Publications Commonly Used Terms


Some of the commonly used terms in publishing are sated below.




Agent: A book industry professional who represents authors and illustrators, helping them to place their work with publishers, collecting their payments, and performing other duties on their behalf.


Acquiring Editor: An editor who buys a specific book. The acquiring editor will then pass the manuscript on to the development editor, unless the acquiring editor and the development editor are the same person, which is often the case.


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


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


Development Editor: The editor who does the substantive editing of a book, with particular attention paid to overall style, pacing, plot, and structure. The development editor works with the author on revisions.


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.


Editorial Board/Publishing Committee: A group at a publishing house that approves the acquisition of a book, that is, purchasing an author's work for publication. Editorial boards are typically comprised of an acquisitions editor, as well as representatives from the sales, marketing, and finance departments.


Errata: A loose sheet detailing errors found in a printed book.


Line-Editing/Copy Editing: Line-by-line editing of a manuscript, concentrating on style, punctuation, spelling, grammar, flow, sequencing, clarity, consistency, and content errors.


Manuscript: An author's written material before it is typeset and printed. MS and MSS are the shorthand designations for "manuscript" or "manuscripts."


Proofreading: A final proofing of the manuscript, usually focused on cleaning up any typographical errors before the manuscript is typeset.


Query Letter: A letter from an author or agent to an editor that briefly describes a manuscript and asks whether the editor is interested in evaluating the 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.


Revisions: Changes, sometimes extensive, to an original work.


Slush Pile: Manuscript submissions that are received by publishing houses, but are unsolicited or do not come through agents. Some publishers do not consider unsolicited manuscripts, while others do review them.


Submissions: Manuscripts sent by an author or agent to a publisher for consideration.





Advance: A payment made as an advance against royalties by a publisher to an author or illustrator when the author's book is acquired by the publisher. The advance is often paid in two parts: half upon the signing of the contract, and half upon the delivery or the publisher's formal acceptance of the manuscript. The advance is charged against royalties and must "earn out" (that is, accrued royalties must amount to the size of the advance) before any royalties are paid.


Boilerplate: A publisher's standard contract offered to an author and used as a starting point for negotiating final terms.


Contract/Publishing Agreement: A legal document detailing an author or illustrator's agreement to sell to a publisher some or all rights to a creative work. Contracts specify what rights under copyright are being granted, the author's and publisher's respective obligations under the agreement, the author's compensation, and other provisions. Agreements can be thick with legalese and typically include anywhere from 3 to 20 pages, with up to 100 clauses.


Copyright: The exclusive, legally-secured right to, among other things, reproduce and distribute works of original expression. Expression is your own unique way of expressing an idea, telling a story, or creating a work of art. Under copyright law, creators hold copyright in a book or other literary work from the moment they put the words down on paper, into a computer file, or into some other tangible medium. Copyright protection in works created after January 1, 1978 generally lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator. Copyright in works created by businesses or before 1978 can last for 95 years from publication. After a work is no longer protected, it falls into the public domain.


Kill Fee: A payment that may be made to an author or illustrator when a publisher cancels a project.


Option Clause: A clause in a publishing agreement giving the publisher the right to consider acquiring the author's next book before other publishers can do so.


Permissions: Agreements from copyright holders granting the right to someone else to reproduce their work. Authors who want to excerpt someone else's work in their own book may be obligated under copyright law to secure permissions.


Public Domain: Products of the human mind ? such as books, inventions, computer programs, songs, movies, and other works ? are often owned by the creator as "intellectual property," meaning that the creator may have control over uses of the work such as reproduction. Intellectual property is recognized under copyright, patent, trademark, and other laws. If a work is not legally protected as intellectual property (possibly because its protection has expired), it is said to be in the "public domain." Anyone may reproduce, sell, or otherwise use a public domain work without having to obtain permission.


