Book Publishing – Common Terms and Definitions
Posted on September 29, 2008 by Jared
As I mentioned my writing resources article, there’s more to writing a book than just writing. There are two parts to getting your book idea into the hands of eager readers. First, you must create your masterful work of fiction (or whatever else) and second, you must reproduce your work and distribute it for sales.
While creating a great book is a really tough thing to do, it is just as hard to get a book published. Publishers are very picky about what they print and sell, and to make things even more difficult, the world of publishing is filled with their own set of terms and acronyms. This can be a very intimidating front to a new writer. So, I’ve assembled some of the more common terms and acronyms on this page. Let’s start first with the acronyms and work our way into the terms and definitions.
- ARC – Advanced Review Copy. This is a work that has had some editing but is still not ready for publishing. ARC’s are usually sent out before the book is published so that it can be reviewed in time for it’s release date.
- Bio – Biography. A short paragraph about an author.
- MS – Manuscript. This is sometimes written as MSS (or in lower case, mss) to indicate multiple manuscripts.
- SASE – Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. You should include a SASE with ever query or manuscript that you send to an agent or publisher. This is for your agent or publisher to use to reply back to you. You should include your mailing address on the envelope and enough postage.
- WIP – Work In Process. Writers use the term, WIP, to refer to the manuscript they are currently working on.
Publishing Terms and Definitions
- Agent – A person who will submit manuscripts to a publisher on behalf of a writer. A good agent will look out for the best interests of a writer and negotiate for better advances and royalties. Agents don’t get paid unless a book gets published, so they only submit manuscripts to publishers that they believe will make it to print. For this reason, many publishers prefer manuscripts the receive from agents to those that are unsolicited. Never work with an agent that requires money up front.
- Copyediting – An editing process that checks for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuations. Copyeditors will also check any references made in the manuscript as well as fact-check.
- Copyrighting- A way to protect a writer’s work. A writer’s unpublished manuscript is copyright protected the moment it was created in virtual or printed form. To learn more, check out the United States Copyright website.
- Cover Letter – A brief introduction that is sent with a manuscript that lists your name, address, phone number, and email address. Do not confuse a cover letter with a query letter.
- Exclusive Reading – A publisher who requests exclusive reading doesn’t want your manuscript to be read by anyone else. As a writer, you should always be aware of the length of time the exclusive reading is in effect. You shouldn’t allow exclusive reading writes for any longer than two to three months.
- Lead time – The time between when your manuscript was received by the publisher it when it went to print.
- Multiple submissions – Sending an agent or publisher more than one idea at a time.
- Manuscript – A typed or handwritten version of a book, article, or other document, that is submitted for publication.
- Print Run – The number of books printed in a particular run. The number of books produced in the first print run often shows if the writer is big stuff or small potatoes.
- Query – This is the letter you send to an agent or publisher that sells your book idea. A good query letter will contain a brief plot summary, your contact information, and is usually no longer than one page. You are basically asking for permission to send an agent or publisher your manuscript.
- Royalties – Royalties is a percentage of the book sales that is given to the author. There are two types of royalties: Net Sales and List Price. Net sales royalties refers to the percentage given to an author after the publisher’s cost has been subtracted. List Price royalties is the percentage given to the author based on the list price of the book.
- Sell-through – Sell-through can refer to a couple of things. It can refer to how quickly a publisher makes its advance money back from a book, or, when the first print run has been completely sold, prompting a second print run. Either way, a fast sell-through is a great selling point for a second book.
- Simultaneous submissions – Sending out a query letter to many agents or publishers for the same book. Many agents and publishers do not accept simultaneous submissions.
- Slush pile – A collection of unsolicited manuscripts that are received by agents and publishers. Manuscripts that sit in the slush pile are usually read, but the time it can take for a manuscript in the slush pile to be read can be a very, very, long.
- Unsolicited manuscript – A book that an agent, editor, or publisher did not ask to see.