Book Publishing Terms

Book Publishing Terms

Whether you’re new to the book publishing industry or you’ve been around for years, there’s probably at least a few publishing terms you’re not completely familiar with. We’ve assembled an extensive book publishing glossary to help you navigate your way through this complex industry.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W



1) Recognition or honour given to people who have influenced the book being published or who have made a difference in the life of the author. 2) Section of a book containing such recognition.

Acquisitions Board

Group of people who work for a publisher, who make decisions about what books to accept for publication

Advance Print Run

Printing of a book completed before the book's official release date.


Part of book that follows a chapter (end-of-chapter appendix) or, more commonly, that comes after all the chapters (end-of-book appendix). An appendix contains supplemental material, such as tables or source material, which does not conveniently fit into a chapter.


Computer file that travels with an e-mail message.

Back to Top


Back Matter (End Matter (EM, em))

Counterpart of front matter. Any material, such as appendices, notes, references, glossary or index, coming after the chapters of a book.

Back-of-the-Room Sales

Sales made at a book table or booth that is set up at an event. Often when an author is speaking or participating in a conference or panel discussion, that author's books are on sale, usually at a table at the back of the auditorium or in the hallway.


To bleed means to extend outside the normal trim area of a book's page. A bleed is a bar, illustration, rule or other element that extends outside the trim area. Such elements have ink that is visible on the edge of the page in the bound book.


A blog is an online journal (a shortened form of Web log). Blogging is writing in one's blog.

Book Block

PDF files that comprise all book content except the cover.

Book Club

Commercial enterprise that offers periodical (often monthly) selections of books to its paid membership. Special book club editions of books may have a different binding or size from standard issue books from the same publisher.

Brick-and-Mortar Retailer

Retailer who sells products in a store. The term is often used to show the contrast between e-tailers (online sellers) and those who sell their products at a walk-in location.

Back to Top



Initialism that refers to a system of colour specification that uses four basic colours: cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K) as subtractive (rather than additive) elements. RGB colours do not conform to CMYK specifications.

Co-op Advertising

Advertising whose cost is shared between or among different companies. Such advertising is especially advantageous to smaller companies with limited budgets. Such ads are also called cooperative advertising. In some co-op advertising, a publisher or manufacturer offers incentives or discounts to retailers who promote particular books or products.

Content Editor

Person who edits the content (subject matter) of a book in addition to its form (sentence structure). A content editor often recommends substantive corrections to a manuscript, such as those affecting presentation, veracity, relevance, and so forth.

Copyeditor (CE, Copy Editor)

Person who edits or redacts copy (manuscript material) submitted by an author. Such editing has the goal of correcting grammar irregularities and inconsistencies and of correcting punctuation, spelling, usage and style.

Copyright (Copyright Page, Copyright Notice)

Ownership of intellectual property such as printed matter, protected by law. The right to copy, repurpose, or publish content of the copyrighted medium.


Undertaking whose costs and responsibilities are shared by more than one company or publisher.

Cover Design

Aesthetic layout on the covers of a book, usually intended to be attractive or alluring to the eye.

Credit Line

Line of text that assigns credit to the owner of the copyright of the material it refers to.

Back to Top


Design (Book and Cover)

Layout, selection of font and font size and typesetting of a book. See Cover Design.

Developmental Editor

Person who deals with the overall organisation of a book's manuscript rather than with changes such as wording of sentences within paragraphs. A developmental editor also addresses reordering entire blocks of text and such an edit may extend to reordering entire chapters. The edit may also address tone, voice, addition or deletion of material, complexity of material and transitions among paragraphs and sections of the book. Compare to Book Doctor.


Business arrangement in which there is no middleman in a transaction.

Discount (short discount, deep discount, industry-standard discount)

Reduced book price offered by self-publishers to authors who prepay for copies in bulk.


Company, group or individual who sells products or services to retailers instead of to consumers.

Domain Name

Registered Web address or URL of a particular party. Registration often requires a small fee that prevents other parties from registering the same domain.


Move file(s) from a server, from a network or from the Internet to a computer. Move file(s) from a computer to a CD or memory stick (USB). “Down” implies moving to a smaller device. Compare Upload.

DPI (Dots per Inch)

Convention expressing graphic resolution of a graphic file, resolution of a computer monitor or potential printing density of a computer printer.

Back to Top



Electronic file format to which books may be published. Although dedicated devices may be used to read e-books, they may be read on other platforms such as PDAs and personal computers as well.

Economy of Scale

Principle that production of larger volumes of something tends to reduce unit cost because fixed costs are distributed across a greater quantity of product. Savings in per-unit cost achieved by mass production.

Endorsement (Blurb)

Promotional statement by someone recommending a book, often found on the dust cover or near the front of the book.

Back to Top


Footnote (FN, Endnote)

A footnote is a reference citations and supplementary information that appears at the bottom of a book page. A reader's attention is usually directed to a footnote through the use of a superscript character. An endnote takes the same form as a footnote but appears at the end of the chapter or book.


