Publishing and Writing Glossary of Terms

This list does not include everything. I’ve put in all the things which I didn’t understand when I was first researching publishing:

Advance: the chunk of money offered to you by your publishing house to buy your book based on how many copies they think it will sell and how much they’ll make from that (Indie Houses may not offer this). Agents do a good job of negotiating higher advances

Advance copy: an early copy of your book generally intended for pre-release reviewers, potential book-sellers, and proofing.

Big 5: used to be Big 6 until Penguin and Random House merged, refers to the big 5 traditional publishing houses: Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster…I think (5th could be Pearson in the UK)

BL: British Library where you send a copy of your work (everyone does for legal deposit purposes)

Blurb: the bit on the back of the book which gets people hooked but doesn’t tell them everything

Contract: you sign one of these when you sell the publishing rights of your book to a publishing house. Read it carefully…

Copy editing: editing to check for consistency and accuracy (i.e. do you have ginormous plot-holes?). Usually an editor does this

Copyright: don’t steal other people’s work, it’s not cool and it’s copyrighted under UK Law

Draft: you will be doing lots of these if you want to get published

Editing: if you don’t know what this is then you’re in trouble. You should be doing lots of it

Indie: an abbreviation for Independent and can refer either to an author who self publishes (Indie Author) or a publishing house which is not part of the big 5: Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster…I think (5th could be Pearson in the UK) = (Indie House or Indie Publishing House)

Imprint: usually a sub-brand within a publishers which specialises in certain genres of books i.e. a romance imprint.

ISBN: International Standard Book Number, which every publication has to identify it. It’s built into the barcode and used by booksellers/stockists. You/your publisher has to apply for one from their national ISBN agency

HF: Historical Fiction

Library of Congress: it’s like the BL of the States, you want to send your book here after publication, especially if you want to pay for copyright and protection under the international law (most countries have signed this but not all). It helps in law courts if your work was ever plagiarised but isn’t fool-proof

Literary Agent: the middle-man between you and the publishing house. Someone who loves your work, knows people in the publishing world like editors who want to buy books, sells your work for you, takes a commission (only AFTER you’ve sold your book to a publishing house), negotiates contracts and is the overall champion of your work

Manuscript: that book you wrote

MS: manuscript

POV: Point of View (do this well or you’ll be fed to the dogs)

Publishing House: The guys who have editors who buy your book, hone it, create your covers, do you publicising, print the thing and get it out in the big wide world of Tesco shelves, Waterstones windows and Amazon. They come in 2 x forms: Traditional and Indie

Proofing: the final read through to catch any typos or missing full-stops before printing (not to be confused with editing unless you want to anger the writing community)

Rights: there is a difference between Print Publishing Rights, eBook Publishing Rights, Audio Book Publishing Rights and Copyright Rights. Make sure your publishing contract says the right thing you are intending to sell and check if it’s national or international, the length of it and cancellation ability

Royalties: the slice of money you make from every book sale. The percentage of your books sales you receive will be negotiated in your contract.

Selling through your Advance: this is when you sell enough books to cover your advance and you start making royalties directly with every sale

Slush-pile: the stack of people’s slaved-over novels submitted to literary agencies and publishing houses that hasn’t been read yet (this is where J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was found, but remember, that was unusual). The slush pile is pretty large

Synopsis: an outline of all the key events/conflicts in your book in chronological order AND including the ending – when an agent asks for this it’s because they want to know what happens in your book, not because they want to be left guessing (hint: they won’t offer to work with you without knowing the ending). These are also the most heinous things in the world for authors to write, ‘Why yes, I can’t think of anything better then trying to condense my 85K novel onto one side of A4.’

Solicited: means it was requested specifically

Unsolicited: it was not requested or asked for and probably isn’t wanted (unless specified – some publishing houses open their doors to unsolicited manuscripts at certain times of year)

SM: social media, the bane of most writer’s lives

SFF: Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Type-setting: someone setting out and ordering how your novel will appear when printed

Working title: the title you currently have for your book which may be subject to change

WIP: Work in Progress (the book you’re writing at the moment)