Rights/Subsidiary Rights: Some of the many different ways in which a book can be distributed include through book clubs, as foreign translations, through excerpts in newspapers and magazines, or as a movie adaptation. The rights to distribute a book in one of these or other extended forms are referred to as "subsidiary rights." If the publisher licenses the subsidiary rights to another company to exploit them, the license proceeds are shared between the author and the publisher. Sometimes the publisher exploits subsidiary rights directly, such as by selling its own book club edition of the work. If the author withholds these rights from the publisher and the author's agent licenses the rights directly to a third-party company, the author keeps all of the proceeds minus the agent's commission.


Royalties: A percentage the author or illustrator receives out of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of the book.





Book Signing: A publicized event, often held at bookstores or book fairs, featuring an author reading from and discussing the author's book and autographing the book for customers.


Direct Mail: Promoting books by sending a brochure, flyer, postcard, or other printed material directly to a group of potential buyers.


Fantasy: A type of fiction that bends or transcends the rules of the known world, allowing such conventions as time travel, talking animals, and super-human creatures.


Fiction: Writing that comes from the imagination, or writing that does not adhere to the facts related to true events.

Genre: A specific category of books, such as historical, romance, or science fiction.


Historical Fiction: Works in which the characters are fictional, but the setting and other details are rooted in actual history.


Marketing: A concerted effort of promotion and advertising by the publisher to maximize sales of books to the public and to distributors.


Media Kit/Press Kit: A folder of promotional materials used for announcing information about a forthcoming book to the news media and other targeted outlets. Media kits may include excerpts, reviews, quotes from individuals praising the work, and a press release.


Monograph: A scholarly piece of writing (often book length) dealing with a detailed, yet often limited, subject.


Niche Marketing: Marketing and promoting a book to a specific group of buyers, such as people in a certain geographical region, or people with a specific hobby or interest. Books published for a niche market may be sold nationally, but mainly are sold through specialized retail outlets.


Nonfiction: "True" writing in which the author retells actual events.


Press Release: A written announcement that seeks to draw media attention to a specific event or product launch.


Target Audience: A specific group of readers likely to be interested in a particular book.





Afterword: Closing remarks on the topic of the book or the process of writing the book. This material can be written by someone other than the author.


Appendix: Supplementary information at the end of a book, which can include tables and statistical information.


Author/Illustrator Biography: Personal information and accomplishments of the author and/or illustrator.


Back Matter: All printed material that appears in the back of the book after the body copy. Back matter can include an afterword, an appendix, a bibliography, a colophon, a glossary, and an index.


Bibliography: A list of books or articles cited as resources by the author.


Binding: The back cover, spine (center panel which connects the front and back cover to the pages and faces out when the book is shelved), and front cover of a book. A binding is what what holds a book together. Types of binding include case binding, comb binding, perfect binding, saddle stitching, spiral binding, and velo binding.


Board Books: Small, often square-shaped books intended for infants and toddlers and consisting of a small number of thick pages.


Body Copy: The majority of the text of the book, appearing between the front and back matter.


Colophon: A brief listing of production information, often including typeface details and information related to any artwork.


Copyright Page: A page toward the front of the book which indicates that the book is protected by copyright, and that permission must be obtained to reproduce all or part of the book. Typically this page also includes cataloging data for libraries.


Dedication: An author's statement of appreciation or compliments to a specific person or group of people to whom the book is dedicated.


EAN Bar code: This bar code is the ISBN number transferred into machine-readable form. The electronic scanning lines printed on the back cover or book jacket are encoded with information about the book product, such as the title, publisher, and price.


Foreword: An introduction to a book, usually written by someone other than the author of the book.


Front Matter: All of the pages in a book that appear before the body copy. Types of front matter include the title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents, foreword, preface, acknowledgment, and introduction.


Frontispiece: An illustration appearing before the first pages of a book.


Glossary: A list of terms and definitions particular to the subject of the book.


Hardcover: Usually sewn and glued, hardcover books are then bound with cardboard covers that are reinforced with a stiff cloth before being covered with a paper dust jacket.


Index: An alphabetical listing of specific topics and key words in a book (especially names, places, and events) and the pages on which they are mentioned.


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.


ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): A worldwide numbering system for periodicals and other serially-produced products.


Library Binding: A more durable hardcover binding with cloth reinforcement and often a different sewing method.


