Glossary of Publishing Terms


Add-ons are features and services the author decides to include to enhance his book.
1. Traditional publishers will normally not entertain add-on requests.
2. Beware of predatory self-publishing companies. Their websites are deliberately confusing. They will try to inflate costs by recommending add-ons that are not clearly explained or necessary.
3. DIYers can add anything they want, or not.

These are 'free' copies the publisher sends the author after completion.
1. Traditional publishers will provide a few (single digit) copies for free, but can buy more at a preset author discount price. (Normally between 35% to 50%)
2. Self-publishing companies normally give authors 5 free copies and a discount between 30% to 60% to buy more, the upper limit applying to purchases of more than 1000 copies.
3. DIYers can keep as many as they want.

Cataloging in-Publication (CIP) will give you a Library of Congress catalogue number, which will be useful for library sales. It is also an assertion of one's copyright.
1. In traditional publishing, authors don’t have to worry about this, the publisher will handle it.
2. Many self-publishing companies appear to ignore this entirely (as though the books they publish are not worthy), but this is important to authors who wants to sell to libraries (an important market).
3. DIY publishers will have to ... well ... d-i-y. (But don’t worry, it’s not that difficult.)

The content editor looks at the “big picture” of the manuscript and may recommend the content be moved around for a better storytelling, plot development, and organisation, including authenticity of dialogue, story pacing and character development. Is the story believable? How are the sub-plots integrated? Are there any contradictions, inconsistencies, factual errors or discrepancies?

Copy-editing is to ensure that the ‘copy’ (or manuscript) is accurate, easy to follow, and free of errors, omissions, inconsistencies and repetition. This purpose is meant to pick up embarrassing mistakes in grammar and spelling, ambiguities and anomalies, and alert the client to possible legal problems.

Copyright is the legal right created by the law that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution for a limited time (the author's lifetime plus 70 years in many countries. 
1. In the agreement with a traditional publisher, the author surrenders exclusive publishing rights to exploit the works in many forms of expression.
2. The above should not apply to self-publishing contracts, since the author pays for everything. But, do check fine print.
3. Copyright need not be registered. Some online companies offer copyright registration for a fee, and many authors are lulled by this, but if any part of the author's work (except for fair comment, and there is no clear definition of this) has been lifted off someone else's work, this is no protection at all. So, keep your work original.

This is the control over the content (language, storytelling, etc), and the look and feel the author dreams of.
1. There may be  a major loss of creative control with a traditional publisher, as the house would want to maximise its return on investment. The book would comply with house standards.
2. With self-publishing companies, the content will be safe, (they probably won't even add a comma without being paid), but quality is something else. Some of what we have seen is awful, but others have been impressive.
3. DIYers have total control over their product.

Distribution is the process of placing books in shops for retail, and is the most expensive part of book selling.
1. Traditional publishers (all over the world) outsource book distribution to companies and wholesalers for which they may pay 60%, or more, of the RRP. Distribution is easier for them due to being an established brand, and their many years of goodwill.
2. Self-publishing companies do not hold stock, but use POD organisations like Lightning Resources as printers and like Ingrams as distributors, and charge every cost to the author.
3. DIY publishers may employ local distributors to place books in shops, but that would mean they’d earn 60% less on every book sold. (Setting the right RRP is very important.)

E-books are meant for reading on computers and other electronic devices. They come in many formats: PDF, epub, mobi and others.
1.Traditional publishers acquire e-book rights with other subsidiary rights when the agreement is signed, but authors will be paid a predetermined percentage as royalty. E-book sales for them would be good since they would represent many brand-name authors.
2. Self-publishing companies also produce the e-books and pay out royalties, but don't expect huge sales figures ( which they will promise) as none of their clients would be big brand-name authors.
3. DIY-publishers have to use third-party contractors to produce e-books (unless they can do it themselves.).

This refers to opportunities for one-on-one discussions with publishing professionals.
1. With traditional publishers, authors in most cases, will have some contact (face-to-face or otherwise) with someone from the company.
2. With many self-publishing companies, authors may never contact with anyone other than the sales rep.
3. DIY publishers may have friends with know-how (but beware of the blind, misleading the blind).

Galleys (or galley proofs) are the preliminary versions of publications (often with extra-wide margins for corrections). Galleys may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronically published. They are created for proofreading and copy-editing, but may be used for promotional and review purposes as well.

A ghostwriter is someone hired to write a book (or other text) that is credited to another person (the 'author'). Usually, the ghostwriter remains anonymous and there is a confidentiality clause in the contract between the parties, but sometimes he or she is acknowledged by the author and/or publisher for writing services, although it is diplomatically often called something else, like researcher.

Some predatory self-publishing companies are notorious for the hard sell. Once they get your contact, expect relentless harassment by telephone or email until you sign a contract.

