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Book Publishing Vocabulary (Do You Know All Of These?)

Once upon a time, I sent out a half-baked Nanowrimo to a publisher (or twenty) at sixteen years old. I had no idea what ABA meant or what a proposal was.

Before querying, here are some vocab words you'll need to know. This list isn't comprehensive, but it'll give you a good start.

ABA: The general market publishers. Basically, any publishing company that isn't taking on religious titles (CBA is the Christian version of this).

Advance: Some houses, typically larger ones, will pay an author an advance (anywhere between $100-$100K, or more) on a book. An author has to earn the advance back in sales before the publisher will pay them in royalties. Royalties are a percentage the publisher will pay the author based on book sales. These can fluctuate from 10-60%, depending on the house.

Agent: (Not a publisher) A representative who can introduce your book project

to harder-to-reach companies, such as the Big Five. They usually charge 15% commission. If agents are charging upfront fees (including fees to read your submission), they are not reputable.

Acquisitions Editor: This is typically the editor who decides which projects are a good fit for the company (often with the go-ahead from the Editorial board: a group of people who determine, as a whole, if the book is a good fit for the company). Other types of editors who edit the book after it's contracted are Developmental Editors (big picture edits), Copy Editor (line by line edits), and Proofreaders (punctuation and other minor edits).

Big Five: The most illustrious publishing companies: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster

Comparables/Comparatives: Books that your book is similar to. Usually publishers want your 3-5 comparatives to be published within the last 10 years and have decent sales. However, don't put every bestselling book in your comparatives section. Consider putting some B-list and C-list ones in there to appear more realistic.

Full manuscript: Some publishers will request a full manuscript, meaning they want to read the whole thing. Some often will read the query, proposal, or three chapters prior to requesting this.

Genre/Sub-genre: Which major and minor category your book fits into. For instance, I like to write a lot of Young Adult (major category) Speculative (minor category).

P&L: Profit and Loss. Publishers determine before taking on a book if they can

make a profit on it, and how much they will lose money in the production/marketing of the book.

Platform How discoverable you are/how many people you're connected to who you know will purchase your book. This can include (but is not limited to) email lists, social media numbers, speaking engagements, among others.

Proposal: Although this differs in fiction and nonfiction, this typically includes three chapters, a synopsis or outline, platform information, comparatives, and any marketing plan/endorsement that author has available for his or her book.

Query: Less-than-one-page overview of an author's book, bio, and why they fit with the particular company they sent their manuscript.

Simultaneous Submission: When an author submits his or her manuscript to more than one Agency or Publication at one time. Some agencies and publishing houses do not accept these, so plan accordingly.

Some other sites that include more industry vocabulary, include:


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