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Learning the Lingo – Part 3 – Publishing Terms

Photo courtesy microsoft.com free image galleryIf it’s not one thing it’s another. Terms always change. Five years ago the words eBooks drew giant question marks in writer’s heads. It’s important to learn to be flexible with Publishing terms. They will change “like the weather.” My best advice is to get yourself a subscription to Writer’s Digest or Publishers Marketplace. Magazines like these will help you keep up with the fluxuation in terms. These are good investments in your writing career. You’ll glean lots of helpful tips on writing as well as contests and places for submissions. There are four things I consider excellent investments. 1) writers magazines and books 2)Christian Writers Market Guide 3)Purchasing conference tapes and cd’s 4)Paid critiques from professionals at conferences. You will gain such insight and information from these things.

Below you will find a rather lengthy but very useful list of publishing terms. The definitions are simple and require little to no further explanation. Read them. Study. Get to know what they mean and how to utilize them in your career, then be prepared with the industry flip-flops and adds new jargon.

Publishing Lingo

Terms change like the weather. Always keep up with the trends through publishing magazines, writers’ blogs, publishing sites, and agency sites. Here’s a few to help get you started.

Agent
An agent is that intermediary person whose job it is to sell, contract, and protect the rights of their writers. Agents used to be optional. Not anymore. In recent years, agents have become the gatekeepers for publishers, filtering out weaker writing and only submitting strong and vibrant manuscripts. Most agents contract writers at 15% of the royalties of a contracted book.

Shop
Shopping a manuscript is when the agent searches out and submits manuscripts to the appropriate publishing houses.

Publisher or House
The company who purchases the manuscripts and publishes them.

Traditional or Royalty Publisher
This company takes a risk and absorbs the expense of publishing a book. In years past, publishers offered an advance for work before it was actually sold. In today’s economy, advances are becoming a thing of the past. There are still publishers who offer them, but the trend is moving those advances to the established authors with a good track record of sales. As a rule, the publisher will offer the author an advance and a percentage of each book sold at regular price.

Vanity Publisher or Self-Publishing Company
This is where the author assumes the risk and expense of publishing a book. Plain and simple: If you, the author, PAY a company any money what-so-ever, you are self-publishing.

Subsidy or Partnership Publishing
These are companies who share the cost of publishing a book with the author. These companies may require you to purchase a certain amount of books after publication. But again, when you pay money to a publisher…you are self-publishing. Despite the fact subsidy companies will say they are not self-publishers, they are walking the gray line and in essence, are. If YOU pay, you are publishing your book at your own expense.

POD Publisher
Here, the author assumes the risk and expense of publishing the book, but can order smaller quantities of books – sometimes as little as a single book at a time.

E-book Publisher
These companies format and make a book available in an online digital format. Any publisher can provide this service for their contracted books.

House
A short term for Publishing House or Company.

Editor
A general term for someone who looks at manuscripts. The wide assortment of Editors includes: Acquisition Editors, Copy Editors, Managing Editors, and Senior Editors.
These individuals most generally work for publishers, managing the composition of the book alongside the author.

Pub Board or Committee
These are the committees within the publishing house who come together and decide what manuscripts will receive contracts. This is a compilation of acquisitions editors, marketing, sales, and finance groups.

Elevator Pitch
A short, 60-90 second speech. Think back to a book text. Generally this is what the reader will see that draws them in and makes them want to read your book.

Query Letter
Letter submitted with a book pitch. Editors will read these first to see if the manuscript fits into their genre, need, and criteria.

Cover Letter
Letter submitted along with a manuscript with a brief introduction of the author, a 25-50 word blurb about the manuscript, and contact information of the agent.

Proposal
Contains the 25, 50 and/or 100 word book blurb, marketing comparisons, synopsis, bio, one sheet, author’s intentions of marketing, and first fifty pages of the manuscript. A proposal is a look at the author and the manuscript as a package.

Author Bio/Writing History
The author’s credentials, credits, and photo.

Chapter Outline
Found in non-fiction proposals. This is a brief run-down of each chapter.

Synopsis
Found in both fiction and non-fiction (according to publisher request) but primarily for fiction manuscripts to show the editors and publishers the plot and characters of the story. A synopsis is the full novel narrowed into 1 1/2 pages. It has to be the complete novel summarized perfectly.

Marketing Plan
What the author can/will do to sell the book.

Comparable Works
Other works similar to the author’s that will help publishers see where the WIP will fit.

Target Audience
The group of readers the WIP will interest.

Endorsements
Short blurbs from reputable authors, readers, or industry players who have read the WIP and can state the WIP is well written and interesting.

Word Count
Number of words in the manuscript

Tagline or Hook
One sentence in fifteen words or less. This is not your synopsis. Your tag line or hook needs to be that one line that grabs the reader and makes them say, “Wow, I want to read that book.” A good tag line will draw the reader in quickly, make them curious, and get them to ask, “Why should I read this and more so, why should I care?”

Pitch
The 60-90 second statement that summarizes the WIP to publishers and agents.

Platform
The group of people the author reaches through speaking, previous writing, or through organizations.

Genre
The type of story.

Join us later for Part 4 – Appointment Etiquette with Agents/Editors.