Language is power, and to that end we at The Editorial Department have come up with a glossary of commonly-used terms and abbreviations in the book publishing industry. This is a quick, handy guide (in no particular order) to many of the terms that writers will come across during all stages of editing and publishing. Enjoy and learn!

General Publishing Terms

Copyright: the “right to copy”, or reproduce, intellectual property; original writing is copyrighted the instant it is created with no additional action needed

Printer: produces (prints) the physical copies of the book

Publisher: a company or entity that owns the right to distribute and sell a book; includes pre-press activities such as editing, proofreading, typesetting, and cover design

Distributor: a company that warehouses and ships books to bookstores, libraries, and retailers; the largest book distributors include Ingram and Baker & Taylor

Bookseller: a retail store that sells books; includes Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores

Editor: someone who selects, prepares, corrects, organizes, condenses, and modifies a piece of writing; can work freelance or with a publishing company

Acquisitions Editor / Acquisitions Board: an editor or group of people at a publishing house responsible for acquiring new titles

Publicist: someone who generates and manages publicity for a public figure (author), business, or work such as a book or film

Literary Agent: a person who represents a book author for negotiating sales, rights, and contracts; is paid by commission on author’s royalties, usually 10-20%

Slush Pile: unsolicited manuscripts sent to an editor or literary agent

Backlist: books that have been in print for some time but continue to sell steadily

Returns: unsold books that are returned to the publisher by the bookseller for credit; usually destroyed


Book and Book Design Terms

Foreword: a short introduction at the beginning of a book, usually written by another author

Back Cover Copy: The text on the back cover or inside flap of a book that “sells” the story to potential readers

Galley: a proof copy of a manuscript, can be bound or unbound (loose)

ARC: Advance Reading/Review Copy, a proof copy of a book produced by the publisher in advance of the publication date and distributed for marketing purposes

Proof: a non-final typeset version of a manuscript that still contains typographical errors

POD/Print-On-Demand: printing books one order at a time using a digital press.

Offset Printing: a printing technique using an etched metal plate applied to a rubber surface, then pressed to paper; used for mass print runs and producing large quantities of books at one time

Trim Size: the size/dimensions of the book; where the pages are cut by the printer

Bleed: area that extends beyond the trim of a book or cover

Folio: page number

Book Block: the full interior content of the book, normally in PDF

Casebound: another term for a hardcover book

Case Laminate: a laminated hardcover, often without a jacket (seen usually for textbooks and children’s books)

Dust Jacket/Dust Cover: the outer wrap on a hardcover

Deckle edge: when the outside edges of a book are untrimmed for a feathery effect; often used in hardcover fiction

Fleuron: an ornamental typographical element or glyph (character) used to separate borders or sections of text; looks like this ❧

Trade paperback: a high-quality softcover book

Mass market paperback: a small, inexpensive book binding format

Perfect bound: the binding of a paperback where the pages are glued directly to the spine

Resolution: the DPI (dots per inch) in a printed image, or the PPI (pixels per inch) for a digital image; the minimum quality for digital-to-print is 300 pixels per inch


Publishing Contract Language and Terminology

Royalty: the percentage of a book’s revenue that a publisher pays to the author; typically 5-8%

Advance: royalty money given to an author prior to publication, often in increments at the signing of the contract, the author’s finished delivery of the edited manuscript, and so on

“Earn Out”: when the book sells enough copies that the author is entitled to royalties beyond the initial advance

Option clause: part of a publishing contract that gives the publisher the right to the first exclusive look at an author’s next book; also called “right of first refusal”

List Price: the retail price

Discount: the percentage off the list price at which booksellers buy the book (results in the wholesale price); industry standard discount is 55%

Short Discount: a less-than-standard wholesale discount (from 20% to 40%)

Pub Date: the publication date, after which the book will be available for purchase


Publishing Classifications

Indie Publishing: also known as independent publishing and self-publishing; when an author takes charge of the publication process and retains the rights to distribute and sell their work

Traditional Publishing: when an author sells the rights to their book to a publishing company

Big Five: refers to the five biggest publishers in the United States:  Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan.

Small Press: a small local, regional, or genre-specific publishing house

Academic Press: a publishing house associated with a university or educational institution

Vanity Press: a company that an author pays to publish their book; falls under self-publishing


General Terminology

ALA: American Library Association; Booklist is the ALA’s review service

CBA: Originally the Christian Bookseller’s Association, now the Association for Christian Retail; members include publishers such as Bethany House, Tyndale, and Zondervan

PW: Publisher’s Weekly, the trade magazine for the publishing industry

KDP: Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s service for self-publishers to publish their e-books in the Kindle store

E-book: the electronic, digital version of a book that displays on a computer screen or an e-reader

E-reader: a device that displays electronic books (e-books); the most popular include the Kindle and the Nook

Imprint: the name of a book’s publisher

ISBN: International Standard Book Number that identifies the book and is required for retail sales; each edition and format of a book has its own unique ISBN

Graph: a short term for paragraph

Stet: In Latin, “let it stand”; a proofreader’s term for when a suggested change in a manuscript should be disregarded and the original is correct

Typesetting: the process of preparing text for printing, including page layout

Ms: shorthand for manuscript / Mss: manuscripts

WIP/Work-In-Progress: an incomplete manuscript or project

pp: shorthand for pages; for example, if a book is 246 pages, it would be “246 pp”

711510: the IRS code for “independent artists, writers, and performers” for when you report your income from writing

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Editorial Department