Brochure Design Publishing Terms


abstract: A brief sequential profile of chapters in a nonfiction book proposal (also called a synopsis); a point-by-point summary of an article or essay. In academic and technical journals abstracts often appear with (and may serve to preface) the articles themselves.

adaptation: A rewrite or reworking of a piece for another medium, such as the adaptation of a novel for the screen. (see: screenplay)

advance: Money paid (usually in installments) to an author by a publisher prior to publication. The advance is paid against royalties: If an author is given a $5,000 advance, for instance, the author will collect royalties only after the royalty moneys due exceed $5,000. A good contract protects the advance if it should exceed the royalties ultimately due from sales.

advance orders: Orders received before a book's official publication date, and sometimes before actual completion of the book's production and manufacture.

agent: The person who acts on behalf of the author to handle the sale of the author's literary properties. Good literary agents are as valuable to publishers as they are to writers; they select and present manuscripts appropriate for particular houses or of interest to particular acquisitions editors. Agents are paid on a percentage basis from the moneys due their author clients.

American Booksellers Association (ABA): The major trade organization for retail booksellers, chain and independent. The annual ABA convention and trade show offers a chance for publishers and distributors to display their wares to the industry at large, and provides an incomparable networking forum for booksellers, editors, agents, publicists, and authors.

American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA): A membership organization for professional writers. ASJA provides a forum for information exchange among writers and others in the publishing community, as well as networking opportunities. (see: Dial-a-Writer)

anthology: A collection of stories, poems, essays, and/or selections from larger works (and so forth), usually carrying a unifying theme or concept. These selections may be written by different authors or by a single author. Anthologies are compiled as opposed to written; their editors (as opposed to authors) are responsible for securing the needed reprint rights for the material used, as well as supplying (or providing authors for) pertinent introductory or supplementary material and/or commentary.

auction: Manuscripts a literary agent believes to be hot properties (such as possible bestsellers with strong subsidiary rights potential) will be offered for confidential bidding from multiple publishing houses. Likewise, the reprint, film, and other rights to a successful book may be auctioned off by the original publisher's subsidiary rights department or by the author's agent.

audio books: Works produced for distribution on audio media, typically audiotape cassette or audio compact disk (CD). Audio books are usually spoken-word adaptations of works originally created and produced in print. These works sometimes feature the author's own voice although many are given dramatic readings by one or more actors and/or at times embellished with sound effects.

author's bio (or bio): An author's biography (or bio for short) is the brief discription of the writer noting small tidbits of information (where they were born, their education, hobbies and interests, etc.) found often just behind the back cover of a paperback or on the inside dust jacket of a hardbound book.

authorized biography: A history of a person' s life written with the authorization, cooperation, and, at times, participation of the subject or the subject's heirs.

author's copies/author's discount: Author's copies are the free copies of their books the authors receive from the publisher; the exact number is stipulated in the contract, but it is usually at least 10 hardcovers. The author will be able to purchase additional copies of the book (usually at 40% discount from the retail price) and resell them at readings, lectures, and other public engagements. In cases where large quantities of books are bought, author discounts can go as high as 70%.

author tour: A series of travel and promotional appearances by an author on behalf of the author's book.

autobiography: A history of a person's life written by that same person, or, as is typical, composed conjointly with a collaborative writer (''as told to" or "with"; see coauthor, collaboration) or ghostwriter. Autobiographies by definition entail the authorization, cooperation, participation, and ultimate approval of the subject.


backlist: The backlist comprises books published prior to the current season and still in print. Traditionally, at some publishing houses, such backlist titles represent the publisher's cash flow mainstays. Some backlist books continue to sell briskly; some remain bestsellers over several successive seasons; others sell slowly but surely through the years. Although many backlist titles may be difficult to find in bookstores that stock primarily current lists, they can be ordered either through a local bookseller or directly from the publisher.

backmatter: Elements of a book that follow the text proper. Backmatter may include the appendix, notes, glossary, bibliography and other references, list of resources, index, author biography, offerings of the author's and/or publisher's additional books and other related merchandise, and colophon.

bestseller: Based on sales or orders by bookstores, wholesalers, and distributors, bestsellers are those titles that move in the largest quantities. Lists of bestselling books can be local (as in metropolitan newspapers), regional (typically in geographically keyed trade or consumer periodicals), or national (as in USA Today, Publishers Weekly, or the New York Times), as well as international. Fiction and nonfiction are usually listed separately, as are hardcover and paperback classifications. Depending on the list's purview, additional industry-sector designations are used (such as how-to/self-improvement, religion and spirituality, business and finance); in addition, bestseller lists can be keyed to particular genre or specialty fields (such as bestseller lists for mysteries, science fiction, or romance novels, and for historical works, biography, or popular science titles) - and virtually any other marketing category at the discretion of whoever issues the bestseller list (for instance African-American interest, lesbian and gay topics, youth market).

bibliography: A list of books, articles, and other sources that have been used in the writing of the text in which the bibliography appears. Complex works may break the bibliography down into discrete subject areas or source categories, such as General History, Military History, War in the Twentieth Century, or Unionism and Pacifism.

binding: The materials that hold a book together (including the cover). Bindings are generally denoted as hardcover (featuring heavy cardboard covered with durable cloth and/or paper, and occasionally other materials) or paperback (using a pliable, resilient grade of paper, sometimes infused or laminated with other substances such as plastic). In the days when cloth was used lavishly, hardcover volumes were conventionally known as clothbound; and in the very old days, hardcover bindings sometimes featured tooled leather, silk, precious stones, and gold and silver leaf ornamentation.

biography: A history of a person's life. (see: authorized biography, autobiography, unauthorized biography)

blues (or bluelines): Photographic proofs of the printing plates for a book. Blues are reviewed as a means to inspect the set type, layout, and design of the book's pages before it goes to press.

blurb: A piece of written copy or extracted quotation used for publicity and promotional purposes, as on a flyer, in a catalog, or in an advertisement. (see: cover blurbs)

book club: A book club is a book-marketing operation that ships selected titles to subscribing members on a regular basis, sometimes at greatly reduced prices. Sales of a work to book clubs are negotiated through the publisher's subsidiary rights department (in the case of a bestseller or other work that has gained acclaim, these rights can be auctioned off). Terms vary, but the split of royalties between author and publisher is often 50%/50%. Book club sales are seen as blessed events by author, agent, and publisher alike.

