Understanding publishing jargon

Whether you are self publishing or taking the traditional route, you are likely to come across many words that you haven’t heard before. Here are the meanings of the ones you are most likely to meet.

A payment made by a publisher to an author before the book is published.  It’s an advance on future earnings (royalties) from the book but, provided you keep to the terms of the contract, it’s usually non-returnable, even if the book turn out to flop.  Once the book is on sale, any royalties will be offset against the advance until the full amount has been recouped by the publisher. When this has happened, the book has ‘earned out’

Advance Review Copy (ARC)
A copy of a book sent to reviewers, reporters and other relevant people before the official publication date. This helps build interest and enables reviews to be available when the book launches.

Someone you employ to represent you to publishers.  Agents take a cut of any payments made to you by publishers for works whose sale they negotiated. This is called commission.

A company that supplies e-books to multiple retailers and handles the payments on behalf of the author.

Artwork brief
A description of the required picture(s) so the artist/illustrator knows what he is expected to draw.  Typically he will produce ‘roughs’ for approval before proceeding to the final artwork.

An extra allowance at the edge of printed pages (especially pictures) so that no unintentional white space appears after imperfect cropping.

Book Designer
A person who design books for print or ereading. Some designers specialise in print layout, book covers or ebook creation.

Book Information Sheet
Information about a book sent to reviewers or retailers in the hope that they will request the book to review or sell. It is sometimes sent out with a press release or sample copy.

Free software that allows you to catalogue your e-books and convert between e-book formats.

Your exclusive right to use the writing and pictures you produce and to control what happens to them.  In the UK, it currently lasts for 70 years after your death and exists automatically: you don’t have to claim it or register your work.  Before a publisher can publish your work, you have to license them the right to do so.

Create Space
Amazon’s Print on Demand publishing service.

Digital Printing
A printing method where books are produced from electronic files in a similar way to printing a document from your computer. whose costs are somewhere between those of POD (which is  itself a form of digital printing) and traditional offset litho.  It’s the cheapest printing method if you only want a small number of books.

A company  that supplies books to wholesalers and retailers.

Digital Rights Management.  Various software arrangements that attempt to stop e-book piracy.  Often irritating for legal consumers.  more info

Earn out
See ‘Advance’.

Someone who help you improve the text of your book.  more info

The open standard for e-books.  Used by most e-publishers, except Amazon. more info

First Draft
Your first version of your book prior to editing.

Final Draft
Your final version of your book prior to it being prepared for printing or e-publication.

The design of the letters.  Each font has a unique name, but they generally fall into one of four different groups: serif, san-serif, script or decorative.  Serif has little tails at the end of the strokes while sans- serif is plain.  Script looks a bit like handwriting, and decorative fonts include a wide range of unusual effects.

Foreign Rights
The rights you grant to allow a foreign publisher to translate your book into their language publish it in their country.

Someone who writes your book for you under your name.  Sometimes – especially with celebrities – the ghostwriter is not mentioned at all and is not allowed to let anyone know that they have been involved.  In other cases the copyright page might include a phrase that indicates that a person other than the named author has helped in writing the book.

A major book review website with reviews written by ordinary readers.

The space on the spine side of a book page that is used up by the binding. The margin on the inside edge of a print page needs to be wide enough to allow for this.

Software produced by Adobe for laying out a book.  Used extensively by traditional publishers and book designers, but there are cheaper alternatives available.

International Standard Book Number.  Originally a 10 digit code just for books, now a 13 digit product code which can be used in a barcode. ISBNs are issued by Nielsen in the UK and Bowker in the USA.   more info

Kindle Direct Publishing.  Amazon’s service for producing and publishing Kindle ebooks.

KDP Select
An extension to KDP that offers various promotions for your  e-book and allows it be borrowed by Amazon customers who have joined the Amazon Prime scheme.  In order to join KDP Select, you have to agree to sell the book exclusively through Amazon for three months.

Generic name for all Amazon’s e-readers and tablets.

An e-reader.  Reads .epub files.

Writing something defamatory and untrue about another person.  If you do this, you may end up in court and face expensive penalties if found guilty.

The space between lines of text.  Pronounced ‘ledding’, the name comes from the pieces of lead used to space text in the days of moveable type.

Lightning Source
A printer of print-on-demand books. Also runs Ingram Spark which is aimed at authors who are self-publishing.

Another printer of print-on-demand books.

The text of a book before publication.  The name comes from the days when the text was written by hand and is sometimes replaced by the word ‘typescript’.

An e-book format used by Amazon’s Kindle e-readers.  more info

A global company that issues ISBNs in the UK and collects point of sale data on book sales.

An e-reader sold by Barnes and Noble.  Reads epub files

Offset Litho
A method of printing that uses photographic plates, rather than digital files. It’s more expensive to set up than digital printing, but it is cheaper per copy for large print runs.

Portable Document Format.  A type of digital file that preserves the exact appearance, layout and size of a page or book. It is used to submit files for digital printing and can also be read on a computer, tablet or ereader.

Public Lending Right.  The UK Government provides a pot of money to reimburse authors whose books have been borrowed from public libraries.

Print On Demand.  A technique for producing books to order instead of printing them in advance and storing them in a warehouse. The cost per book is higher than with a print run but there are no storage costs and no waste.

Press Release
Information prepared for and sent to a newspaper, radio or television station with the hope that they will use the story in their output.

An early copy of a book produced to check that no errors have crept in during the final stages of production.

Proof reading
The process of checking the proof for errors.

Sketches of artwork created without too much detail for discussion and agreement before producing the final pictures.

A payment made to the author for each book sold.  It’s usually a percentage of the cover price or of the price received by the publisher.

Royalty Free Pictures
Pictures that can be used without paying a royalty for each copy. The name is misleading as it doesn’t mean they are free – you usually have to pay a flat fee to use one commercially. more info

Self Publishing
Taking on the role of the publisher yourself.

Free software that helps you produce and edit epub format books.

Putting an e-book file on your e-reader without going through the normal buying process. Useful if you want to check the book’s appearance on various devices.

An early entrant into the ebook providers market.  They convert your Word document and arrange to sell the epub version through various outlets.

Social Media
Internet applications like Facebook or Twitter that allow people to publish their thoughts and opinions in a fairly instant way and let you develop networks of contacts.

Subsidy Publishing
Publishing where the author contributes to the cost of publication, but hands some or all of the control to the publisher.

Sets the appearance of sections of a document in word processing and publishing software.  Used correctly, styles make it much easier to change the appearance of a document so they are particularly useful in publishing.

Traditional Publishing
Publishing where the publisher pays the full cost of publication and pays the author royalties.

Vanity Publishing
A derogatory term for subsidy publishing which comes from the practice of disreputable publishers’ habit of praising authors’ work regardless of its actual quality in order to get paid for producing the book. This term is falling into disuse now self-publishing has become an accepted route for authors to take.

Widows and Orphans
The situation where a page break cuts a paragraph in two so that a few words are left on their own at the bottom of one page or the beginning of the next.



All articles on this site are copyright © 2022
You are welcome to quote from them and link to them, but please don't republish an entire article without asking for permission.