Working with any industry you’re not a part of yourself can be confusing and sometimes intimidating, as each industry has its own jargon and culture. The publishing industry is no different. Here are some of the most common terms (or a glossary, if you’d like) you might find useful when interacting with editors or other representatives int he publishing industry.
Advance: This is the payment an author may receive before their manuscript is completed, or after it is completed, in advance of revenue generated from royalties off of sales. Popular authors are often enticed by publishers with large advances, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
Copy: This refers to the written text in any piece of work. It could be words in a manuscript, ad, back cover, etc.
Backlist: These are the titles that a publisher has already completed and are no longer works in progress. This means that the production budget no longer applies to these works, although revenue continues to stream in. In any given fiscal year, the backlist usually makes up the majority of a publisher’s sales.
Blurb: A short written piece that is usually solicited from another person of note that can help promote the book. Usually it is included on the back cover or some other highly visible place.
Editorial: This refers to the stage in a book’s production process that involves editors, including content editing and proofing.
Foreward: An introduction to the book that is usually written by someone other than the author; an additional introduction written by the author may follow the foreward.
Frontlist: These are the titles that are usually the most recently published (0-3 months) and that the publisher is presently working to promote.
Imprint: A small division of a publisher that has either a certain genre or topic as its primary publishing goal. This often helps a publisher stay focused and allows the personalities or interests of individual editors to shine through that line.
Mass Market Books: These are the smallest, cheapest books to produce that are estimated to sell in high volumes and that are available for low cost to large markets, such as grocery stores.
Monograph: A work that is usually scholarly and deals with a very specific subject, with a limited readership.
Print on Demand: This is the new reality of the publishing industry in the digital age—instead of having to pay for large warehouses to stock palettes of books upfront and have an overhead risk, new technology and production strategies allow publishers to print smaller batches (could be hundreds, or thousands, relative to the publisher’s market) in order to lower risk involved in sales. Rarely are books actually printed one at a time, even with Print on Demand (POD).
Proofs: The complete, typeset final draft of a work that is reviewed by editors and directors of publishing before the work goes to press in order to be printed.
Trade Books: These are books sold with the general reader in mind, instead of technical or academic works that are targeted to a specific market.
Trim Size: The outer dimensions of the final, printed book.
Reading Fees: The payment some literary agents demand in order to look over an author’s work. This is one stream of income for agents.
Royalty: The percentage an author makes from the sales of their work. 15% is a standard industry rate for experienced authors. The rate will also vary depending on whether it’s a soft or hard cover work, and can be as low as 6%.
Slush: This is the collection of unsolicited works from authors to editors or literary agents that are hoping to be published. The larger this work, the greater the stress on editors.