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A beginner’s guide to publishing terms

As a writer, there have been days when you might have squandered hours and hours hunting for that correct word, which brings that chills. Diving deep into your heart, soul, mind, and even the dictionary at times. All these words, one after the other, has finally culminated in this beautiful piece of art. You give a pat at your back. Well done to me! Now the world will be reading, my task as a writer is complete. You peacefully sleep at night.

But wait a minute. What about all those publishing terms? It feels like a nightmare, isn’t it? Well, no need to worry, because we got all the publishing terms covered for you. 

Basic publishing terms you need to know

1) International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

Yes, each word in your book is valuable, and so is this magical number printed on the back of your book. ISBN is one of the more important publishing terms. This number is useful for libraries, book stores, and retailers for inventory administration. It is a unique numeric commercial book identifier for published books. The ISBN published before 2007 have ten digits, and the ones published after that has thirteen digits. The method of assigning this number varies from country to country. 

2) Trim size

Just like wild leaves require pruning to give it a shape, even books are ‘trimmed’ to fit how it looks on the outside and also what it holds inside. The trim size determines the page count, which in turn is responsible for the cost and pricing of the book. Not only this, there are specific trim sizes for different genres. 

For your reference, the standard book sizes in inches are:

  • Fiction: 4.25 x 6.87, 5 x 8, 5.25 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9
  • Novella: 5 x 8
  • Children’s: 7.5 x 7.5, 7 x 10, 10 x 8
  • Textbooks: 6 x 9, 7 x 10, 8.5 x 11
  • Non-fiction: 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9, 7 x 10″
  • Memoir: 5.25 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5
  • Photography: Any size. 

3) Print on Demand

As the name suggests, this printing technology involves book publication only when an order arises. Digital printing technology has proved to be a boon for new writers who can publish small quantities at affordable prices. The writer can also analyze market demand through this tool. It also lessens the need to maintain an inventory. 

4) Indie author and indie publisher

An Indie author is an independent author who does not have a contract with a traditional publishing house and manages all the various publication steps on their own. On the other hand, indie publishers are the ones who are not part of the top five publishers. They can be of varying sizes. 

5) Book format

Generally, there are two kinds of book formats: hardcover and paperback. Hardcover consists of a thick layer of cardboard and can also have a leather layer. They give the books a longer lifespan but are expensive. Softcover or paperback (having a thinner cover) is a more fashionable option, as it’s cheaper and easy to handle.

6) Agent

A literary agent represents and advocates for authors in the publishing industry. They act as intermediaries between authors and publishers, working to secure book deals, negotiate contracts, and provide guidance throughout the book publishing process. They help authors refine their manuscripts, develop book proposals, and pitch their work to publishers. Literary agents often have established relationships with editors and publishing houses, which can enhance an author’s chances of getting published. 

They earn a commission on the deals they negotiate, usually a percentage of the author’s earnings from book sales. Literary agents play a crucial role in helping authors navigate the publishing world and maximize their chances of success. However, as is evident from the description, literary agents primarily work with traditional publishers and not other types of publishers. Also, they may act on behalf of publishers to find special types of material or authors to develop that material.

7) All rights

The publishing term all rights includes multiple rights to the content of the book. This is usually not recommended for writing that could have greater potential. 

When an author sells all rights to their book, they typically grant permission to another party to use the book in various ways. Here are the different types of rights that an author can sell:

1. Print rights: The right to publish the book in print format, such as hardcover or paperback. 

2. Distribution rights: Distribution Rights: The right to distribute and sell the book in various markets, including physical bookstores, online retailers, and libraries.

3. Electronic Rights: This grants the right to publish the book or portions of it in electronic formats, such as e-books or online publications.

4. Audio Rights: This refers to the right to produce and distribute an audiobook version of the book.

7. Movie or Film Rights: This grants the right to adapt the book into a movie or film. It may also include options for sequels or adaptations into other media formats.

8. Television or Streaming Rights: This grants the right to adapt the book into a television series or stream it on a digital platform.

9. Translation Rights: This allows the book to be translated into different languages and published in foreign markets.

10. Dramatic Rights: This grants the right to adapt the book into a stage play or theatrical production.

11. Merchandising Rights: This includes the right to use characters, settings, or other elements from the book to create merchandise, such as toys, clothing, or collectibles.

12. Book Club Rights: This grants book clubs the right to distribute the book to their members for reading and discussion.

It’s important to note that the specific rights an author sells can vary depending on the agreements negotiated with publishers, agents, or other parties involved in the book industry.

