Publishing terminology explained

Posted 18.06.20 by Ellie Harlow

Jargon, shorthand and abbreviations are often a part the working day to day. But if you haven’t worked in that industry before, their particular words and phrases can be baffling!

Publishing shouldn’t be a mystery and that’s why we’ve pulled together an A-Z list of terms that we use in our business to help you navigate conversations and become familiar with how a publishing team operates.

Of course, if you’re in an interview or meeting and someone uses a term you don’t understand, just ask! Curiosity is one of the most valued traits in potential candidates and the interviewer will be more than happy to explain.

When a publisher ‘buys’ the right to publish a book from an author. The decision on whether to do so takes place in the acquisitions meeting (usually weekly), where an editor brings in colleagues from sales, marketing, publicity, production and finance to convince them to get behind the book.

A sum of money paid to an author upfront when they sign a contract with a publisher to publish their book. An author’s advance is typically paid in instalments – after signing a contract, after finishing their manuscript, after publishing in hardback and finally after publishing in paperback.

The short quote or paragraph of text on the back of a book that gives the reader a flavour of what the book’s about.

A book which has been published in the past but is still in print.

By this we mean the reader, not to be confused with ‘customer’, which refers to our distributors.

Another word for text or written material.

The process of reviewing, editing and correcting text, including manuscripts, for spelling, grammar and content errors.

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

This usually refers to a bookseller who buys our products. Examples include Waterstones, Amazon and WHSmith, as well as less traditional or expected retailers, such as museums or gift shops.

A request that certain information not be published or made public until a certain date, or until certain conditions have been met.

Books published recently, usually in the current year.

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

We think that the definition found on the World Intellectual Property’s website says it best: ‘creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, 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.

Another word for a hardback book’s cover. If you hear of a ‘Jackets’ meeting, this refers to the meetings where decisions are made about a book’s cover.

The books a specific publisher or imprint has available or which are coming up.

The individual responsible for managing an author’s career, helping them to develop their work or sell their book to publishers. Agents are key to facilitating the relationship between the author and their editor. In return, agents take a percentage of an author’s earnings from the book.

When we post copies of our upcoming books (usually proof copies) 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 our books before they hit the shelves.

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

Any information about a particular book. The title, author, price, sales territories, author biography, reviews and recommended age for children’s books are all examples of metadata. It’s vital for our print and online retailers, ensuring that our books can be found by readers.

Stands for Purchase Order, which is a purchasing document created by us for our external suppliers when they need payment.

This should accompany every mail-out so the recipient knows why they have been sent the book. It will briefly summarize what the book is about and why it’s so great.

An early, usually uncorrected copy of a book that publishers use to get people excited about a title before it’s published. Proofs can resemble the published version of the book, and are usually sent to journalists and bloggers to review, as well as to retailers to help persuade them to stock it.

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

When a book can first be sold to the public.

A business decision about a title to reflect either new, updated material or simply to reposition that title in the market.

The legal permission to publish something.

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

Selling extracts from a book to a newspaper or magazine.

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

A sheet of paper, no longer than one A4 side, 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.

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.

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.

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