Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Devil's Dictionary: A Glossary of Publishing Terms

In an interview, it's good if you can throw in a bit of insider's lingo. It shows you've been doing your research and are informed about the industry. At the very least, it's good if you can understand what your interviewer is saying to you! Like all industries, publishing has a lot of its own language and abbreviations. This is just a cursory list of some really basic terms that you might not know.

Advance Reader’s Copy – also ARC, or Advanced Reader’s Edition or ARE. A pre-publication printing of a book made from the second pass pages (so it will be riddled with typos as it hasn’t had a final proofread), created for reviewers and other promotions to feed interest upon publication. The front will usually have what looks like a cover, but the spine will be plain, and the back cover is a reproduction of the catalog page.

Back copy – any copy that appears on the back of a book. On the hardcover it could be blurbs, quotes, or an excerpt. On the paperback, it’s the description, author biography, and quotes.

Backlist – older books, from 3-6 months old until they go out of print. Backlist is often the bread-and-butter than pays the bills at a publishing house. The books have long since earned out their advances, and have proven themselves consistent sellers without any marketing or advertising dollars spent on them.

Blurb – a quote solicited from a published author or another name person in the industry or media pre-publication to be printed on the book as a recommendation.

Children’s/Adult – notice that children’s is plural and possessive while adult is singular. Yes, this is completely inconsistent and yet it’s the convention how each of the segments of publishing is referred to.

Face out/Spine out –how books are shelved at a bookstore. Face out is showing the cover, spine out only shows the end with the title. Face out books sell better, but you can fit a lot more books spine out.

Flap copy – the description, author biography, and quotes that appear on the inside flaps of a hardcover book.

Frontlist – the brand-new books, published within the last 3-6 months.

Format – the binding of a book. The most common formats are: Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, audio, board book, ebook, or reinforced binding (for libraries)

Galley – a pre-publication printing of a book made from the first pass pages (so it will be riddled with typos as it hasn’t had any proofread). Sometimes this has a paper or otherwise plain cover. Like an ARC, this is created for pre-publication publicity opportunities such as blurbs, and long-lead reviews.
Genre - the subject or category the book belongs in such as literary fiction, memoir, history, or young adult. More specifically when people talk about "genre books" they are talking about adult fiction books that fall into one of these categories: mystery, thriller, romance, western, science fiction, fantasy.

Imprint – a smaller division of a publishing house. Often these are a way to group books according to category or series, such as For Dummies, Mysterious Press, and Red Dress Ink. Other times they’ve been ways to reward editors who’ve done well at a house, and these divisions while without specific genre affiliations will usually reflect the personality and interests of the helmers, such as Spiegel & Grau, Reagan Arthur Books, and Amy Einhorn Books. There can be dozens upon dozens of imprints at a single publishing house.

ISBN – International Standard Book Number. Don’t say “ISBN Number” as that’s repetitive. They are now 13 digits, with the first 3 being 978- or 979-. The next digit is a 0 or 1 as it indicates the language (English). The next 2-4 digits are specific to the publisher. The last digit is a check digit which is calculated based on an algorithm of the previous 12 numbers. Supposedly they are all unique, and each format/edition gets a new ISBN, but occasionally there has been a mistake and there is a duplication. They are created by Bowker, and publishers have to purchase ISBNs.

Mass Market – the smallest size paperback book, also sometimes called “rack size” but that’s pretty rare these days. It’s usually 7”x 4.25”

Out of Print – also called OP. This status code indicates that a publisher has run out of stock and does not intend to reprint. Technically this indicates a book’s rights have been (or are able to be) reverted back to the author or original publisher. However, it is often also used when rights are retained. As far as the bookselling/buying public is concerned there is no real difference between OP and OSI.

Out of Stock Indefinitely – also called OSI or Permanently Out of Stock. A publisher uses this status code when they have run out of stock, do not intend to print more, but do not want to revert the rights back to the author.

Premium Paperback – this format is a recent development, it’s basically a slightly taller mass market. It’s 7.5” x 4.25”, and is priced at $9.99 (most mass markets are $2-$4 less).

Print on Demand – also called POD for short, this is where a publisher has created an electronic file of a book, which can be printed singly for individuals, instead of stocking large quantities of a title in a warehouse. Some bookstores have machines such as Espresso in their stores and can print POD books right there, whereas others much be ordered through Ingram’s Lightning Source or other sources. They often cost a few dollars more than standard printing, but when demand has dropped off significantly the alternative for most publishers would be to make a book OP.

Shelftalker – usually a piece of cardstock that is creased in the middle, so half of it can sit on a shelf under books (to hold it in place) while the remainder hangs down over the edge of the shelf. It can either have publisher-produced copy on it, or bookstores can create their own content, such as for Staff Recommends.

Slush – unsolicited manuscripts sent by hopeful writers to editors and agents.

Strippable – most mass market and premium mass market books, along with select trade paperback books are strippable. This is indicated by a triangle with an S in it on the inside front cover, which should also have a barcode next to it. When this book has run its course in a bookstore and needs to be removed to make room for new books, instead of shipping it back to the publisher for resale (which gets cost prohibitive on such low priced books), instead the front cover is ripped off and only those are returned to the publisher for credit. The rest of the book is trashed or recycled. If you see books for sale without their front cover, those are stolen goods.

Sub-Rights – rights in addition to initial publication that are sold off to other companies such as serial rights for magazines and newspapers, audiobook licensing, British and translation rights, dramatic rights, and large-print book rights. Please see my post here about working in Sub-rights for a fuller explanation.

Trade Paperback – the largest size paperback. This encompasses all paperback books that aren’t mass markets, but normally the books are either 5x7 or 6x9. Sometimes called “quality paperback” but that’s fallen out of fashion.

Trade Publishing – publishing that is focused on regular readers at standard bookstores, as opposite to specific publishing such as Professional, Technical and Reference (PTR), Academic, Textbooks, and Christian publishing. Some University Press books are for a trade audience, some are only for an academic audience.

Young Adult – also known as YA, these are books for teenagers. While there is usually some significant overlap with Middle Reader books, what usually makes a book “young adult” is some kind of risky or controversial content: sex, drugs, alcohol, death, illness (mental or physical), divorce, and so on.


Kate said...

Nice! Interesting - it's nice to know the lingo!

I linked this over at Kate's Library as part of my Friday Five.

Have a great weekend!

kate wiseman said...

This is really helpful... thanks!!