8) Copyrights

A means to protect an author’s work. The legal protection that grants the author exclusive rights to their original work, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and adapt the book. Copyright is automatically granted to the author upon the creation of the work, but it can also be registered for additional legal protection.

9) Fair use

This publishing term means a provision of the copyright law that says short passages from copyrighted material may be used without infringing on the owner’s rights.

10) Advance reader copy

An early version of the book sent out to media outlets or to beta readers for possible reviews and interviews.

11) Author’s Bio

A brief paragraph about the writer; it can include education and work experience. This is usually printed at the end of the book.

12) Blurb

The blurb is the copy on the book’s back cover. It could be content that promotes the book, could be the summary of the book or about the author, or it may feature testimonials from book reviewers or well-known people in the book’s field.

13) Boilerplate

In publishing terms, boilerplate refers to a standard, pre-drafted contract for the publishing agreement. It is a set of standardized terms and conditions that are typically included in publishing contracts without significant modifications.

Boilerplate language is often used to address common contractual aspects and legal protections, such as copyright ownership, royalty rates, payment terms, termination clauses, indemnification, warranties, and dispute resolution procedures. These provisions are considered standard in the industry and are frequently reused in multiple contracts.

The term “boilerplate” originates from the printing industry, where it was used to describe blocks of metal type that were used repeatedly without alteration. Similarly, in publishing contracts, boilerplate language is used as a time-saving measure to provide consistency and efficiency in drafting agreements.

It is essential for authors and publishers to review and understand these terms thoroughly. 

There could be various types of contracts, depending on the author and publisher:

1. Joint contract. A legal agreement between a publisher and two or more authors (or creators), establishing provisions for the division of royalties the book generates.

2. Multiple contract. Book contract with an agreement for a future book(s).

14) Chapbook

A small, usually pocket-sized book—usually fewer than 40 pages. Most often, chapbooks contain poetry, but they can contain short narratives, lyrics, etc.

15) Contributor copies

Copies of the magazine issues or books sent to the author in which the author’s work appears.

16) Copyediting

In the publishing industry, copyediting involves reviewing and correcting a manuscript for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style. It aims to improve readability, accuracy, and overall quality. Copyeditors correct spelling and grammar, ensure consistency, enhance clarity, check facts and references, apply formatting and style guidelines, address inconsistencies, and flag legal or ethical concerns.

17) Developmental editing

Developmental editing, in publishing terms, focuses on refining the content, structure, and concept of a manuscript. It involves working closely with the author to strengthen the plot, characters, pacing, narrative flow, and thematic coherence. The goal is to enhance the manuscript’s quality and effectiveness.

18) Line editing

In the publishing industry, line editing refers to the process of reviewing and improving the manuscript at the sentence and paragraph level. It focuses on improving the clarity, style, and overall impact of the writing. Line editing involves refining language usage, improving sentence structure, enhancing flow, and ensuring consistency. The goal is to create polished and engaging prose.

19) Proofreading

In the publishing industry, proofreading refers to the final stage of editing where the manuscript is checked for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting. It focuses on surface-level corrections to ensure accuracy and consistency. The goal of proofreading is to catch any lingering mistakes before the manuscript goes to print or publication.

20) Proposal

In the publishing industry, a book proposal is a document prepared by an author or their representative to pitch a book idea to publishers or literary agents. It provides a detailed overview of the proposed book, including a summary, market analysis, author bio, and sample chapters. The purpose of a book proposal is to convince publishers or agents of the book’s viability and commercial potential.

21) Genre

As one of the common publishing terms, genre refers to a category or classification that helps identify and market books based on their content, style, and intended audience. Genres can include fiction and non-fiction categories such as romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical, self-help, biography, and many others. Genres serve as a way to categorize and organize books, making it easier for readers to find and select books that align with their preferences and interests.

22) Ghostwriter

In the publishing industry, a ghostwriter is a professional writer who is hired to write a book, article, or other written content on behalf of someone else. The ghostwriter’s role is to capture the ideas, voice, and style of the author or client they are working for. The ghostwriter remains anonymous and does not receive public credit for their work, as their name does not appear as the author. Ghostwriters are often employed by individuals who lack the time, writing skill, or expertise to write the material themselves.

23) Graphic novel

In the publishing industry, a graphic novel is a type of book that combines illustrated visuals with storytelling to convey a narrative. It typically features sequential artwork, often in a comic book format, with accompanying text. Graphic novels can encompass a wide range of genres and themes, including fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, science fiction, memoirs, and more. They are distinct from traditional novels as they utilize visual storytelling techniques, making them a unique and visually engaging form of storytelling.