1) Process by which a design team lays out a manuscript to create book pages. 2) Text effect applied to characters to make them appear bold, italic, sheared or otherwise.

Back to Top



Broad category or kind of book, generally denoted by the book's subject matter. Some examples of book genres include romance, sci-fi, self-help and true crime.


Person contracted by an author or publisher to write or co-write a book. A ghost-writer's work often goes uncredited upon publication.


Refers to images (which may originally have been represented in color) that are composed only of black and white and the gray shades in-between.

Back to Top



Refers to a method of representing the colours of an image with dots of varying sizes. If the dots are small enough, the colours of the image appear continuous. Halftones are created to prepare photographic images for reproduction across various print media.

Hardcover Book

Book that has cloth material glued to a type of pasteboard material, forming a durable cover and spine. Reference books and lending library books are often bound in this way.

Back to Top



List of words at the end of a book that guides a reader to the specific pages on which subjects appear in the main body of the text.

Interior graphics

Pictures, diagrams, figures and other graphical items that appear within the contents of a book.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

Unique 13-digit number (10 or 13 digits prior to 2007) that identifies a version of a book.

Back to Top



Important word or phrase that is input to conduct searches on online search engines and databases to find all related results.

Back to Top


Line Editor

Person who performs an edit that is heavier than a typical copy-edit and who considers a book's voice, tone, and phrasing. Fiction line editing considers the story's pacing, character development, handling of details and vocabulary of the period and place where the novel is set and the naturalness and effectiveness of dialogue. A line editor also focuses on correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, and writing style.

Literary Agent

Person who functions as intermediary for an author in transactions with the publisher.

Back to Top


Makeready Stage

Point in the printing process when a publication is ready to be printed.


Complete version of a book (often as an electronic text file) as prepared by the author. The term manuscript refers to both textual and graphic elements of the book. Editors and authors make pre-production book alterations to the manuscript. The finalised manuscript is used to produce a set of book pages.


Promotional and advertising efforts to sell books.

Mass-Market Paperback

Smaller, less expensive version of a book that is usually printed well after the hardcover and trade paperback versions have been made available. Mass-market paperbacks are often sold in grocery stores and airports. Compare Trade Paperback.

Back to Top



Expanding one's social network or sphere of influence by initiating mutually advantageous new relationships with people.

News Wire Distribution

Circulation of a service that an organisation of journalists provides for the sharing of news reports among different media outlets.


Term referring to a specialized target market characterised by a particular interest, topic or subject. Niches are usually potentially profitable, but depend an inordinate amount on the loyalty of the audience to whom it is catering.

Nonexclusive Contract

Legal agreement in which the publisher does not exercise exclusive rights over the materials published in the author's book.

Back to Top


OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Scanning

Computer software that replicates textual scanned material by storing it in a text file.

Offset Printing

Common printing technology that applies layers one at a time. A reverse image of each colour interfaces with the page via a roller. The roller presses against the paper applying the proper colour of ink.

Off-the-Book-Page Attention

Mention made of a book in the media outside the context of a book review, for instance, a celebrity plugging a book on a talk show.

Online Bookseller (Online Retailer)

Bookstore on the Web that sells books and other publications to the customer at retail or discounted prices.

Online Marketing

Advertising, selling, or dispensing products through the Internet.

Out of Print (OOP)

Book no longer in a publisher's book inventory (and for which there are no republication plans). An online book search may turn up an available copy.

Back to Top


Page Proofs

Printed out typeset material that looks just like the final book pages. In page proofs, figures and other displays are where they will appear in the final book. Page proofs contain running heads and page numbers, and can be used for indexing.

Pay-per-Click Advertising

Arrangement between a website host and an advertiser in which the advertiser pays the host a set amount per click on that ad.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

Adobe Systems file format that can be precisely reproduced on different systems. PDF files are often sent to a printer.


1) Agreement from a copyright holder that permits the reproduction or publication of copyrighted material. 2) Process of securing agreements from copyright holder.

Plant Costs

Initial costs incurred by a traditional printer in preparation for the first printing run of a given title. Total cost may include preparation of negatives and plates and press preparation. Plant costs are fixed, but they are proportionately and increasingly offset as the number of copies printed increases.


Flow or succession of actions in a story.


Audio broadcast available on the Web to the public for free downloading to a personal computer or a digital audio-player. Despite its name, a podcast may be played through a variety of digital audio software and hardware. Use is not limited to the iPod brand products developed by Apple.

Point of View

Story's narrative style. A style in which the author is first-person (tells the story as a character using "I"), third-person (portrays the feelings, thoughts, and ideas of one character, but is not actually involved in the story) or omniscient (an uninvolved third-person perspective that knows everything about the characters involved and can share all things with the reader).

Print-on-Demand (POD)

Publishing arrangement in which books are printed only as orders are placed.


Final PDF files of a book that have been given the final check and are ready to go to the printer. See also PDF (Portable Document File).


A perusal of typeset material to ensure that content matches the book's manuscript. Incorrect grammar, punctuation, spelling or usage, is queried to the editor.

Publication Date

Official date when a book is to be released to the public.