book contract: A legally binding document between author and publisher that sets the terms for the advance, royalties, subsidiary rights, advertising, promotion, publicity - plus a host of other contingencies and responsibilities. Writers should therefore be thoroughly familiar with the concepts and terminology of the standard book-publishing contract.

book distribution: The method of getting books from the publisher's warehouse into the reader's hands. Distribution is traditionally through bookstores, but can include such means as telemarketing and mail-order sales, as well as sales through a variety of special-interest outlets such as health-food or New Age venues, sports and fitness emporiums, or sex shops. Publishers use their own sales forces as well as independent salespeople, wholesalers, and distributors. Many large and some small publishers distribute for other publishers, which can be a good source of income. A publisher's distribution network is extremely important, because it not only makes possible the vast sales of a bestseller but also affects the visibility of the publisher's entire list of books.

book jacket: (see: dust jacket)

book producer or book packager: An individual or company that can assume many of the roles in the publishing process. A book packager or producer may conceive the idea for a book (most often nonfiction) or series, bring together the professionals (including the writer) needed to produce the book(s), sell the individual manuscript or series project to a publisher, take the project through to manufactured product - or perform any selection of those functions, as commissioned by the publisher or other client (such as a corporation producing a corporate history as a premium or giveaway for employees and customers). The book producer may negotiate separate contracts with the publisher and with the writers, editors, and illustrators who contribute to the book.

book review: A critical appraisal of a book (often reflecting a reviewer's personal opinion or recommendation) that evaluates such aspects as organization and writing style, possible market appeal, and cultural, political, or literary significance. Before the public reads book reviews in the local and national print media, important reviews have been published in such respected book-trade journals as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Booklist. A gushing review from one of these journals will encourage booksellers to order the book; copies of these raves will be used for promotion and publicity purposes by the publisher and will encourage other book reviewers nationwide to review the book.

Books in Print: Listings, published by R. R. Bowker, of books currently in print; these yearly volumes (along with periodic supplements such as Forthcoming Books in Print) provide ordering information including titles, authors, ISBN numbers, prices, whether the book is available in hardcover or paperback, and publisher names. Intended for use by the book trade, Books in Print is also of great value to writers who are researching and market-researching their projects. Listings are provided alphabetically by author, title, and subject area.

bound galleys: Copies of uncorrected typesetters page proofs or printouts of electronically produced mechanicals that are bound together as advance copies of the book (compare to: galleys). Bound galleys are sent to trade journals (see: book review) as well as to a limited number of reviewers who work under long lead times.

bulk sales: The sale at a set discount of many copies of a single title (the greater the number of books, the larger the discount).

byline: The name of the author of a given piece, indicating credit for having written a book or article. Ghostwriters, by definition, do not receive bylines.


casing: Alternate term for binding (see: binding)

category fiction: Also known as genre fiction. Category fiction falls into an established (or newly originated) marketing category (which can then be subdivided for more precise target marketing). Fiction categories include action-adventure (with such further designations as military, paramilitary, law enforcement, romantic, and martial arts); crime novels (with points of view that range from deadpan cool to visionary, including humorous capers as well as gritty urban sagas); mysteries or detective fiction (hard-boiled, soft-boiled, procedurals, cozies); romances (including historicals as well as contemporaries); horror (supernatural, psychological, or technological); thrillers (tales of espionage, crisis, and the chase), westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. (see: fantasy fiction, horror, romance fiction, science fiction, suspense fiction, and thriller)

CD or CD-ROM: High-capacity compact disks for use by readers via computer technology. CD-ROM is a particular variety; the term is somewhere between an acronym and an abbreviation - CD-ROMs are compact computer disks with read-only memory, meaning the reader is not able to modify or duplicate the contents. Many CDs are issued with a variety of audiovisual as well as textual components. When produced by publishers, these are sometimes characterized as books in electronic format. (see: multimedia)

chapter by chapter breakdown: A chapter by chapter breakdown is the longest and most detailed of all synopses. The breakdown consists of writing a single paragraph up to a page summary of each and every chapter in the book. It should introduction of any important characters, significant events in the plot, and how each particular chapter helps to move the story along. (compare with: log-line, synopsis, outline)

children's books: Books for children. As defined by the book-publishing industry, children are generally readers aged 17 and younger; many houses adhere to a fine but firm editorial distinction between titles intended for younger readers (under 12) and young adults (generally aged 12 to 17). Children's books (also called juveniles) are produced according to a number of categories (often typified by age ranges), each with particular requisites regarding such elements as readability ratings, length, and inclusion of graphic elements. Picture books are often for very young readers, with such designations as toddlers (who do not themselves read) and preschoolers (who may have some reading ability). Other classifications include easy storybooks (for younger school children); middle-grade books (for elementary to junior high school students); and young adult (abbreviated YA, for readers through age 17).

coauthor: One who shares authorship of a work. Coauthors all have bylines. Coauthors share royalties based on their contributions to the book. (compare to: ghostwriter)

collaboration: Writers can collaborate with professionals in any number of fields. Often a writer can collaborate in order to produce books outside the writer's own areas of formally credentialed expertise (for example, a writer with an interest in exercise and nutrition may collaborate with a sports doctor on a health book). Though the writer may be billed as a coauthor (see: coauthor), the writer does not necessarily receive a byline which case the writer is a ghostwriter). Royalties are shared, based on respective contributions to the book (including expertise or promotional abilities as well as the actual writing).

colophon: Strictly speaking, a colophon is a publisher's logo. In bookmaking, the term may also refer to a listing of the materials used, as well as credits for the design, composition, and production of the book. Such colophons are sometimes included in the backmatter or as part of the copyright page.

commercial fiction: Fiction written to appeal to as broad-based a readership as possible.

concept: A general statement of the idea behind a book.

cooperative advertising (or co-op): An agreement between a publisher and a bookstore. The publisher's book is featured in an ad for the bookstore (sometimes in conjunction with an author appearance or other special book promotion); the publisher contributes to the cost of the ad, which is billed at a lower (retail advertising) rate.

