Publishing Glossary

Publishing, like any industry, has a lot of jargon. We know that can make it difficult to navigate the world of books, or even know where to start. Here’s our A-Z guide to some of the most common words and terms we use.

The Publishing process

Terms related to the process of publishing a book. For more information about the steps and teams involved in Building a Book at Penguin, visit our guide below.

Illustration of three colleagues. One is stood on top of books, with a magnifying glass on the manuscript. Another is on a laptop pointing to a bar chart, with the other talking to them.

When a publisher ‘buys’ the right to publish a book from an author.  

The weekly acquisition meeting is the key moment when a publisher decides which books to ‘acquire’ (i.e., which books we would like to publish)by reviewing new manuscripts. This meeting involves people from a variety of departments who all give their input as to whether a book should be acquired or bought for publication.  
For editors, the acquisitions meeting is a chance to present the new titles they would like to publish to our colleagues. Sales identify the possible retailers and formats the book would work well with. Publicity look for the publicity potential and media opportunities. Marketing identify the book’s potential target market and consider how efficiently we can promote the book and what marketing budget we will need for the project. Rights also identify licensing opportunities that could generate further revenue. 

A sheet of paper, no longer than one side of A4, announcing a new publication. This will include bibliographic details. Key selling points, a blurb, cover image, brief information about the author, when the book is available and how to order. 

A book which has been published but is still in print. A title usually becomes a backlist title a year after publication. 

A book that sells well, usually defined by chart placing in the weekly Sunday Times or New York Times bestseller list. Can also refer to a title that has sold consistently well over a long period of time.

A document, primarily for retailers or journalists, that brings together all the titles due to be published over a specific period (e.g., Autumn).

An edition of a book published simultaneously by more than one publisher, usually in different countries and in different languages. 

A book that is similar to the​ one you’re discussing, used to illustrate the subject matter,​ the voice of the narrator, or the market it will appeal to.​

The final editorial stage before a book is typeset. It is the process of reviewing, editing, and correcting texts to ensure that the text and any illustrative material is expressed clearly and accurately. This will also include checking grammar and spelling, and fact-checking including dates and spellings of names. 

In publishing, this is the exclusive right to reproduce a book for a fixed time. 

A meeting (usually weekly) where decisions about book covers are led by the art department of the publishing house with input from other colleagues (e.g., Sales and Marketing) on what is most likely to sell. 


A young adult book which has the potential for an adult readership, or vice versa. 

Refers to the first book written or published by an author. 

The process of picking, packing, and despatching the final books to arrive at the relevant retailer or consumer.

A request that certain information not be published or made public until a certain date, or until certain conditions have been met. 

A short introduction to a book, typically by a person other than the author. 

Books published recently, usually in the current year. 

See proofs.

Free copies of books that we send to authors, customers, and consumers.

Genre is the category that a book falls into. Broadly, all books fall into three genres: fiction, non-fiction, or children’s books. There are sub-genres within these. For example, fiction includes action & adventure; crime & thriller; fantasy; historical fiction; literary fiction; poetry; romance; and science fiction. Non-fiction includes business; food & drink; health & lifestyle; history; memoir; science; and sports. Children’s includes picture books; fiction and non-fiction for children of different ages such as 8-12 or Young Adult (13+). 

A weekly meeting where both marketing and publicity present their campaigns for an upcoming title to the sales team. It is also an opportunity for them to update sales on any activity surrounding titles that have been published recently. 

The name of a publishing unit under which a book is published. Each publishing house will be made up of several different imprints, often specializing in specific genres or interest areas. We have over 50 imprints. For example, Yellow Jersey (an imprint under our Vintage ‘publishing house’) focuses on brilliant sports writing, covering all sports from the perspective of the player, professional observer and passionate fan. See publishing house.

The European IP Helpdesk define IP as: ‘creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected by law. for example, through patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create’. Our books are protected as intellectual property. 

