Publishing Vocabulary 101

When I first started working at Bethany House almost six years ago, I remember thinking, “There are so many terms and acronyms in publishing.” If you’ve ever seen an unfamiliar word used in book circles, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve asked some of our staff members to contribute some assorted publishing vocabulary words—take a look at the list and see how many are new for you!

Advance: the non-returnable payment to authors by publishers against which the royalty earnings are offset

AE: Acquisitions editor—finds new projects and works with the author and manuscript through all stages of publishing

ARC: Advance Reader Copy—an early version of the book sent to media and endorsers

Backlist: all of the titles by an author published before their latest release

BOB: Back of Book ad—the final few pages of a book that include author information and book suggestions

Book performance review: a meeting evaluating sales a year or more after a book’s release

Book proposal: information about a book that an author sends to a publisher/agent, usually including sample chapters

Colophon: inscription at the end of a book with facts about its production; can also mean an identifying mark or logo

Comps: either “rough sketch” cover options, or, when used with “titles,” books similar to the one being discussed

Copy: the text on back covers, ads, and other promotional materials

Em dash (—): Per the Chicago Manual of Style, the “most versatile of the dashes,” used to set off material or mark a break

Leaf: a section of the book comprising both right and left pages

Perfect binding: a method where individual pages of a book are glued together as opposed to section-sewn

Positioning: a meeting where marketing, editorial, and sales find a book’s unique fit in the marketplace

Press release: a written announcement that draws media attention to an author or new book release

Proofread: the final step in the editorial process, focusing on cleaning up any small typographical errors

Pub board: a meeting where marketing, editorial, and sales discuss future book contracts

Publishers Weekly: a trade review publication used by booksellers, buyers, and other professionals

Publicist: a marketing role that focuses on creating non-paid “buzz” for a book rather than advertising, such as media interviews

Recto: right page in printing

Royalties: the percentage of profit from sales of a book that the author is paid

Running head: the text at the top of a page that usually contains book title, chapter, or author name

Signature: a portion of paper folded to create several pages, which, when sewn together, create a book

Stet: “let it stand” (Latin); dots beneath and stet in the margin indicate to disregard a marked deletion or change

Style manual: guidelines for the consistent treatment of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, numbers, and other elements in writing and publishing

Style sheet: a document used by copy editors to maintain consistency of character names, dates, and other details

Synopsis: a detailed description of the plot of a book, often given to the publisher before the book is complete

Target audience: a specific group of readers likely to be interested in a particular book

Verso: left page in printing

Which of these words or phrases did you find most interesting?

4 thoughts on “Publishing Vocabulary 101

  1. I am familiar with most of these terms from just hanging around the writing and reading communities. The word Colophon is definitely one that I hadn’t heard before now. We learn something new all the time.

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