copublishing: Joint publishing of a book, usually by a publisher and another corporat entity such as a foundation, a museum, or a smaller publisher. An author can copublish with the publisher by sharing the costs and decision making and, ultimately, the profits.

copyeditor: An editor, responsible for the final polishing of a manuscript, who reads primarily in terms of appropriate word usage and grammatical expression, with an eye toward clarity and coherence of the material as presented, factual errors and inconsistencies, spelling, and punctuation. (see: editor)

copyright: The legal proprietary right to reproduce, have reproduced, publish, and sell copies of literary, musical, and other artistic works. The rights to literary properties reside in the author from the time the work is produced - regardless of whether a formal copyright registration is obtained. However, for legal recourse in the event of plagiarism or other infringement, the work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, and all copies of the work must bear the copyright notice. (see: work-for-hire)

cover blurbs: Favorable quotes from other writers, celebrities, or experts in a book's subject area, which appear on the dust jacket and are used to enhance the book's point-of- purchase appeal to the potential book-buying public.

crash: Coarse gauze fabric used in bookbinding to strengthen the spine and joints of a book.

curriculum vitae (abbreviated c.v.): Latin expression meaning "course of life" in other words, a resume.


deadline: In book publishing, this not-so-subtle synonym is used for the author's due date for delivery of the completed manuscript to the publisher. The deadline can be as much as a full year before official publication date, unless the book is being produced quickly to coincide with or follow up a particular event.

delivery: Submission of the completed manuscript to the editor or publisher.

Dial-a-Writer: Members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors may be listed with the organization's project-referral service, Dial-a-Writer, which can provide accomplished writers in most specialty fields and subjects.

direct marketing: Advertising that involves a "direct response" (which is an equivalent term) from a consumer - for instance an order form or coupon in a book-review section or in the back of a book, or mailings (direct-mail advertising) to a group presumed to hold a special interest in a particular book.

display titles: Books that are produced to be eye-catching to the casual shopper in a bookstore setting are termed display titles. Often rich with flamboyant cover art, these publications are intended to pique book buyer excitement about the store's stock in general. Many display titles are stacked on their own freestanding racks; sometimes broad tables are laden with these items. A book shelved with its front cover showing on racks along with diverse other titles is technically a display title. Promotional or premium titles are likely to be display items, as are mass-market paperbacks and hardbacks with enormous bestseller potential.

distributor: An agent or business that buys books from a publisher to resell, at a higher cost, to wholesalers, retailers, or individuals. Distribution houses are often excellent marketing enterprises, with their own roster of sales representatives, publicity and promotion personnel, and house catalogs. Skillful use of distribution networks can give a small publisher considerable national visibility.

dramatic rights: Legal permission to adapt a work for the stage. These rights initially belong to the author but can be sold or assigned to another party by the author.

dust jacket (also dustcover or book jacket): The wrapper that covers the binding of hardcover books, designed especially for the book by either the publisher's art department or a freelance artist. Dust jackets were originally conceived to protect the book during shipping, but now their function is primarily promotional - to entice the browser to actually reach out and pick up the volume (and maybe even open it up for a taste before buying) - by means of attractive graphics and sizzling promotional copy.

dust-jacket copy: Descriptions of books printed on the dust-jacket flaps. Dust-jacket copy may be written by the book's editor, but is often either recast or written by in-house copywriters or freelance specialists. Editors send advance copies (see: bound galleys) to other writers, experts, and celebrities to solicit quotable praise that will also appear on the jacket. (see also: blurb)


editor: Editorial responsibilities and titles vary from house to house (often being less strictly defined in smaller houses). In general, the duties of the editor-in-chief or executive editor are primarily administrative: managing personnel, scheduling, budgeting, and defining the editorial personality of the firm or imprint. Senior editors and acquisitions editors acquire manuscripts (and authors), conceive project ideas and find writers to carry them out, and may oversee the writing and rewriting of manuscripts. Managing editors have editorial and production responsibilities, coordinating and scheduling the book through the various phases of production. Associate and assistant editors edit; they are involved in much of the rewriting and reshaping of the manuscript, and may also have acquisitions duties. Copyeditors read the manuscript and style its punctuation, grammar, spelling, headings and subheadings, and so forth. Editorial assistants, laden with extensive clerical duties and general office work, perform some editorial duties as well-often as springboards to senior editorial positions.

Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA): This organization of independent professionals offers a referral service, through both its annotated membership directory and its job phone line, as a means for authors and publishers to connect with writers, collaborators, researchers, and a wide range of editorial experts covering virtually all general and specialist fields.

el-hi: Books for elementary and/or high schools.

endnotes: Explanatory notes and/or source citations that appear either at the end of individual chapters or at the end of a book's text; used primarily in scholarly or academically oriented works.

epilogue: The final segment of a book, which comes "after the end." In both fiction and nonfiction, an epilogue offers commentary or further information, but does not bear directly on the book's central design.


fantasy: Fantasy is fiction that features elements of magic, wizardry, supernatural feats, and entities that suspend conventions of realism in the literary arts. Fantasy can resemble prose versions of epics and rhymes, may be informed by mythic cycles or folkloric material derived from cultures worldwide. Fantasy fiction may be guided primarily by the author's own distinctive imagery and personalized archetypes. Fantasies that involve heroic-erotic roundelays of the death-dance are often referred to as the sword-and-sorcery subgenre.

film rights: Like dramatic rights, these belong to the author, who may sell or option them to someone in the film industry - a producer or director, for example (or sometimes a specialist broker of such properties) - who will then try to gather the other professionals and secure the financial backing needed to convert the book into a film. (see: screenplay)

footbands: (see: headbands)

footnotes: Explanatory notes and/or source citations that appear at the bottom of a page. Footnotes are rare in general-interest books, the preferred style being either to work such information into the text or to list informational sources in the bibliography.

foreign agents: Persons who work with their United States counterparts to acquire rights for books from the U.S. for publication abroad. They can also represent U.S. publishers directly.

foreign market: Any foreign entity - a publisher, broadcast medium, etc. - in a position to buy rights. Authors share royalties with whoever negotiates the deal, or keep 100% if they do their own negotiating.

foreign rights: Translation or reprint rights that can be sold abroad. Foreign rights belong to the author but can be sold either country-by-country or en masse as world rights. Often the U.S. publisher will own world rights, and the author will be entitled to anywhere from 50% to 85% of these revenues.

foreword: An introductory piece written by the author or by an expert in the given field (see: introduction). A foreword by a celebrity or well-respected authority is a strong selling point for a prospective author or, after publication, for the book itself.