The unique identifying number for a particular book. Each edition of the book (e.g., paperback, hardback, eBook) will have a different ISBN. 

The individual responsible for managing an author’s career, helping them to develop their work as well as sell their book to publishers by negotiating the best deal. Agents also facilitate the relationship between the author and their editor. In return, agents take a percentage of an author’s advance and royalties. 

When we post copies of our upcoming books (usually proof copies) along with a press release to various people, including librarians, retail buyers, bloggers, journalists, and many more. Mail-outs are a crucial part of our marketing and publicity campaigns, as they get people reading and talking about the books before they hit the shelves. 

A key title targeted by the publishing house and Sales for success. Often a debut author with little sales history, or sometimes an author we have acquired from another publisher and whose sales history we want to transform. 

(MS). A draft or unpublished version of a book that is submitted to agents and/or editors for consideration. 

Data on every book (price, publication date, format) is entered onto our systems (and fed to online platforms, such as Amazon) to help optimize the chance of readers discovering books in online searches. This will include keywords (words that someone might type into a search engine).

Non-traditional channels (not book retailers) for selling our books online and offline. For example, through clothes shops or in subscription boxes. 

(OP). A book that was previously published but is no longer available, often because it has stopped selling in sufficient quantities, or has been replaced by a subsequent edition. 

A pre-empt is an early offer for a publishing deal from an editor that is often regarded as ‘too good to refuse’. If a pre-empt is accepted by the author and agent, it will result in the book being taken off the table and no bids from any other publishing houses will be accepted. 

The process of reviewing designed pages or other printed material and marking up errors to be corrected. 

Often shorthanded to ‘pub date’. This is the date when a book can first be sold to the public. Almost all books are published on a Thursday. Books usually go on sale as soon as they arrive, which can be a couple of days before the pub date. Some highly anticipated books will be under a strict embargo, and therefore cannot be released until the pub date.  See embargo.

Penguin, and many other publishers, are made up of smaller ‘companies’ which operate independently. These are called ‘houses’ but are sometimes referred to as ‘divisions’. Penguin are made up of nine publishing houses, that are creatively and editorially independent. Each publishing house have their own ‘imprints’. See imprint.

A title that is reissued to reflect either new, updated material, or simply to reposition that title in the market. 

Books returned unsold from bookshops to publishers. 

This means the right to do something with intellectual property, including publishing a book. As part of an acquisition a publisher buys the ‘rights’ to publish that book in a particular market. A reversion of rights happens when a book goes out of print and the author or agent asks to have the copyright back. See subsidary rights and world rights.

Selling serial extracts from a book to a newspaper or magazine. This is usually done to drum up excitement about the content of a book and encourage sales. 

A poster or notice that’s on card. For author events at bookshops and libraries, showcards are often made containing information about the book and the event. 

Full listing of all titles in print. 

In addition to the right to publish in the UK market, publishers will often want to buy additional (subsidiary) rights. This could be translation rights, world rights (the right to publish the book in other markets around the world), or film or TV rights. 

An overview of what the book is about and what makes it special. A synopsis will usually be sent to editors, publicists, and sales teams whenever a publisher is thinking about acquiring a book. A synopsis should be a bit longer than a blurb (up to one page) and should include main plot, a summary of themes, and main characters, a hint of an ending – and no more. 

Manuscripts a publisher receives directly from a writer without an agent. Most publishers, including Penguin, will not read unsolicited submissions. 

A quick way of saying the books a specific publisher or imprint has published or is due to publish. For example, you may hear a publisher saying, ‘we have an exciting non-fiction list this Autumn’. 

An eBook reader and physical book, on a platform. There are sparkles shooting out from both.

Producing a book

Terms related to the process of creating and producing the book in different formats. For more information on what Publishing Operations and Production do, visit our team page below.

When material from several different books is put together to create one new title. 

A mock-up of the final book. Includes the same finishes, paper quality, but is only a few pages of the book. 

