Publishing 101: Understanding the Lingo

Every Industry Has Its Own Lingo 


Publishing, like any industry, has a whole host of words that will be unfamiliar to anyone who has not worked in it. I’m going to give you some of the most common words so that you can begin talking like the industry insider that you want to become.

Agent: Usually refers to a literary agent. Someone who acts on the author’s behalf to negotiate sales deals and contracts with traditional publishers in exchange for a portion of the author’s royalties.

Back Matter: The material that comes after the main content in the book such as the appendix, index, review requests, and author biography.

Beta Reader: A person who reads the book prior to publication in order to test its readability.

CMYK: Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. The 4 colors used in the 4-color printing process. This is the process used in most printed books.

Copyright: The right a person holds to the copy contained in a book. This is typically assigned to the first person writing the text, but can be signed over to another person if the two parties are in agreement.

Cover: The book’s exterior

Cover Designer: The person in charge of creating the graphics and layout for the cover.

Distributor: A company that is charged with the distribution of a book or product created by the author

DPI: Dots per inch. A reference to how many dots would be printed per inch of a piece of artwork. Printed material needs to be at least 300 DPI or it will appear grainy and pixelated. Material designed for the internet should be 72 dpi or a maximum of 150 dpi in order to conserve memory and reduce the time it takes to load.

Endorsement: A brief recommendation given by a prominent author of another author’s book

Font: A particular size, weight, and style of a typeface

Foreword: A 2-10 page extended endorsement of a work by a prominent author in which the recommending author explains in more depth the merits of the book they are endorsing and their reasons for doing so

Front Matter: All the material that comes before the first chapter. This includes the title page, copyright page, other books by this author page, foreword, acknowledgment, dedication, table of contents, and introduction.

Interior Design: The design applied to the layout of the book. This impacts how readable the book will be.

Interior Designer: The person in charge of designing the layout of the book.

Kerning: The space between individual letters in a font.

Margins: The distance between the end of the print and the end of the page

Point: 1/12th of a Typographer’s Pica

Pica (Typography): 1/6 of an inch

Pica Font (Typewriters): 10 typed characters is one inch in length

Print-On-Demand: The practice of printing books, fabrics, or games only when ordered and in the quantity ordered

Print-On-Demand Publisher: A publisher who prints books, fabrics, or games when ordered and in the quantity ordered

Proof Copy: A copy of the book ordered prior to finalization of the manuscript in order to review the look and feel of the published book.

Proof Reader: Someone who reads the proof copy to ensure that it is as error-free as humanly possible especially with regard to grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.

RGB: Red-Green-Blue, a reference to the color mixing process used in creating color for monitors and screens.

Royalty: The percentage of a book’s sale price that is paid directly to the author after the expenses are subtracted

Spine: The thinnest portion of the book’s exterior, and the portion most likely to be visible to the reader who is browsing a crowded shelf.

Spine Width: Determined by the number of pages in the book, the spine width also determines how much room there is for printing on this space

Trademark: Literally a mark or a word in a particular style and presentation that differentiates one person’s work from another. Some of the earliest trademarks were used by blacksmiths and other tradesmen, hence the word “trademark”.

Type: The print on the page

Typeface: A group of fonts with similar styles

Typography: The style and appearance of the print on the page