Frankfurt Book Fair: The largest international publishing exhibition - with five hundred years of tradition behind it. The fair takes place every October in Frankfurt, Germany. Thousands of publishers, agents, and writers from allover the world negotiate, network, and buy and sell rights.

Freedom of Information Act: Ensures the protection of the public's right to access public records - except in cases violating the right to privacy, national security, or certain other instances. A related law, the Government in the Sunshine Act, stipulates that certain government agencies announce and open their meetings to the public.

freight passthrough: The bookseller's freight cost (the cost of getting the book from the publisher to the bookseller). It is added to the basic invoice price charged the bookseller by the publisher.

frontlist: New titles published in a given season by a publisher. Frontlist titles customarily receive priority exposure in the front of the sales catalog - as opposed to backlist titles (usually found at the back of the catalog), which are previously published titles still in print.

frontmatter: The frontmatter of a book includes the elements that precede the text of the work, such as the title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, foreword, preface, acknowledgments, and introduction.

fulfillment house: A firm commissioned to fulfill orders for a publisher - services may include warehousing, shipping, receiving returns, and mail-order and direct-marketing functions. Although more common for magazine publishers, fulfillment houses also serve book publishers.


galleys: Printer's proofs (or copies of proofs) on sheets of paper, or printouts of the electronically produced setup of the book's interior - the author's last chance to check for typos and make (usually minimal) revisions or additions to the copy. (see: bound galleys)

genre fiction: (see: category fiction)

ghostwriter: A writer without a byline, often without the remuneration and recognition that credited authors receive. Ghostwriters often get flat fees for their work, but even without royalties, experienced ghosts can receive quite respectable sums.

glossary: An alphabetical listing of special terms as they are used in a particular subject area, often with more in-depth explanations than would customarily be provided by dictionary definitions.


hardcover: Books bound in a format that uses thick, sturdy, relatively stiff binding boards and a cover composed (usually) of cloth spine and finished binding paper. Hardcover books are conventionally wrapped in a dust jacket. (see: binding, dust jacket)

headbands: Thin strips of cloth (often colored or patterned) that adorn the top of a book's spine where the signatures are held together. The headbands conceal the glue or other binding materials and are said to offer some protection against accumulation of dust (when properly attached). Such pands, placed at the bottom of the spine, are known as footbands.

head shot: A head shot is just that.a photo shot of an author's head accompanied by the author's bio most often found back or the inside cover of a dust jacket.

hook: A term denoting the distinctive concept or theme of a work that sets it apart - as being fresh, new, or different from others in its field. A hook can be an author's special point of view, often encapsulated in a catchy or provocative phrase intended to attract or pique the interest of a reader, editor, or agent. One specialized function of a hook is to articulate what might otherwise be seen as dry albeit significant subject matter (i.e. academic or scientific topics; number-crunching drudgery such as home bookkeeping) into an exciting, commercially attractive package.

horror: The horror classification denotes works that traffic in the bizarre, awful, and scary in order to entertain as well as explicate the darkness at the heart of the reader's soul. Horror subgenres may be typified according to the appearance of were-creatures, vampires, human-induced monsters, or naturally occurring life forms and spirit entities - or absence thereof. Horror fiction traditionally makes imaginative literary use of paranormal phenomena, occult elements, and psychological motifs. (see: category fiction, suspense fiction)

how-to books: An immensely popular category of books ranging from purely instructional (arts and crafts, for example) to motivational (popular psychology, self-awareness, self-improvement, inspirational) to get-rich-quick (such as in real estate or personal investment).

hypertext: Works in hypertext are meant to be more than words and other images. These productions (ingrained magnetically on computer diskette or CD) are conceived to take advantage of readers' and writers' propensities to seek out twists in narrative trajectories and to bushwhack from the main path of multifaceted reference topics. Hypertext books incorporate documents, graphics, sounds, and even blank slates upon which readers may compose their own variations on the authored components. The computer's capacities to afford such diversions can bring reader and hypertext literature so close as to gain entry to each other's mind-sets - which is what good books have always done.


imprint: A separate line of product within a publishing house. Imprints run the gamut of complexity, from those composed of one or two series to those offering full-fledged and diversified lists. Imprints as well enjoy different gradations of autonomy from the parent company. An imprint may have its own editorial department (perhaps consisting of as few as one editor), or house acquisitions editors may assign particular titles for release on appropriate specialized imprints. An imprint may publish a certain kind of book juvenile or paperback or travel books), or have its own personality (such as a literary or contemporary tone). An individual imprint's categories often overlap with other imprints or with the publisher's core list, but some imprints maintain a small-house feel within an otherwise enormous conglomerate. The imprint can offer the distinct advantages of a personalized editorial approach, while availing itself of the larger company's production, publicity, marketing, sales, and advertising resources.

index: An alphabetical directory at the end of a book that references names and subjects discussed in the book and the pages where such mentions can be found.

instant book: A book produced quickly to appear in bookstores as soon as possible after (for instance) a newsworthy event to which it is relevant.

international copyright: Rights secured for countries that are members of the International Copyright Convention (see: International Copyright Convention) and respect the authority of the international copyright symbol, .