The International Standard Book Number is a 13 digit number that identifies every book in the world. This is essential for all books that are sold in shops.
1. In traditional and self-publishing companies, this will be taken care of.
2. DIY publishers will have to ... well ... diy.

A line editor looks at the creative content, writing style, and language. She focuses on the way language is used to communicate with the reader. Is it clear, fluid, and pleasant to read? Does it convey atmosphere, emotion, and tone? Are the words precise. She also hunts down generalizations, overuse of certain words, and clichés. Line editing is all about enhancing style.

This refers to the listing of the author’s book on prominent e-commerce sites like, Apple’s iBook store, etc.
1. Large traditional publishers will do it as a matter of course, because they are important retail outlets. They get traction due to their big-name authors.
2. Online self-publishers primarily use this feature to flatter the author into dreaming of world fame, huge sales and outrageous fortune. In reality, it’s merely a bait. Sales from these channels are minimal because a new author is an unknown. Royalties from a sale (if any) will be around 10%. 
3. DIYers are advised not to waste their time with Amazon and the like.Good for vanity, not the wallet.

Traditional publishers may nominate stand-out works they have produced for literary prizes, and these are more easily accepted because their books are perceived as having gone through a 'pre-selection' process. Critical acclaim and sales of translation rights, too, are more likely

This includes all methods of promoting your book.
1. Large traditional publishers absorb marketing costs for books by their big name authors. Lesser authors are expected to sell with the prestige of the house brand. So, lesser authors must promote their own books.
2. Self-publishing companies do no marketing at all, except their own services, besides listing the author’s book on Amazon and the like (see under 'listing' above).
3. DIY-publishers understand clearly that they have to sell their own books.

This is the widespread respect and admiration perceived by authors as a result of acceptance by a major publishing house.

This is often called POD, a system which allows publishers to not keep stock of books, but depend on a POD printer (like Lightning Resources) to produce the book only when there’s a sale.
1. Traditional publishers normally offer this service for books that have gone out of print, which they have preserved in digital form. Espresso Book Machines use this technology.
2. POD is the preferred method of distribution for many self-publishing companies. This is good for them since they only need to store digital copies, but not for authors because the retail price becomes very high, and bookshops are normally reluctant to stock the books at that price.

A publisher's professional team will include editors, proof readers, and designers. Many self-publishers, though, lack professional teams. Authors need to research before signing on. Google reviews.

After copy editing, the manuscript is sent to a designer for typesetting. The work is printed (or displayed on the screen) and is ready for publication after proof reading, which is the final quality check and tidy-up. A proofreader looks for consistency in language usage and presentation, typos, accuracy in text, images, layout error, but is not responsible for editing the author's work.

This is the process of using computers and software in book production.
1. In traditional and self-publishing companies, authors don’t have to worry about this at all. It will be taken care of.
2. DIY publishers will have to ... well ... diy. (Some learning and investment will be involved, or else this work could be outsourced.)

Quality is what most authors pay for, but don't always get.
1. With a traditional publisher the quality of the product is apparent. It's their house style. (It is normally good, but not great.)
2.With with online self-publishing companies, the final product quality is often quite poor despite the high cost. (Again, read Google reviews).
3. With DIY publishing the author is in full control, and quality is dependent only on him/her.

Traditional publishers may or may not accept your manuscript for many reasons – the book might not fit the publisher's niche, or your book is too narrowly targeted, or it is on a topic that does not sell too much for this publisher, etc. The author, the book, and the publisher must match. With self-publishing companies, there is little chance of rejection (except for objectionable content).

These are monies paid by publishers to authors from the sale of their books.
1. For traditional publishers, this will normally be around 8% to 12% of the RRP, since they absorb all the upfront and marketing costs.
2. For self-publishing companies, this can be as low as 10% (if sold on Amazon) and 25% if sold on their own site. (This, after the author has paid a ton of money for everything). 
3. For DIY authors, royalty does not arise. 

RRP is the Recommended Retail Price
1. For traditional publishing, the selling price is determined by the publisher, based on market forces.
2. Self-publishing companies also set their own prices, but these can end up being too high for the local market.
3. DIYers set their own prices.

These are rights that can be sold on to third parties, like for movies, television, radio, translations, e-books, adaptations, and so on. 
1. Traditional publishers would acquire these rights from authors when they take on the job. But authors will share proceeds from any sell-on. This is fair because the publishers would assume all publishing costs, and they have all the contacts anyway.
2. Self publishers do not acquire subsidiary rights.
3. Few DIYers would know how to exploit subsidiary rights.

These are costs incurred for publication.
1. In traditional houses, the publisher assumes all costs for this.
2. With self-publishing companies this cost is entirely born by the author.
3. DIYers are under no illusions about who is paying for everything.

The perceived feeling of recognition and affirmation by authors as a result of their work being accepted by a 'big house".

Photo: Timber infested with woodworms; not ancient writing! (Image from Pixabay.)