The body of a book without the cover/jacket. 

The final version of the physical book that hasbeen printed and bound, and is ready to go on sale.

The cover copy. Usually a short quote or paragraph of text on the back of a book, giving the reader a flavour of what the book is about, as well as any other information or quotes from other authors/press printed on the cover.  

The hard part of a hardback book. This can be paper, wibalin (a coated, textured paper, or cloth). It is sometimes covered by a jacket. 

‘Coated’/’uncoated’ refers to the treatment of the cover. Coating helps to protect a cover, whereas uncoated covers will have a paper–like texture.

Also known as ‘Four Colour Printing’. These are the four colours that make up all colours (aside from ‘Pantones’) when printing.  

The emblem or logo, usually displayed on the title page of the book. Each book will either use the company, publishing house, or imprint logo. See publishing house and imprint.

Another word for text or written material. 

The sequence of stages in a book’s creation and production that must be completed on time for the book to meet its publication deadline. Each book has its own schedule. 

Digital version of a title that can be read on an e-reader. This can be straight text or sometimes enhanced with additional features such as audio. 


The binding of a specific book. Usually, a book isinitially published in hardback edition along with the ebookand audio editions (if applicable). Then a paperback editionis published around six months or a year later, depending onthe title.

Material printed at the back of a book if there are blank pages at the end of a text. This could be marketing material, or a sample chapter from another book. 

The papers that attach the bookblock to the case of a book. These can be coloured, printed or plain. 

The size and shape of a physical book. There are different formats:  

  • Royal (or Royal Octavo) – the largest format hardback 
  • B Format – standard size paperback (also can be used for hardback) 
  • A format – smallest general format, often used for paperback in export markets
  • Demy – medium sized hardback
  • Trade paperback – an oversized paperback  

The most common are ‘trade format’ and ‘B format’. Some types of books – such as illustrated books and cookery books – will be larger than these formats. 

Refers to books that include colour within the page – for example graphic novels, cookery books and picture books. 

(HB). A book with rigid covers – usually the first format for publication and often (although not always) followed by a paperback around a year later. 

The small pieces of material at the top and the bottom of a book that hide the spine binding. 

A statement that captures what a book is about. A hook is supposed to entice you to want to read the book, whether you are an agent, editor, customer, or consumer. 

A single print run of a book. The impression number is marked on the imprint page. 

Picture sections printing on different paper from the main text images. Can be black and white or colour. 

The jacket goes over the case (or paperback cover) and can be removed. 

First or primary print run for a book. 

Black and white printing.

Special inks for specific colours (e.g., Penguin Orange) that are printed in addition to (or instead of) CMYK colours. See CMYK.

A version of a book printed with a paper cover. See hardback.

A binding method in which the pages are bound together with glue. 

Promotional items to support book publication, e.g. posters, bookmarks, tote bags. 

The first pages of a book before the text itself starts. These pages can include a list of other books by the author, title page, copyright page, and any dedications. 

The number of copies of a book printed in one go.

An early, usually uncorrected copy of a book that publishers use to get people excited about a title before it’s published. Proofs can be simple, with blank or simple covers. Closer to publication date they may more closely resemble the final version of the book. They are often sent to journalists, authors and bloggers to review, as well as to retailers to help persuade them to stock it. 

A bindup of key materials from forthcoming books which is sent to the press and retailers. Usually used for where we don’t produce proofs like cookery and illustrated titles. 

Books are either sewn or unsewn (glued). When the book is sewn this makes the bindings stronger. 

The side of a book which is bound and glued – typically the edge that is shown on the shelves (spine-out). 

Many retailers want signed copies of books. It is often easier for authors to sign copies of the title page of a book before the final copies are bound. A tip-in is the name for the title page, which is signed by the author and then sent to the printer. 

Type/text arranged and prepared for printing.

Publishing Finance

Terms related to the finance of publishing a book. For more information on working in a finance role at Penguin, visit our team page below.