International Copyright Convention: Countries that are signatories to the various international copyright treaties. Some treaties are contingent upon certain conditions being met at the time of publication, so an author should inquire before publication into a particular country's laws.

introduction: Preliminary remarks pertaining to a piece. Like a foreword, an introduction can be written by the author or an appropriate authority on the subject. If a book has both a foreword and an introduction, the foreword will be written by someone other than the author; the introduction will be more closely tied to the text and will be written by the book's author. (see: foreword)

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): A 10-digit number that is keyed to and identifies the title and publisher of a book. It is used for ordering and cataloging books and appears on all dust jackets, on the back cover of the book, and on the copyright page.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): An 8-digit cataloging and ordering number that identifies all U.S. and foreign periodicals.


juvenile: (see: children's books)


kill fee: A fee paid by a magazine when it cancels a commissioned article. The fee is only a certain percentage of the agreed-on payment for the assignment (no more than 50% ). Not all publishers pay kill fees; a writer should make sure to formalize such an arrangement in advance. Kill fees are sometimes involved in work-for-hire projects in book publishing.


lead: The crucial first few sentences, phrases, or words or anything - be it a query letter, book proposal, novel, news release, advertisement, or sales tip sheet. A successful lead immediately hooks the reader, consumer, editor, or agent.

lead title: A frontlist book featured by the publisher during a given season - one the publisher believes should. do extremely well commercially. Lead titles are usually those I gIven the publisher's maximum promotional push.

letterhead: Business stationery and envelopes imprinted with the company's (or, in such a case, the writer's) name, address, and logo - a convenience as well as an impressive asset for a freelance writer.

letterpress: A form of printing in which set type is inked, then impressed directly onto the printing surface. Now used primarily for limited-run books-as-fine-art projects. (see: offset)

libel: Defamation of an individual or individuals in a published work, with malice aforethought. In litigation, the falsity of the libelous statements or representations, as well the intention of malice, has to be proved for there to be libel. In addition, financial damages to the parties so libeled must be incurred as a result of the material in question for there to be an assessment of the amount of damages to be awarded to a claimant. This is contrasted to slander, which is defamation through the spoken word.

Library of Congress: The largest library in the world is in Washington, D.C. As part of its many services, the LOC will supply a writer with up-to-date sources and bibliographies in all fields, from arts and humanities to science and technology. For details, write to the Library of Congress, Central Services Division, Washington, DC 20540.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: An identifying number issued by the Library of Congress to books it has accepted for its collection. The publication of those books, which are submitted by the publisher, are announced by the Library of Congress to libraries, which use Library of Congress numbers for their own ordering and cataloging purposes.

Literary Market Place (LMP): An annual directory of the publishing industry that contains a comprehensive list of publishers, alphabetically and by category, with their addresses, phone numbers, some personnel, and the types of books they publish. Also included are various publishing-allied listings, such as literary agencies, writer's conferences and competitions, and editorial and distribution services. LMP is published by R. R. Bowker and is available in most public libraries.

literature: Written works of fiction and nonfiction in which compositional excellence and advancement in the art of writing are higher priorities than are considerations of profit or commercial appeal.

line editor: The editor responsible for all textual issues not in the purview of the copy editor. The line editor reads the text for sense, clarity, tone, flow, logic, quality of expression, redundancy, good order, conciseness, and consistency, covering some of the same ground as the copy editor but with a view to the text as a whole (as opposed to the copy editor, whose focus tends to be on individual words and sentences). The line editor should spot missing elements of the text that need to be there for reader comprehension, a statement made on page 196 that seems to contradict one made on page 17, reasoning that doesn't quite convince, and scenes that don't work-making fixes, suggesting fixes, or referring problems to the author for fixes. The copy editor needs to know house style and the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but the line editor needs to understand what the author is trying to accomplish and be able to recognize when he or she fails to accomplish it.**

log-line: A log-line is the shortest of all the synopses that discribe a manuscript being a single sentence that briefly answers the question, "So, what is this book about?" While a log-line may be as long as 250 words, it is usually much shorter reading like the lines found on the back or inside jacket of most any book sold today. It is intended to give the reader (an agent or editor) a tantalizing taste of what is inside. (compare to: chapter by chapter breakdown, synopsis)

logo: A company or product identifier - for example, a representation of a company's initials or a drawing that is the exclusive property of that company. In publishing usage, a virtual equivalent to the trademark. (see: colophon)


mainstream fiction: Nongenre fiction, excluding literary or avant-garde fiction, that appeals to a general readership.

marketing plan: The entire strategy for selling a book: its publicity, promotion, sales, and advertising.

mass-market paperback: Less-expensive smaller-format paperbacks that are sold from racks (in such venues as supermarkets, variety stores, drugstores, and specialty shops) as well as in bookstores. Also referred to as rack (or rack-sized) editions.

mechanicals: Typeset copy and art mounted on boards to be photocopied and printed. Also referred to as pasteups.

midlist books: Generally mainstream fiction and nonfiction books that traditionally formed the bulk of a publisher's list (nowadays often by default rather than intent). Midlist books are expected to be commercially viable but not explosive bestsellers - nor are they viewed as distinguished, critically respected books that can be scheduled for small print runs and aimed at select readerships. Agents may view such projects as a poor return for the effort, since they generally garner a low-end advance; editors and publishers (especially the sales force) may decry midlist works as being hard to market; prospective readers often find midlist books hard to buy in bookstores (they have short shelf lives). Hint for writers: Don't present your work as a midlist item.

multimedia: Presentations of sound and light, words in magnetically graven image - and any known combination thereof as well as nuances yet to come. Though computer CD is the dominant wrapper for these works, technological innovation is the hallmark of the electronic-publishing arena, and new formats will expand the creative and market potential. Multimedia books are publishing events; their advent suggests alternative avenues for authors as well as adaptational tie-ins with the world of print. Meanwhile, please stay tuned for virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and electronic end-user distribution of product.

multiple contract: A book contract that includes a provisional agreement for a future book or books. (see: option clause)

mystery stories or mysteries: (see: suspense fiction)


net receipts: The amount of money a publisher actually receives for sales of a book: the retail price minus the bookseller's discount and/or other discounts. The number of returned copies is factored in, bringing down even further the net amount received per book. Royalties are sometimes figured on these lower amounts rather than on the retail price of the book.

