A. Benedetti

The Business of Writing – Definitions

Today, I wanted to review common definitions. When I talk to my boyfriend about agents, editors or publishers, he looks at me like I’m speaking Greek. Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s not much of a book person. I guess that’s not entirely true. He can read an operator’s manual like no one’s business. Yawn. Anything else, he avoids. Still, he wants to be supportive. I know he really tries to understand as I talk about querying and pitching to agents and editors. But, the look he gives me is the same one I give him when he tries to tell me what’s wrong with my car.

After chatting with other writers at a conference a few weeks ago, it became clear to me that we are all trying to understand the business of publishing. To make things easier, I decided to share what I learn as I trudge through the trenches of the publishing world.

My hope is to create a resource for everyone who wants to understand the long journey of becoming a published writer. Other writers and industry professionals, please feel free to comment and add any glimmers of wisdom.

Basic definitions:

AAR:  Association of Authors’ Representatives. A professional organization of agents who work with both authors and playwrights. Their Canon of Ethics is the standard your agent should be adhering to even if they are not an active member.

Acquisitions Editor:  The person responsible for accepting, rejecting and finding manuscripts to publish within a specific publishing house.

Agent:  A person who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and assisting with the sale/promotion of the author’s work.

Category:  Describes what “kind” of novel you have but does not convey anything about the book. Examples: YA, NA, Adult, Nonfiction, etc.

Comprehensive or Developmental Editor:  This type of editing specifically deals with higher-level issues than copyediting. Fixes content or structural level: paragraphs, pages, flow, organization, format, changes from first person to second person, improving characters, fixing style issues and adding and deleting material.

Contract:  A legally binding agreement between two or more parties.

Coordinating Editor:  Also called a managing editor. This person “coordinates” by always knowing where the manuscript is in the process of publishing and where it is going next.

Copyeditor or Line Editor:  Stylistic editing or mechanical editing. The focus is on the mechanics of the piece, not the content.

Earn Out:  The amount of royalties your book has earned now equals the amount you were advanced by the publisher. You will now being receiving royalty checks for any more books (or other literary property) sold.

Editor:  One who edits. There are several different types of editors that perform several different roles. Sometimes these duties overlap. See specific definitions.

EFA:  Editorial Freelancers Association. A not for profit organization recognized throughout the publishing industry as the source for professional editorial assistance.

Fiction:  Written stories about events or people that are not real.

Genre:  Describes what type of book you have. Examples: Historical, Memoir, Mystery, Thriller, Horror, SciFi, Fantasy, Romance, etc.

Manuscript:  Your baby. The original text of an author’s work. The abbreviations ms (singular) and mss (plural) are used frequently in the publishing industry.

Nonfiction:  Writing about facts or people that are real. Anything not fiction.

Platform:  It is the number of people you can summon as you promote your book. This can be a combination of several different things including social media, professional reputation in the area you are writing about, affiliation with a popular brand, or celebrity status. Basically, it is the audience you have available to you BEFORE your book is published.

Proposal:  Book proposals are used to sell nonfiction books. A proposal is written prior to the manuscript and is used to convince an editor or agent to contract you to write the book. Essentially, this is a business plan for your book.

Publisher:  A person or company that produces and distributes written works for sale in either printed or electronic form.

Query:  A formal letter sent to agents and editors to introduce your writing idea. A query must include specific things: Summary of your book that explains the protagonist, the conflict, and the consequences of the choice they must make. Genre/Word Count. Author’s bio.

R&R:  Revise and resubmit.

Rights:  The full definition of Literary Property tends to be elusive. When speaking about rights with agents and publishers, these are the pieces of your literary property that you are selling. Examples: hardback rights, paperback rights, audio book rights, film rights, ebook rights, etc.

Self-Publishing:  Publishing independently and at your own expense.

Synopsis:  A brief overview of your book, generally 1-5 pages in length. When an agent asks for one, it must include the ending.

Traditional Publishing:  Publishing at another’s expense. There is a broad range of publishers in the world and it’s impossible to include them all here. Typically, if you publish traditionally, there is no out of pocket expense to you. The publisher will offer an “advance” to the author of future earnings on the book and then pay royalties for any books sold after the advance is “earned out”.



1 thought on “The Business of Writing – Definitions

  1. Great idea April! We all need to share this with our families and anyone we know who is interested in writing and publishing a book. A valuable tool to increase understanding and appreciation of what we need to do to sell a book.

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