Two hands shaking, underneath a star, bank note, and copyright symbol

A sum of money that is paid to an author upfront when they sign a contract with a publisher to publish their book. The advance is usually paid back to the publisher through the royalties that the book earns for each sale.  

When multiple publishers want to buy abook. Usually, the book will go to the publisher who offers the most money (the highest advance) but sometimes 
it will go to a publisher who didn’t offer the most (known 
as the underbidder) but who has the best marketing andpublication plan for the book.

By this we mean the reader who ‘consumes’ the end product, not to be confused with ‘customer’. See customer.

This usually refers to a bookseller/retailer who buys our products. Examples include Waterstones, Amazon and WHSmith, as well as less traditional or expected retailers, such as museums and gift shops. Not to be confused the end ‘consumer’. See consumer.

As part of their contract, an author will need to ‘earn out’ their advance before they receive royalties directly from book sales. This means authors won’t earn royalties until the sales of a book equal the size of any advance paid. 

The amount that a publisher receives for the sale of a book to retailers or wholesalers.

The pre-production cost of a book, including artwork, setting, composition, film, legal, etc. Plant costs are fixed – they are the cost of making the book. 

The unit cost of each book sold. PPB is variable depending on the number of books printed and design specification. 

See origination.

A financial document created to determine the value of publishing a book.

The amount paid to an author for each book sold – this will usually be a percentage of the sale price. Royalties are usually paid to an author every six months. 

Nielsen Bookscan data is used to determine how much of the Total Consumer Market (TCM) each publisher owns. See Nielsen Bookscan.

We pay for space in physical and online retailers, including ‘book of the week’ slots or ‘chart’ space. 

Publishing Systems

Terms related to the most common publishing systems used in the industry. For more information on Technology at Penguin, visit our team page below.

A system we use for our publishing processes, including editorial, production, inventory management, contracts, rights, and royalties. It includes key information about a book, including the author, price, title, edition, production information, ISBN, cover art, and publication dates for example.

A book review platform for bloggers, librarians, booksellers and journalists.

Nielsen BookScan analyses electronic sales data to provide a continuous market measurement of UK and Republic of Ireland retail book sales. This means information is collected from bookshops and internet retailers on which books are sold, in what quantity and at what price. The data is validated and analysed to produce bestseller lists, price and imprint comparisons, backlist analyses and other essential information. This information is used to determine the Total Consumer Market (TCM) share of each book publisher. See TCM.

The Industry

Terms related to the wider publishing industry. For more information about Penguin, visit our page below.

A network diagram showing two people in circles, joined up with the Penguin emblem logo

A type of publishing that produces scholarly and academic research. Academic Publishing can include many different formats including books and journal articles. Differs from Education and Trade publishing.

Industry book fairs are where industry professionals meet to buy and sell rights, pitch new titles to publishers, make contacts and discuss new business opportunities. These include London Book Fair (LBF) in March/Apri); Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April; and Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) in October. 

A type of publishing that produces materials that support teaching and learning. Education Publishing can include many different formats including books, online content, textbooks, guides, examination papers, and other resources. Differs from Academic and Trade publishing.

Penguin and most other publishers are members of the Publishers Association – an organisation representing the UK publishing industry. They drive a lot of industry initiatives like Work in Publishing Week, research, and protect the interests of their members and the wider industry.

When an author publishes their work without the involvement of an established publisher.

The Society of Young Publishers is a volunteer-run organisation supporting junior and aspiring publishing professionals across the UK and Ireland. They are open to anyone, of any age, interested in publishing or a related trade – or who is hoping to be soon. Run by a team of dedicated volunteers, they assist, inform, and encourage anyone trying to break into the industry or progress within it.

The type of publishing that appeals to the general population of readers, as opposed to Educational or Academic audiences. Trade Publishing can include many different formats including printed books, ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and other licensed/branded items for consumers. Differs from Academic and Trade publishing.