New Age: An eclectic category that encompasses health, medicine, philosophy, religion, and the occult - presented from an alternative or multicultural perspective. Although the term has achieved currency relatively recently, some publishers have been producing serious books in these categories for decades.

novella: A work of fiction falling in length between a short story and a novel.


offset (or offset lithography): A printing process that involves the transfer of wet ink from a (usually photosensitized) printing plate onto an intermediate surface (such as a rubber-coated cylinder) and then onto the paper. For commercial purposes, this method has replaced letterpress, whereby books were printed via direct impression of inked type on paper.

option clause/right of first refusal: In a book contract, a clause that stipulates that the publisher will have the exclusive right to consider and make an offer for the author's next book. However, the publisher is under no obligation to publish the book, and in most variations of the clause the author may, under certain circumstances, opt for publication elsewhere. (see: multiple contract)

outline: Used for both a book proposal and the actual writing and structuring of a book, an outline is a hierarchical listing of topics that provides the writer (and the proposal reader) with an overview of the ideas in a book in the order in which they are to be presented.

out-of-print books: Books no longer available from the publisher; rights usually revert to the author.


package: The package is the actual book; the physical product.

packager: (see: book producer)

page proof: The final typeset copy of the book, in page-layout form, before printing.

paperback: Books bound with a flexible, stress-resistant, paper covering material. (see: binding)

paperback originals: Books published, generally, in paperback editions only; sometimes the term refers to those books published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback. These books are often mass-market genre fiction (romances, westerns, gothics, mysteries, horror, and so forth) as well as contemporary literary fiction, cookbooks, humor, career books, self-improvement, and how-to books - the categories continue to expand.

pasteups: (see: mechanicals)

permissions: The right to quote or reprint published material, obtained by the author from the copyright holder.

picture book: A copiously illustrated book, often with very simple, limited text, intended for preschoolers and very young children.

plagiarism: The false presentation of someone else's writing as one's own. In the case of copyrighted work, plagiarism is illegal.

preface: An element of a book's frontmatter. In the preface, the author may discuss the purpose behind the format of the book, the type of research upon which it is based, its genesis, or underlying philosophy.

premium: Books sold at a reduced price as part of a special promotion. Premiums can thus be sold to a bookseller, who in turn sells them to the bookbuyer (as with a line of modestly priced art books). Alternately, such books may be produced as part of a broader marketing package. For instance, an organization may acquire a number of books (such as its own corporate history or biography of its founder) for use in personnel training and as giveaways to clients; or a nutrition/recipe book may be displayed along with a company's diet foods in non-bookstore outlets. (see: special sales)

press agent: (see: publicist)

press kit: A promotional package that includes a press release, tip sheet, author biography and photograph, reviews, and other pertinent information. The press kit can be put together by the publisher's publicity department or an independent publicist and sent with a review copy of the book to potential reviewers and to media professionals responsible for booking author appearances.

price: There are several prices pertaining to a single book. The invoice price is the amount the publisher charges the bookseller. The retail, cover, or list price is what the consumer pays.

printer's error (PE): A typographical error made by the printer or typesetting facility not by the publisher's staff. PEs are corrected at the printer's expense.

printing plate: A surface that bears a reproduction of the set type and artwork of a book, from which the pages are printed.

producer: (see: book producer)

proposal: A detailed presentation of the book's concept, used to gain the interest and services of an agent and to sell the project to a publisher.

public domain: Material that is uncopyrighted, whose copyright has expired, or is uncopyrightable. The last includes government publications, jokes, titles - and, it should be remembered, ideas.

publication date (or pub date): A book's official date of publication, customarily set by the publisher to fall 6 weeks after completed bound books are delivered to the warehouse. The publication date is used to focus the promotional activities on behalf of the title - in order that books will have had time to be ordered, shipped, and be available in the stores to coincide with the appearance of advertising and publicity.

publicist (or press agent): The publicity professional who handles the press releases for new books and arranges the author's publicity tours and other promotional venues (such as interviews, speaking engagements, and book signings).

publisher's catalog: A seasonal sales catalog that lists and describes a publisher's new books. It is sent to all potential buyers, including individuals who request one. Catalogs range from the basic to the glitzy, and often include information on the author, on print quantity, and the amount of money slated to be spent on publicity and promotion.

publisher's discount: The percentage by which a publisher discounts the retail price of a book to a bookseller, often based in part on the number of copies purchased.

Publishers' Trade List Annual: A collection of current and backlist catalogs arranged alphabetically by publisher, available in many libraries.

Publishers Weekly (PW): The publishing industry's chief trade journal. PW carries announcements of upcoming books, respected book reviews, interviews with authors and publishing-industry professionals, special reports on various book categories, and trade news (such as mergers, rights sales, and personnel changes).


quality: In publishing parlance, the word quality in reference to a book category (such as quality fiction) or format (quality paperback) is a term of art - individual works or lines so described are presented as outstanding products.

query letter: A brief written presentation to an agent or editor designed to pitch both the writer and the book idea.


remainders: Unsold book stock. Remainders can include titles that have not sold as well as anticipated, in addition to unsold copies of later printings of bestsellers. These volumes are often remaindered - that is, remaining stock is purchased from the publisher at a huge discount and resold to the public.

reprint: A subsequent edition of material that is already in print, especially publication in a different format - the paperback reprint of a hardcover, for example.

resume: A summary of an individual's career experience and education. When a resume is sent to prospective agents or publishers, it should contain the author's vital publishing credits, specialty credentials, and pertinent personal experience. Also referred to as the curriculum vitae or, more simply, vita.

returns: Unsold books returned to a publisher by a bookstore, for which the store may receive full or partial credit (depending on the publisher's policy, the age of the book, and so on).

reversion-of-rights clause: In the book contract, a clause that states that if the book goes out of print or the publisher fails to reprint the book within a stipulated length of time, all rights revert to the author.

review copy: A free copy of a (usually) new book sent to print and electronic media that review books for their audiences.

romance fiction or romance novels: Modern or period love stories, always with happy endings, which range from the tepid to the torrid. Except for certain erotic-specialty lines, romances do not feature graphic sex. Often mistakenly pigeonholed by those who do not read them, romances and romance writers have been influential in the movement away from passive and coddled female fictional characters to the strong, active modern woman in a tale that reflects areas of topical social concern.

royalty: The percentage of the retail cost of a book that is paid to the author for each copy sold after the author's advance has been recouped. Some publishers structure royalties as a percentage payment against net receipts.


SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope): It is customary for an author to enclose SASEs with query letters, with proposals, and with manuscript submissions. Many editors and agents do not reply if a writer has neglected to enclose a SASE with correspondence or submitted materials.

sales conference: A meeting of a publisher's editorial and sales departments and senior promotion and publicity staff members. A sales conference covers the upcoming season's new books, and marketing strategies are discussed. Sometimes sales conferences are the basis upon which proposed titles are bought or not.

sales representative (or sales rep): A member of the publisher's sales force or an independent contractor who, armed with a book catalog and order forms, visits bookstores in a certain territory to sell books to retailers.

satisfactory clause: In book contracts, a publisher will reserve the right to refuse publication of a manuscript that is not deemed satisfactory. Because the author may be forced to pay back the publisher's advance if the complete work is found to be unsatisfactory, in order to protect the author the specific criteria for publisher satisfaction should be set forth in the contract.

science fiction: Science fiction includes the hardcore, imaginatively embellished technological/scientific novel as well as fiction that is even slightly futuristic (often with an after-the-holocaust milieu - nuclear, environmental, extraterrestrial, genocidal). An element much valued by editors who acquire for the literary expression of this cross-media genre is the ability of the author to introduce elements that transcend and extend conventional insight.

science fiction/fantasy: A category fiction designation that actually collapses two genres into one (for bookseller - marketing reference, of course - though it drives some devotees of these separate fields of writing nuts). In addition, many editors and publishers specialize in both these genres and thus categorize their interests with catchphrases such as sci-fi/fantasy.

screenplay: A film script - either original or one based on material published previously in another form, such as a television docudrama based on a nonfiction book or a movie thriller based on a suspense novel. (compare to: teleplay)

self-publishing: A publishing project wherein an author pays for the costs of manufacturing and selling his or her own book and retains all money from the book's sale. This is a risky venture but one that can be immensely profitable (especially when combined with an author's speaking engagements or imaginative marketing techniques). In addition, if successful, self-publication can lead to distribution or publication by a commercial publisher. (compare to: subsidy publishing)

self-syndication: Management by writers or journalists of functions that are otherwise performed by syndicates specializing in such services. In self-syndication, it is the writer who manages copyrights, negotiates fees, and handles sales, billing, and other tasks involved in circulating journalistic pieces through newspapers, magazines, or other periodicals that pick up the author's column or run a series of articles.

sell-through: The quantity of books actually sold at bookstores (as opposed to the quantity merely shipped). A publisher may ship ten thousand copies of a book to booksellers and get back, say, six thousand in returns. In this case, the sell-through would be four thousand.**

serial rights: Reprint rights sold to periodicals. First serial rights include the right to publish the material before anyone else (generally before the book is released, or coinciding with the book's official publication) - either for the U.S., a specific country, or for a wider territory. Second serial rights cover material already published, either in a book or another periodical.

serialization: The reprinting of a book or part of a book in a newspaper or magazine. Serialization before (or perhaps simultaneously with) the publication of the book is called first serial. The first reprint after publication (either as a book or by another periodical) is called second serial.

series: Books published as a group either because of their related subject matter (such as a biographical series on modern artists or on World War II aircraft) and/or single authorship (a set of works by Djuna Barnes, a group of books about science and society, or a series of titles geared to a particular diet-and-fitness program). Special series lines can offer a ready-made niche for an industrious author or compiler/editor who is up to date on a publisher's program and has a brace of pertinent qualifications and/or contacts. In contemporary fiction, some genre works are published in series form (such as family sagas, detective series, fantasy cycles).

shelf life: The amount of time an unsold book remains on the bookstore shelf before the store manager pulls it to make room for newer incoming stock with greater (or at least untested) sales potential.

short story: A brief piece of fiction that is more pointed and more economically detailed as to character, situation, and plot than a novel. Published collections of short stories - whether by one or several authors - often revolve around a single theme, express related outlooks, or comprise variations within a genre.

signature: A group of book pages that have been printed together on one large sheet of paper that is then folded and cut in preparation for being bound, along with the book's other signatures, into the final volume.

simultaneous publication: The issuing at the same time of more than one edition of a work, such as in hardcover and trade paperback. Simultaneous releases can be expanded to include (though rarely) deluxe gift editions of a book as well as mass-market paper versions. Audio versions of books are most often timed to coincide with the release of the first print edition.

simultaneous (or multiple) submissions: The submission of the same material to more than one publisher at the same time. Although simultaneous submission is a common practice, publishers should always be made aware that it is being done. Multiple submissions by an author to several agents is, on the other hand, a practice that is sometimes not regarded with great favor by the agent.

slush pile: The morass of unsolicited manuscripts at a publishing house or literary agency, which may fester indefinitely awaiting (perhaps perfunctory) review. Some publishers or agencies do not maintain slush piles per se - unsolicited manuscripts are slated for instant or eventual return without review (if a SASE is included) or may otherwise be literally or figuratively pitched to the wind. Querying a targeted publisher or agent before submitting a manuscript is an excellent way of avoiding, or at least minimizing the possibility of, such an ignoble fate.

software: Programs that run on a computer. Word-processing software includes programs that enable writers to compose, edit, store, and print material. Professional quality software packages incorporate such amenities as databases that can feed the results of research electronically into the final manuscript, alphabetization and indexing functions, and capabilities for constructing tables and charts and adding graphics to the body of the manuscript. Software should be appropriate to both the demands of the work at hand and the requirements of the publisher (which may contract for a manuscript suitable for on-disk editing and electronic design, composition, and typesetting).

special sales: Sales of a book to appropriate retailers other than bookstores (for example, wine guides to liquor stores). This classification also includes books sold as premiums (for example, to a convention group or a corporation) or for other promotional purposes. Depending on volume, per-unit costs can be very low, and the book can be custom-designed. (see: premiums)

spine: That portion of the book's casing (or binding) that backs the bound page signatures and is visible when the volume is aligned on a bookshelf among other volumes.

stamping: In book publishing, the stamp is the impression of ornamental type and images (such as a logo or monogram) on the book's binding. The stamping process involves using a die with raised or intaglioed surface to apply ink stamping or metallic-leaf stamping.

subsidiary rights: The reprint, serial, movie and television, as well as audiotape and videotape rights deriving from a book. The division of profits between publisher and author from the sales of these rights is determined through negotiation. In more elaborately commercial projects, further details such as syndication of related articles and licensing of characters may ultimately be involved.

subsidy publishing: A mode of publication wherein the author pays a publishing company to produce his or her work, which may thus appear superficially to have been published conventionally. Subsidy publishing (alias vanity publishing) is generally more expensive than self-publishing, because a successful subsidy house makes a profit on all its contracted functions, charging fees well beyond the publisher's basic costs for production and services.