Professional who promotes a book, often by generating free advertising. A press agent.

Publicity Tour

Public circuit an author makes to publicise a book, either prior to or soon after the publication date. Typical places and appearances include book signings at bookstores or book shows and talk show appearances.

Back to Top



Books that are returned to the publisher after not having sold, often offered for later sale at a discounted price.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Amount of profit made after investment costs and other costs have been recouped.


Book returned to and refunded by the publisher after failing to sell on the bookstore shelf. Only the front covers of mass-market paperbacks need be returned to qualify for the refund.


Professional book reviewer's published opinion of a particular book in a periodical or online.


Payment to a book's author that is usually a percentage of sales revenue.

Running Head

Text at the top of a standard book page that usually contains book, chapter or section title information. A recto (right-hand page) running head usually differs in content from that of the verso (left-hand page).

Back to Top



System of book production in which the author pays for the manuscript to be published. The self-publishing model circumvents the need for an author to contract with a publishing house to ensure publication of the book. A self-published book is also usually marketed by its author. See also Subsidy Publishing; Supported Self-Publishing.

Sell Sheet

Concise, one-page document (resembling a flyer or brochure more than a press release) that provides details about a book.

Shelf Life

Time an unsold book remains on the shelf of a retail store before being replaced by fresh or better-selling stock.

Short Discount

Smaller-than-typical discount on books purchased by retailers and wholesalers. Print-on-demand titles are often sold at short discount: about 25 percent to retailers and about 36 percent to wholesalers. Such a short discount can be as small as 20 percent.

Slush Pile

Unsolicited manuscripts a publishing house receives.

Small Press

Smaller publishing house that releases books often intended for specialised audiences.


Acronym that may be used as a mnemonic device to memorise the steps of effective goal management. SMART reminds goal-setters (particularly authors) to set priorities that are specific, manageable, attainable, realistic and time-focused.

Spine Width

Width of part of the book that is visible on a bookshelf. The spine connects the front and back covers.

Style Sheet

Document prepared during a copyedit, which enforces the standards and consistency of how numbers, abbreviations, word usage, and punctuation are to be handled.

Subsidiary Rights

Rights acquired by a publisher for resale, translation into foreign languages and other reuse of a book's content.

Subsidy Publishing

A subsidy publisher shares publishing costs with the author. The publisher typically markets the book through retailers. An author must bear at least some of the cost of copyediting, typesetting, proofreading, indexing, and printing the book. Some subsidy publishers require an author to purchase a large number of copies of the book to cover the costs of its initial publication. Compare Self-Publishing; Supported Self-Publishing.

Supported Self-Publishing

Method of self-publishing espoused by Partridge, through which an author has access to many of the services found in a traditional publishing house (e.g., editorial services, marketing copywriters, online purchasing ) provided through an upfront cost or available à la carte. Compare Self-Publishing; Subsidy Publishing.

Back to Top


Table of Contents

This section, always called "Contents", appears in the book's front matter. It lists the book's chapters and their opening page numbers.

Target Audience

Specific group of people whom a book, series, or genre targets. Book marketing tends to be concentrated on the target audience.


Seminar, lecture, or speech broadcast on television and sometimes on the Internet.

Termination Clause

Section in a contractual agreement that specifies particular behaviour, actions, or events that would result in nullification of the contract.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

Compressed-file format for graphic images. The filename extension is .tif.

Trade Paperback

A trade paperback is bound with a paper or heavy stock cover, usually with a larger trim size than that of a mass-market paperback. Compare Mass-Market Paperback.

Trade (Mainstream, Traditional Publishing)

Traditional way of publishing a book in which an author must find a literary agent or a publisher willing to review the manuscript.

Trim Size

Final physical dimensions of a book page after the book is bound and trimmed.


Formatting a book on a computer so as to result in the desired layout, font, and appearance on a printed page.

Back to Top


University Press

Publishing house owned and operated by a university. Such presses typically issue academic material, often including the works of professors at the institution.

Unsolicited Manuscript

Manuscript sent to a publisher who did not request it.


Move file(s) from a computer to a server, network or the Internet. Move file(s) from a diskette, CD or memory stick to a computer. Up implies moving to a larger device. Compare Download.

Back to Top


Vanity Press (Vanity Publisher)

Publisher who publishes books financed solely by their authors. The author sometimes retains the copyright.

Virtual Book Tour (VBT)

Advertisement strategy centred on publicising a book on the Internet, including ads on websites frequented by the target audience and book give-aways.

Back to Top



Collection of associated websites with similar themes, which may be accessed through hypertext links, from one site to the next.


Seminar broadcast on the Web. Like normal seminars, webinars are interactive.


Company, group, or individual who purchases high volumes of books from a publisher at deep discounts and sells them to retailers at midlevel discount.

Word of Mouth

Free marketing for a book after its release through satisfied readers who recommend the book to others. The verbal sharing by the consumer base creates momentum that in turn creates publicity.

Back to Top

Contact us today if you’d like further explanation of any of these publishing terms or if you want help publishing your own book.

Back to FAQ directory

Go Back