Publishing Glossary

Publishing Glossary – Intrinsic Books

Intrinsic BooksIf you are a new author or a seasoned publishing professional, there are probably a few publishing terms you are unfamiliar with, so we have assembled a comprehensive glossary of publishing terms. This is a work in progress and will be updated and amended. If would you like to add or edit the glossary, please contact us.

AAR (The Association of Authors’ Representatives)

A not-for-profit professional organization for literary and dramatic agents.


The money that is paid out in advance of a book’s publication by the publisher to the author.for the right to publish their book, and is an advance against future royalties.

ARC (Advance Reading Copy)

A pre-publication, unfinalized book that are sent to reviewers and managers of bookstores before the book will be on the shelves.

BEA (BookExpo America)

The largest book trade fair held in the United States annually.


A one-paragraph summary and recommendation of a book.

Book Proposal

An author’s description of a proposed book that that is sent to a publisher.

Category Romance

A literary genre in which the primary focus is on romantic love relationships.

Commercial Fiction

Fiction written to appeal to a mass-market audience.


The amount a literary agent receives as a percentage of your earnings typically from book sales, magazine articles and films.

Copy Editing

Work done to improve the formatting, grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, style and accuracy of text. It does not involve changing the substance of the work, and is the last step before it is typeset.

Cover Copy

The wording on the back cover or inside flap of a book that describes the plot and characters.


Qualifications, achievements, education, certifications or job experience that shows you are knowledgeable in a specific area.


A blank sample made to the specifications and in the materials of what will be the finished product, showing the binding, covers and interior; the trim size and estimated weight of the final printed piece.


The person working for a publishing house that receives submissions, acquires projects, negotiates advances and coordinates
production, sales and marketing of the book.


Literature created from the imagination and research, and not presented as fact.


An book’s introduction that is written by a highly accreditted person other than the other author, giving the work credibility.


Depending on the publisher the definition varies, but, generally, galleys are page proofs, and like ARCs (Advance Reading Copies), are sent to reviewers and book store managers before the book will be offered for sale.


A genre is a category of literature, and is a way to organize and define various types of fiction and nonfiction.


A hook is an interesting word or phrase that makes your book unique and draws readers.


The entity within a publishing house used as a way to define and market a category of books.

Literary Agent

A literary agent represents an author in negotiations with publishers and promotes the author’s work.

Literary Fiction

Literary fiction tends to focus strongly on writing, atmosphere, and style and generally has more intellectual appeal, which distinguishes it from commercial fiction.

Mass Market Paperback

Mass market paperbacks are smaller sized books, generally four by seven inches in size, and are designed to be fit books racks in outlets other than traditional book stores, such as grocery stores.

MWA (Mystery Writers of America)

The premier national organization for mystery writers.

Narrative Nonfiction

Also called creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction is writing that is based on real events including history, memoir, biography and autobiography.

North America

Specific to publishing terminology, North America usually refers to the United States and Canada.


A book-length, fictional narrative in the form of a story.


Also called the right of first refusal, an option is a contractural provision that grants the publisher an exclusive right to consider an offer on the author’s next work.


Also called a proposal, a partial is what a literary agent will require before taking a book into consideration, and will contain a certain number of pages or chapters.


The pitch is a short verbal description of your book, and can be your book’s blurb.


Giving a book placement is when a book gets special treatment in a bookstore. In addition to the book being on shelves in the store, publishers will pay a fee to have the books presented on displays or tables


A extremely high royalty offer made by a publisher in order to take the book off the auction table.

Print on Demand (POD)

Current printing technology now allows printing copies of books to order, allowing books to printed when they are purchased, so no inventory is held.


Also know as page proofs, proofs are typeset pages used to in the final stage of editing to spot small errors.


A literary agent will ask for a proposal before taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal should include a cover letter, a synopsis and a few chapters from the book.
For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal should include the author’s bio, an overview, a table of contents, a few sample chapters and marketing information.


A fictitious name used by an author to hide their true identity.


Free promotion of of a writer’s work including magazine and newpaper articles, coverage in broadcast media, radio and television interviews and social media networking.


The percentage of the book-sale proceeds that an author receives.

RWA (Romance Writers of America)

A non-for-profit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional careers of romance writers.

Self Publishing

When an author publishes and distributes their own book.


The percentage of books sold out of the number of books shipped.

Serial Rights

Commercial rights to publish serializing versions of an author’s work.

SFWA (Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America)

A professional organization for authors of science fiction and fantasy.


Also called a slush pile, slush is any unsolicited material sent to publishers or literary agents by authors.

Subsidiary Rights

Also called sub rights, subsidiary rights pertain to the right to use content in other formats such as movie rights, audio rights, translation rights, etc.


A synopsis is a detailed summary of a book that describes the main characters, conflicts and plot.

Tab Line

A few words that describe your book in order to gain the reader’s attention, often used on the cover.


An abbreviation for table of contents.

Trade Book

A published paperback book intended for general readership and are any size that is not mass market.

Vanity Press

Also called a vanity publisher, a vanity press is a publishing house that publishes work only when the expenses are paid by the author.


The author’s unique writing style.

World Rights

When world rights are granted to a publisher, they can sell the foreign translation rights on the author’s behalf with the author receiving a percentage.