suspense fiction: Fiction within a number of genre categories that emphasize suspense as well as the usual (and sometimes unusual) literary techniques to keep the reader engaged. Suspense fiction encompasses novels of crime and detection (regularly referred to as mysteries - these include English-style cozies; American-style hard-boiled detective stories; dispassionate law-enforcement procedurals; crime stories); action-adventure; espionage novels; technothrillers; tales of psychological suspense; and horror. A celebrated aspect of suspense fiction's popular appeal - one that surely accounts for much of this broad category's sustained market vigor - is the interactive element: The reader may choose to challenge the tale itself by attempting to outwit the author and solve a crime before detectives do, figure out how best to defeat an all-powerful foe before the hero does, or parse out the elements of a conspiracy before the writer reveals the whole story.

syndicated column: Material published simultaneously in a number of newspapers or magazines. The author shares the income from syndication with the syndicate that negotiates the sale. (see: self-syndication)

syndication rights: (see: self-syndication, subsidiary rights)

synopsis: A summary in paragraph form, rather than in outline format. The synopsis is an important part of a book proposal. For fiction, the synopsis portrays the high points of story line and plot, succinctly and dramatically. In a nonfiction book proposal, the synopsis describes the thrust and content of the successive chapters (and/or parts) of the manuscript. (compare with: log-line, chapter by chapter breakdown, outline)


table of contents: A listing of a book's chapters and other sections (such as the frontmatter, appendix, index, and bibliography) or of a magazine's articles and columns, in the order in which they appear; in published versions, the table of contents indicates the respective beginning page numbers.

tabloid: A smaller-than-standard-size newspaper (daily, weekly, or monthly). Traditionally, certain tabloids are distinguished by sensationalism of approach and content rather than by straightforward reportage of newsworthy events. In common parlance, tabloid is used to describe works in various media (including books) that cater to immoderate tastes (for example, tabloid expose, tabloid television; the tabloidization of popular culture).

teleplay: A screenplay geared toward television production. Similar in overall concept to screenplays for the cinema, teleplays are nonetheless inherently concerned with such TV-loaded provisions as the physical dimensions of the smaller screen, and formal elements of pacing and structure keyed to stipulated program length and the placement of commercial advertising. Attention to these myriad television-specific demands are fundamental to the viability of a project.

terms: The financial conditions agreed to in a book contract.

theme: A general term for the underlying concept of a book. (see: hook)

thriller: A thriller is a novel of suspense with a plot structure that reinforces the elements of gamesmanship and the chase, with a sense of the hunt being paramount. Thrillers can be spy novels, tales of geopolitical crisis, legal thrillers, medical thrillers, technothrillers, domestic thrillers. The common thread is a growing sense of threat and the excitement of pursuit.

tip sheet: An information sheet on a single book that presents general publication information (publication date, editor, ISBN, etc.), a brief synopsis of the book, information on relevant other books (sometimes competing titles), and other pertinent marketing data such as author profile and advance blurbs. The tip sheet is given to the sales and publicity departments; a version of the tip sheet is also included in press kits.

title page: The page at the front of a book that lists the title, subtitle, author (and other contributors, such as translator or illustrator), as well as the publishing house and sometimes its logo.

trade books: Books distributed through the book trade - meaning bookstores and major book clubs - as opposed to, for example, mass-market paperbacks, which are often sold at magazine racks, newsstands, and supermarkets as well.

trade discount: The discount from the cover or list price that a publisher gives the bookseller. It is usually proportional to the number of books ordered (the larger the order, the greater the discount), and typically varies between 40% and 50%.

trade list: A catalog of all of a publisher's books in print, with ISBNs and order information. The trade list sometimes includes descriptions of the current season's new books.

trade paperbacks: Reprints or original titles published in paperback format, larger in dimension than mass-market paperbacks, and distributed through regular retail book channels. Trade paperbacks tend to be in the neighborhood of twice the price of an equivalent mass-market paperback version and about half to two-thirds the price of hardcover editions.

trade publishers: Publishers of books for a general readership - that is, nonprofessional, nonacademic books that are distributed primarily through bookstores.

translation rights: Rights sold either to a foreign agent or directly to a foreign publisher, either by the author's agent or by the original publisher.

treatment: In screenwriting, a full narrative description of the story, including sample dialogue.


unauthorized biography: a history of a person's life written without the consent or collaboration of the subject or the subject's survivors.

university press: A publishing house affiliated with a sponsoring university. The university press is generally nonprofit and subsidized by the respective university. Generally, university presses publish noncommercial scholarly nonfiction books written by academics, and their lists may include literary fiction, criticism, and poetry. Some university presses also specialize in titles of regional interest, and many acquire projects intended for commercial book-trade distribution.

unsolicited manuscript: A manuscript sent to an editor or agent without being requested by the editor/agent.


vanity press: A publisher that publishes books only at an author's expense - and will generally agree to publish virtually anything that is submitted and paid for. (see: subsidy publishing)

vita: Latin word for "life." A shortened equivalent term for curriculum vitae. (see: resume)


word count: The number of words in a given document. When noted on a manuscript, the word count is usually rounded off to the nearest 1000 words.

work-for-hire: Writing done for an employer, or writing commissioned by a publisher or book packager who retains ownership of, and all rights pertaining to, the written material.


young-adult (YA) books: Books for readers generally between the ages of 12 and 17. Young-adult fiction often deals with issues of concern to contemporary teens.

young readers or younger readers: Publishing terminology for the range of publications that address the earliest readers. Sometimes a particular house's young-readers' program typifies books for those who do not yet read; which means these books have to hook the caretakers and parents who actually buy them. In certain quirky turns of everyday publishing parlance, young readers can mean anyone from embryos through young adults (and "young" means you when you want it to). This part may be confusing (as is often the case with publishing usage): Sometimes younger adult means only that the readership is allegedly hip, including those who would eschew kid's books as being inherently lame and those who are excruciatingly tapped into the current cultural pulse, regardless of cerebral or life-span quotient.

*glossary complied from 2000-2001 Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers & Literary Agents by Jeff Herman (1999)

**definitions compliments of Daniel Quinn



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