100 Common Publishing Terms

Every industry has its own language that gives everyday words a special meaning to the in, hip, and working their butts off crowd. For our visitors who write for publication as well as (or – sob – instead of) TV or film, here are publishing terms you’ll need to know if you’re going to communicate with publishers, editors, et al.

And they’re especially important for keeping up your end of lunch table talk with other writers in the field as well!

Not your father’s printing press!

by Robert Lee Brewer

Advance. A sum of money a publisher pays a writer prior to the publication of a book usually paid in installments, such as one-half on signing contract; one-half on delivery of a complete and satisfactory manuscript.

Agent. A liaison between a writer and editor or publisher who advocates for his or her client (writer). Agents usually take a 10-15% commission from the advance and royalties.

All rights. Situation in which an author sells all rights to a work. Not recommended for writing that could have reprint potential.

ARC. Advance reader copy—an early version of the book sent out to media outlets for possible reviews and interviews.

Assignment. Editor asks a writer to produce a specific article for an agreed-upon fee.

Auction. Publishers sometimes bid for the acquisition of a book manuscript that has excellent sales prospects. The bids are for the amount of the author’s advance, advertising and promotional expenses, royalty percentages, and more. Auctions are conducted by agents.

Backlist. A publisher’s list of its books that were not published during the current season, but that are still in print.

Bimonthly. Every two months.

Bio. A sentence or brief paragraph about the writer; can include education and work experience.

Biweekly. Every two weeks.

Blurb. The copy on book covers or book dust jackets, promoting the book and the author or featuring testimonials from book reviewers or well-known people in the book’s field. Also called flap copy or jacket copy.

Boilerplate. A standardized contract.

Bound galleys. Prepublication edition of book of final galley proofs, also known as “bound proofs.”

Byline. Name of the author appearing with the published piece.

Category Fiction. A term used to include all genres of fiction.

Chapbook. A small print or digital book of poetry or fiction—usually fewer than 40 pages.

Circulation. The number of subscribers to a magazine….

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