Mass Market Paperback: A smaller (4 and 3/16" x 6 and 3/4") paperback book usually printed on low-grade paper and released in high quantity at a lower price than a trade paperback. The subject matter of these books typically fit current popular market needs. In addition to bookstore placement, these so-called "rack sized" books are often distributed through drugstores, airports, and supermarkets.


Preface: Introductory section of a book, usually written by the author. May contain information on why the book was written or how to use the book.


Table of Contents: A listing of the topics covered in the book as arranged by chapter and/or section, including the corresponding page numbers.


Title Page: Odd-numbered right-hand (or "recto") page that lists the book's title, subtitle, author's name, publisher, and city where it was published.


Trade Paperback: Trade paperbacks are larger than mass market paperback books and are bound with a heavy paper cover. They are often are the same size and bear the same cover illustration as the hardcover edition. Trade paperbacks are usually bound with glue only.





Bluelines: Also referred to as "Blues." This printer's photocopy generated by the printer is a blue-print mock-up of all of the pages of the book printed from the final plates. Bluelines allow a final opportunity to detect errors and make minor corrections before the book goes to press. If changes are needed, they have to be made to the film, which can be expensive.


Book Manufacturing: The entire process of typesetting a book, printing it, binding it, and then packing it for shipping.

Layout: The overall design of a book's pages, including the arrangement of text, illustrations, graphics, title, page numbers, and font/typeface usage.


Overrun: The excess quantity of books when a print run is larger than the one ordered. These additional copies are printed to offset possible spoilage. If the estimated spoilage does not occur, the publisher is sometimes required to purchase the additional copies from the printer.


PP&B: Paper, Printing, and Binding. Accounts for the bulk of the total cost associated with manufacturing a book.


Prepress: The various steps necessary to prepare a book to be sent to a printer. May include scanning of images, creation of proofs, conforming color specifications to the printer's requirements, and many other activities.


Printer's Errors: Mistakes made by the printer during manufacturing, such as smudges, smears, and ink-blots on pages.


Proofs: The complete typeset pages of a book for review before the book goes to press.


Spoilage: Planned paper waste. Printers estimate ten percent spoilage.


Stripping: Positioning all of the layout components on a signature (large sheets of paper that are printed in multiples of four that when folded and trimmed become the pages in the book) to construct the templates for platemaking.


Transparencies: Photographs or images appearing on transparent material (such as slides) rather than on opaque material (such as paper.)


Trim Size: The outer dimensions (horizontal and vertical) of a finished book.


Underrun: A finished order containing fewer books than requested. An underrun may result from excessive spoilage during printing or from printer's errors.





Advance Copies: The first finished books (before the book is widely distributed) that are designated to fill advance orders and special requests.


Backlist: Books from previous seasons that are still in print. A publisher's backlist provides a significant source of revenue, as sales of backlist titles often prove to be more stable than frontlist sales.


Division: A branch of a publishing company. Some large publishing houses consist of several divisions.


Dummy: A rough mock-up of a book that usually shows where all front matter, text and illustrations, and back matter will appear. Some dummies include actual sketches and images.


Frontlist: All of the books released in the current season and featured in the publisher's latest catalog.


Galley or Advanced Reader's Edition/Copy (ARE or ARC): Formatted in book form, bound galleys are generally produced after a manuscript has been typeset but before it has been proofread. These editions are used by publicists to send to book reviewers, distributors, and book clubs that like to see copies of books three or four months before their official publication dates. Some publishers classify books with full color covers as ARCs or AREs, and those with plain cardstock covers as galleys.


Imprint: The identifying name of a specific line of books available from the publisher. Publishers may have many imprints.


In-Store or On-Sale Date: The date that a product arrives in the stores and is shelved for consumers to purchase.


List: The books designated for publication in a particular sales season (such as the Fall season, Winter season, or Spring/Summer season).


Midlist: Books with a strong intellectual or artistic bent which have a chance of significant success but are not assumed to be likely bestsellers.


OP/Out of Print: When a publisher has no copies of a book on hand and does not intend to reprint it.


OSI/Out of Stock Indefinitely: When the publisher has no copies of a specific title on hand, but may wish to reprint it in the future.