24) Memoir

In the publishing industry, a memoir is a type of autobiographical writing that focuses on a specific period, event, or theme from the author’s life. It is a personal account that often explores the author’s experiences, emotions, and reflections. Memoirs are distinct from autobiographies in that they usually focus on a particular aspect or period rather than providing a comprehensive account of a person’s entire life. They can cover a wide range of topics, including personal growth, relationships, overcoming challenges, and notable experiences.

25) Narrative nonfiction

In publishing terms, narrative nonfiction refers to a genre of writing that tells true stories using the techniques and narrative elements typically found in fiction. It focuses on real events, people, or places and presents them in a compelling and storytelling manner. Narrative nonfiction combines thorough research and factual accuracy with engaging storytelling techniques. Such as character development, vivid descriptions, and narrative arcs. It aims to inform, educate, and entertain readers by presenting true events like a captivating story.

26) Royalty

This is definitely an authors’ favourite among all publishing terms. Royalty refers to the payment that an author receives from the sales of their book. It is a percentage of the book’s retail price or net sales revenue, as specified in the author’s contract with the publisher. Royalties are typically paid to authors on a regular basis, such as quarterly or twice a year. The amount of royalty earned depends on factors such as the book’s sales volume, the agreed-upon royalty rate, and any deductions or expenses outlined in the contract. Royalties are an important source of income for authors and are a way for them to earn a share of the book’s success.

27) Novella

A novella is a work of fiction that falls between a short story and a full-length novel in terms of length and narrative scope. It is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story, typically ranging from about 7,000 to 30,000 words. Novellas often focus on a single storyline or theme, exploring it in more depth than a short story would allow, while still maintaining a concise and focused narrative. They offer a balance between brevity and complexity, allowing authors to delve into characters and plotlines in a condensed format. Novellas can be found as standalone works or as part of a collection of stories by the same author.

28) Pseudonym

A pseudonym, in the context of books, refers to a fictitious name that an author chooses to use instead of their real name when publishing their work. Authors may use pseudonyms for various reasons, including personal privacy, professional considerations, or to write in different genres or styles without confusing their readership. Pseudonyms can create a separation between an author’s real identity and their published works, allowing them to maintain anonymity or create a distinct authorial persona. Some well-known examples of authors using pseudonyms include George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair), who wrote under a pseudonym to separate his political and literary work, and J.K. Rowling, who adopted the pseudonym Robert Galbraith for a series of crime novels.

29) Picture book

Picture books are a specific category of books primarily intended for young children, typically between the ages of 2 to 8 years old. These books combine simple and engaging text with vibrant illustrations to tell a story. Picture books often feature a combination of words and pictures on each page, with the illustrations playing a crucial role in conveying the narrative or enhancing the reader’s understanding of the text.

Picture books can cover a wide range of themes, including adventure, friendship, family, emotions, and educational concepts. They are designed to captivate young readers, spark their imagination, and promote literacy development. Picture books often have a larger format, with colorful and visually appealing illustrations that support and complement the text. They can be read aloud by adults or enjoyed independently by young readers who are beginning to explore books on their own.

30) Synopsis

A synopsis is a concise summary or overview of the main points or storyline of a book, movie, or other narrative work. It provides a condensed version of the plot, characters, and key events, giving readers or potential publishers an understanding of the overall narrative without revealing all the details. A synopsis typically highlights the major story elements, conflicts, and resolutions, while omitting finer details or subplots.

In the publishing industry, authors often include a synopsis when submitting their work to literary agents or publishers as part of a book proposal. The synopsis serves as a tool to capture the essence of the story and entice interest from industry professionals. A well-crafted synopsis should effectively convey the key elements of the work while leaving room for intrigue and curiosity.

Supporting you on your publishing journey

In conclusion, navigating the publishing world can be an overwhelming experience, especially for beginners. However, with a solid understanding of key publishing terms, you are equipped with a valuable toolset to confidently pursue your writing goals. It’s also important to consider the publishing company you choose to work with as they play a vital role in bringing your book to life.

At Writer’s Pocket, we understand the challenges that new authors face. And we’re passionate about supporting aspiring writers on their publishing journey. We are delighted to offer a free publishing opportunity exclusively for our readers. With our team of experienced professionals, personalized guidance, and dedication to quality, we aim to provide a seamless and rewarding publishing experience.

Our Free Publishing offer includes custom eye-catching cover design, formatting, distribution to major online retailers, and robust marketing support to help your book reach its target audience. We believe that every writer deserves the opportunity to see their work in print. Together, we can create something extraordinary and make your voice heard in the ever-evolving world of publishing.

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