, telling a story, or creating a work of art.

OSI: Out of stock indefinitely. The publisher has no copies of a book on hand, but may wish to reprint it in the future, and so is not calling it out of print.

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Packager: A company specializing in creating books up to the printing stage or the distribution stage; marketing and distributing the book is handled by the publisher. The packager’s name may appear on the copyright page, but the publisher’s appears on the spine.

Paperback: A binding with a soft cover, usually a light cardboard. A trade paperback is usually the same size as a hardcover book, and printed to the same standards. A mass market paperback is usually smaller, designed to fit in a rack, and printed on cheaper paper.

Permissions: Agreements from copyright holders granting the right to reproduce their work.

Picture books: Books for younger children, which have pictures on every page, and tell a story through words and pictures.

POD: See print on demand.

PP&B: Paper, printing, and binding. The cost of producing a finished book.

Press kit: A folder of materials about your book sent to the media to alert them to your book’s release.

Print on demand: A relatively new technology that uses digital files rather than film to print books, allowing for copies to be printed as needed (“on demand”), rather than in a run of thousands of copies. Unit costs are higher than in traditional printing, but overall costs can be lower, since fewer copies must be printed and warehoused.

Proofreader: The person who reviews the proofs for errors before it goes to press.

Proofs: The typeset pages of a book before it is printed.

Pub. Date: The publication date; the date when a publisher says a book will be available.

Public domain: Not copyrighted, either because it never was or because the copyright has expired or lapsed; public domain material can be used without attribution or permission, though good writing practice means making a note of sources.

Publishing committee: More traditionally known as the editorial board, this is the group that at some companies approves the acquisition of a book.

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Query letter: A letter you send to a publisher to ask, or query, if they are interested in see ing the manuscript.


Regional publisher: A publisher who specializes in subjects relevant to a particular part of the country, and sells its books mostly or entirely in that area.

Rejection letter: A letter turning down a manuscript. If it is an unsigned photocopy, you’ve received a standard response. If personalized in any way, take this as a good sign.

Remainders: Surplus books sold at a steep discount. A publisher may remainder a book and sell off all its stock when putting it out of print, or it may sell only some of its copies to reduce its stock.

Response time: The time it takes a publisher to reply to a submission, usually measured in months.

Returns: Books sent back to a publisher. Unlike many other businesses, retailers can usually return books for a full refund. Returns often come back several months after a book is published.

Review copies: Copies of a book sent to reviewers, usually before publication, and often in the form of bound galleys or F&G’s.

Rights: The many different ways a book can be licensed, ranging from book club rights to movie rights and even theme park rights. Also called subsidiary rights.

Royalties: Money paid to an author by a publisher on the basis of books sold. It may be a percentage of the list price, which is the price for which the book supposedly will be sold to a consumer, or of the net price, which is what the publisher actually receives (often 40 percent to 50 percent less than the net price).

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Gulf Coast Writers Association