Pre-Publication: This term is usually used in conjunction with other terms such as pre-pub costs or pre-pub offers. Pre-pub offers may be made with special incentives to hype initial demand or to learn enough to project post-publication response rates.


Publication Date ("Pub Date"): The date when the publisher announces that a particular product will be available. Typically, the pub date is set for a few days after the book's arrival in stores to help ensure that marketing and publicity can begin on schedule.





Chains: Large companies that own many bookstores under the same name. The two biggest chains in U.S. bookselling are Barnes & Noble and Borders. A "superstore" carries 100,000 or more titles and can include a coffee shop and other amenities.


Co-op Money: Expenditures by a bookseller to promote a publisher's books. Co-op monies are then reimbursed by the publisher.


Distributor: A company that warehouses, catalogs, markets, and sells books to bookstores, libraries, and wholesalers on behalf of a number of small publishers, consolidating those costs.

Publishers Group West ( is the largest exclusive distributor of independent publishers in North America. One of the top ten vendors of books in the country, Publishers Group West represents over 150 independent publishers.

National Book Network ( is the largest independent distributor in North America. NBN provides sales, marketing, order fulfilment, and credit and collection services to independent publishers of commercial fiction and non-fiction books.


Independent Booksellers: Retail shops, not owned by large companies, selling books to the general public.


Institutional Sales: Book sales primarily to schools and libraries, especially by children's book publishers.


List Price: The cover price of a book, also called the "retail" price.


Remainder copies: Copies of a book that are deeply discounted for fast turnover, often due to slow-moving sales or an overabundance of stock.


Returns: Unsold copies of a book that are returned to publishers from booksellers. In most cases the bookseller is allowed to return any unsold books to the publisher for a complete refund.


Sales Call: Regular appointments between the publisher's sales representatives and potential buyers. A catalog of front list titles is used during this meeting and a Purchase Order (PO) is issued.


SAN (Standard Account Number): A number assigned to libraries, schools, and other organizations that buy, sell, or lend books.


Special Sales: Non-traditional sales in outlets that do not specialize in book retail (anything from gift stores to pet shops to organizations, etc.).


Trade Bookseller: A bookseller which distributes books to the general public. Some trade booksellers include superstores, chain stores, independent booksellers, and online retailers.


Wholesaler: A company that buys books in large quantities from publishers at high discounts, and sells them to bookstores and libraries at a mid-level discount. For example:


  • Baker & Taylor ( is a leading full-line wholesaler of books, videos, and music products to libraries and both traditional and Internet retailers. The company has been in business for over 170 years and ships more than 1 million unique ISBNs annually.
  • Ingram Book Group ( is a leading wholesaler of books, audiobooks, and periodicals to booksellers, librarians, and specialty retailers. The company's database contains more than 1.8 million titles.




Chapter Books: A category of books aimed at children ages 9-12. While chapter books often display one line drawing per chapter, they primarily use text to tell a story.


Concept Book: A picture book for preschool children that attempts to teach a basic concept. Many concept books display illustrations or other art and contain only a few words per page. Concept books frequently focus on introducing children to subjects such as the alphabet, or colors, shapes, and sizes.


Early Readers/Easy Readers/Beginning Chapter Books: These books are intended for kids ages 8-11 who are growing out of picture books. The books typically run about 64 pages and feature a substantial amount of illustration and controlled vocabulary aimed to help children move on to chapter books.


Hi-Lo Books: These books combine a high interest level with a text that is less challenging. Hi-Lo books are often used to coax hesitant middle-graders into more active reading.


Middle Reader: Books geared for readers aged 9-11.


Novelty Book: Books with special built-in features such as pop-ups, foldout pages, lift able flaps, or hidden sound chips.


Picture Book: Primarily aimed at children from preschool to age 8, picture books display pictures or illustrations on every page, telling the story through images that are accompanied with a few lines of text. Most picture books are 24 or 32 pages.


YA Books: A relatively new category, Young Adult (YA) Books is most often targeted at readers ages 12-18.


Please contact us at should you require further information.




Print | Sitemap
© International Medical Publishing Group (IMPG), 1953 to 2023