Common Publishing Terms

Sometimes the world of publishing is confusing to new writers. They seem to use a different language. Here’s some common definitions to publishing terms.

Submission Terms:

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. Never work with an agent that requires money up front.

Acquiring Editor – An editor who buys a specific book.

Book Proposal: Description of a proposed book that an author sends to a publisher, often including sample chapters and an outline.

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.

Critique: An evaluation of a manuscript, touching on issues such as structure as well as character and plot development.

Draft: The book’s manuscript at a particular stage. The first draft is followed by rough drafts, which are unpolished versions. The final draft is sent to prepress.

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.

Manuscript – A book, article, or other document, that is submitted for publication.

Multiple submissions – Sending an agent or publisher more than one idea at a time.

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.

Reading Fees – Fees charged by some agents to evaluate a prospective client’s manuscript. The Association of Authors’ Representatives, a major trade association for book agents, prohibits its members from charging reading fees. Legitimate agents don’t charge reading fees.

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.

Publisher Terms:

Advance royalties – Payment to an author in anticipation of royalties a book is predicted to earn. In most cases, the author is not compelled to return the advance, even if it exceeds total royalties eventually earned.

American Booksellers Association (ABA) – The national trade association, founded in 1900, for operators of retail bookstores.

Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) – The national trade association for Christian retail bookstores.

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. United States Copyright website.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – A worldwide, numbered identification system that provides a standard way for publishers to number their products without duplication by other publishers. “ISBN” also refers to ISBN numbers themselves. The first part of the ISBN identifies the language of publication (“0” for English), and the second part identifies the publisher. The next string of digits in the ISBN identifies the book product itself, and is followed by a digit specifically calculated to ensure the integrity of the ISBN.

Mass market paperback – A paperbound book distributed chiefly through traditional magazine channels, including newsstands, variety and drug stores, supermarkets, and other mass markets. Also marketed to general bookstores, college stores, and department stores and may be either an original publication that has never appeared in any other format or a reprint of a previously published hardcover or trade paperback edition here made available at a significantly lower price.

Marketing plan – Prepared for each title on a publisher’s seasonal list, this plan itemizes the projected advertising, promotion, publicity, and sales activities and their associated costs. Included in the individual marketing plan are subsidiary rights and special sales transactions. Marketing plans are generally prepared after launch (concept) meetings for forthcoming titles and are subject to revision before and after sales conferences. If an agent or publisher requires a marketing plan before the contract, they are asking what the author intends to do to help market his book.

Press release – An information sheet about a book and its author, used as a publicity tool.

Print Run – The number of books printed in a particular run. The number of books a publisher agrees to produce in the first printing.

Publication date – The date when a book is made available to the public. Publisher’s representative / sales representative – A salesperson who visits prospective customers of a publisher (booksellers, librarians, university department heads, school authorities, wholesalers, etc.) to show samples of or literature about the firm’s forthcoming titles, as well as backlist items, to obtain orders for them.

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.

Types of Publishers:

Commercial/Trade Publishers (Also called traditional publishers by self-publish companies) – Companies which purchase the right (usually the exclusive right) to publish the author’s work and then pay the author a royalty (a percentage of the sales – usually 7%-15%) for that right. Commercial publishers invest by producing the inventory of product (the book or other products), so they must choose wisely which books/authors will pay off for them in a reasonable amount of time. In other words, they choose to work with only a small percentage of the projects they review.

Mainstream publishers – Large commercial publishing companies that produce several hundred new books a year and pay advance royalties to authors.

Independent/Small publishers – Smaller commercial publishers that produce anywhere from 10 to 100 new books a year. Many independent publishers specialize in certain types of books. Usually small publisher don’t give advance royalties, or if they do, the advance royalties are smaller. But they do pay the author royalties, and they don’t charge the author a fee.

Micro publisher – Commercial publisher that produce one to five books per year. Some of these companies started as self-publishers, and some are nonprofit. These companies have a very narrow niche.

E-Books – Books distributed and read in electronic format. Instead of walking into a bookstore, to buy a book in an e-book format, you visit a Web site and purchase and download the digital file. You can then read the book on a computerized device such as a Palm Pilot, Pocket PC, laptop computer, or other device. Some E-book companies are commercial publishers and some are self-publishing companies.

Self-Publishing – A method of publishing in which the author does all the things a publisher does—from editing to printing and distribution – or hires a service to this for them.

Subsidy Press/Vanity Publisher – A publishing company that offers publication services for a fee paid by the author, and holds the copyright to the book, but does not generally promote or market the book. Bookstores often refuse to carry books published by subsidy/vanity presses.

Contract Publisher – A publisher that helps authors edit, design, market, and distribute their book for a fee paid by the author.

Regional Publisher – A publisher who specializes in subjects relevant to a particular part of the country, and sells its books mostly or entirely in that area.

POD (or print -on- demand) publishers – Print-on-demand self-publishing services utilize digital printing technology to provide publishing services to writers. They range all the way from bare-bones services which provide free online templates that allow anyone to upload and format a book that can then be ordered from the service’s website to expensive packages that include editing, custom cover design, enhanced marketing, and other extras. Most POD services charge a fee, but some take that fee out of royalties produced by sales. Some POD companies will let you put the name of your own imprint on your book and set your own cover prices. Essentially they’ll set you up with your own publishing company using their serves.

Independent Publishing – This is when you go through a place like Create Space and basically do-it-yourself. You design the cover page, edit, and format.

This entry was posted in Sharpening Our Writing, Submitting Your Work and tagged , , by Tamera Kraft. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tamera Kraft

Tamera Kraft has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She is also a writer and has curriculum published including Kid Konnection 5: Kids Entering the Presence of God published by Pathway Press. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

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