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Writing and publishing, like most industries, has developed its own set of terms or “writer’s lingo” to describe different facets of the trade. These involve the steps involved in creation, acquisition and distribution of books. For novice writers or entrepreneurs who may just be entering this industry, some of the words they encounter can be confusing or misleading. Midnight Publishing is passionate about putting writers at ease while advocating for their education of this field.

Below is a list of some of the most frequently used terms in publishing and what they mean. For specific questions or discussion on your book needs, Midnight Publishing offers various consultations on publishing, management, marketing and publicity that you can schedule today! 

Here are 17 terms from writer’s lingo for you to know

1. Traditional publishing: When a manuscript is sold by an author to a publisher that transfers the copyright/ownership of the manuscript for a sum that is contractually agreed on beforehand. 

2. Self-publishing: When an author releases a book through online or print channels themselves and keeps their copyright. 

3. Hybrid publishing: A combination of traditional and self-publishing methods. Typically an author works with a publisher/publishing house, but keeps the rights to the book and funds the publication themselves in some form. 

4. Agent: The individual who represents an author and their book(s) in the pursuit of a contract with traditional publishers. Usually receives 10 percent of author advance for securing a book deal, and oversees contractual elements between author and publisher. 

5. Acquisitions editor: An individual who works at a publishing house with the responsibility of reading through submitted manuscripts. They select those they believe have commercial value/align with the qualities their publisher is looking for in upcoming releases. They also act as a liaison between the publisher, agent, and author as the contract goes into effect and the book is prepared for release. 

6. “Slush pile”: The “pile” of submitted manuscripts from which an acquisitions editor and their assistants pull from when searching for possible future publications. 

7. Advance: The amount a publisher pays an author to purchase the rights to their book to move forward with publication. Typically an advance is split into several payments: half released upon signing of the initial contract/sale between author and publisher, and the rest released upon actual publication of the book (which could be several months or years in the future). 

8. Royalties: The profits made during the sale of a book. This is often the remainder left after the cost of production and sometimes other factors such as distribution and marketing. 

9. “To earn out an advance”: When enough books are sold that the traditional publisher earns the profit needed to cover the initial advance payment to the author. If and when this occurs, the author may receive additional payments in the form of royalties for books sold, depending on the initial contract agreement.

10. “Pantser”: An author who doesn’t outline before writing their first draft. 

11. “Plotter”: An author who completes some form of outline or planning before writing their first draft. 

12. WIP: An acronym for “work in progress,” which is a term for a manuscript an author is currently working on. 

13. Developmental edit: An in-depth analysis of a manuscript’s plot, characters, dialogue, descriptions/world building and other elements regarding the storyline as a whole. 

14. Style guide: A specific set of grammatical, punctuation and stylistic rules set in place by an industry, specific publishing house or individual to be followed during edits. The most common style guides used in publishing/content creation are the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style. 

15. Copyedit: An edit of a manuscript’s grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence flow to achieve clarity and refine the author’s intended meaning.  

15. Proofread: A final check of a copyedited manuscript for any additional typos, errors and/or disparities with the assigned style guide. 

16. POD: An acronym for “print on demand,” a type of production when a book is not printed, bound and/or shipped until it’s already been ordered. This is the most common type of print production for self-publishing.  

17. Querying: The act of an author sending out a submission of their manuscript to an agent and/or publisher in order to receive representation and/or secure a book contract. 

Midnight Publishing is an editing, ghostwriting and marketing company serving clients in Phoenix, Arizona and around the world to revise and perfect their books before publication or querying. Contact us today to receive a free sample edit and secure a spot on our schedule!