If you are new to writing and publishing, then you might be confused by some “insider” terms and abbreviations being used throughout the author community.
This is not an authoritative list by any stretch of the imagination; but I wanted to provide at least a basic high-level list of some terms and abbreviations used so you aren’t left in the dark.
The glossary will list a word or abbreviation (in alphabetical order), what it means or stands for (where applicable), then a brief “definition” (at least MY version of that definition – so do remember to take my personal bias under consideration).
ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) – Owned and operated by Audible Inc., an Amazon company that connects authors and narrators. Titles produced through ACX are made available for sale on Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.
Advance (Advance payment for a book) – Money a publisher pays in advance on a book. Once the advance is “earned out” (where the royalties earned surpasses the money provided to the author up front) the author then receives royalties for sales. For example, if an advance was $1000, and the royalties on a $25 book were 8% ($2.00/unit sold), the advance would “earn out” once 500 copies of the book are sold.
Alpha Reader (Early reader for a book) – An early reader of a book prior to publication, usually a non-professional, who provides feedback to the author.
AMS (Amazon Ads / Amazon Marketing Services) – The program is now known as Amazon Advertising, but it used to be Amazon Marketing Service. The name keeps changing, but many authors continue to refer to Amazon Ads as AMS or AMS Ads.
ARC (Advance Reader Copy) – An advance edition of a book that is sent to reviewers, bookstores, and librarians. This is, within traditional publishing, often done in print trade paperback format, and usually with marketing copy on the back cover specifically geared towards the bookstore/library/trade journal reviewer market. ARCs can be digital. They often are considered “unedited” or “early” proof copies and might be referred to as an “unedited proof.”
ASIN (Amazon Stock Inventory Number) – A 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier assigned to every product by Amazon for every product it sells. Amazon values this identifier over the book industry standard ISBN and will assign a book an ASIN even if it has an ISBN.
Author Newsletter (Also referred to as a mailing list or author mailing list) – One of the most powerful marketing and engagement tools an author can have, where readers sign up to stay in touch with an author’s life, work, new releases, and price promotions. It allows authors to engage directly and share with their readers, rather than relying on retailers and other industry gatekeepers.
B&N (Barnes & Noble) – An American bookseller that operates the largest number of retail outlets in the United States. Their eBook platform is called Nook, which is also the name of their eReader device.
B2R (Books2Read) – A free service owned and run by Draft2Digital that authors can use to create universal book links (UBLs). These UBLs offer a single URL that contains inclusive links to all the major retailer and some library markets. It also employs geo-targeting to send people who click on a retail link to be brought to their local territory’s version of a website.
BB (BookBub) – A free book discovery web and email service for readers to help them find new books and authors. The company features free and discounted eBooks selected by its editorial team. Publishers and authors can apply to be considered for feature spots they pay for. BookBub also offers a paid advertising program called BookBub Ads.
BBFD (BookBub Feature Deal) – The inclusion of a title in one of BookBub’s targeted email blasts to readers, filtered by genre and retail platform. Getting accepted for a BookBub feature deal after applying for one is a much-coveted marketing tactic for authors and publishers, as they typically earn back the money invested and more in paying for that placement.
Beta Reader (Beta reader for a book) – An early reader of a book prior to publication, usually a non-professional, who provides feedback to the author. A beta reader often sees a book “later” in the publication process than an alpha reader, and often after a book may have been modified based on suggestions from alpha readers.
Big Five (The) (The Big Five Trade Publishers) – A term often used to describe the major traditional/trade publishers like Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, etc. When I started in the book industry, they were somewhere in the realm of the Big Twelve or the Big Ten. They were the Big Six for many years before Random House and Penguin merged a few years back. Because of mergers, they might soon be the “Big Four.” (In the indie author community, some might also refer to “The Big Five” as the main eBook retail platforms: Apple Books, Google Play, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.)
BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) – Often used as a short term to denote BISAC Subject Codes, which are subject category codes for books from the BISG (Book Industry Study Group) used to denote one or more of the approximately 3500 possible subject categories for a book. Publishers communicate these codes to booksellers and libraries to denote what section of the store they should be placed into. Most stores have their own map from BISAC to an internal subject classification.
BISG (Book Industry Study Group) – A US trade association for policy, technical standards, and research related to books and book-related products. The goal of BISG is to simplify logistics for publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians, and others involved in publishing book industry products for print and digital media.
Chapbook (A book format) – Originally used to denote a small publication of about 40 pages in length. Chapbooks were commonly used for poetry and usually are done to a specific theme. In early modern Europe it was a type of printed street literature, often saddle stitched and in limited print runs. In more recent times the term “chapbook” is also used to denote short, inexpensive mini-books or booklets.
Beta Reader (Early reader of a book) – A reader, usually non-professional, who provides feedback on a book after a writer has made revisions inspired by alpha readers.
Blurb (As in “back cover blurb copy”) – Descriptive commentary that appears on a book’s item page online and, for print books, on the dust jacket flaps or the rear of the book cover or jacket. A blurb often contains a mixture of plot synopsis and promotional pitch, and successful blurbs are usually ones that act as a promotional bit of “sales copy” to inspire the ideal reader to purchase the book. (As in review excerpt or recommended praise quote) – This term is often used to describe a short line of text, often a single line, that appears on the front cover, or perhaps back cover above or below the book’s main descriptive copy, to denote praise for the work; often as an excerpt from a review, or a well-respected author in a similar or complimentary genre. The goal is to assure potential readers that the book in question is worthy of their time and money.
Box set (Known as a boxset or boxed set) – A set of physical items (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) traditionally packaged in a box and offered for sale as a single unit. (Within the indie author community authors often say “box set” (or “boxset”) without adding the term “digital” to denote a “digital box set”—which, technically, is more like an “omnibus” (see that definition below)
CTA (Call to Action) – A marketing term for any design to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. Authors often include at least one CTA at the end of their book which may include a link to another book, the next book in that series, or an author newsletter sign-up.
CTR (Click Thru Rate) – A measure for the success of user engagement, typically in advertising campaigns. A CTR represents the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view a page, email, or advertisement.
D2D (Draft2Digital) – A US company that offers free eBook and Print conversion tools and distribution options for retailers and libraries.
ENT (eReader News Today) – A daily newsletter that delivers highly rated free and bargain eBooks. ENT, which launched in 2010 is the longest running daily eBook newsletter in the industry.
ePub (eBook file) – Derived from the .epub file extension used for eBooks. This format is an international standard eBook format as created/defined by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).
Erotica (Also “erotic fiction” and “erotic literature”) – Erotica is writing with a strong focus on sex or sexual themes, sexual feelings, and actions, with the intention of arousing those same feelings in readers. There are multiple degrees of erotica appearing through much romance fiction. In the “deep end” of that fictional pool one finds more pornographic writing with less focus on character, plot, and dialogue, than on reader titillation. Because of the vast degree (or shades) of erotic literature, and because reader tolerance varies dramatically, there are some retailers and libraries that might automatically choose to filter out certain styles or types of erotica, particularly the ones more focused on titillation. There is a significant double-standard where a trade published title like Fifty Shades of Gray is featured prominently, whereas indie publishing books of the same, or even better caliber and quality, are shunted to the “back aisle” or even ignored.
FFIS (First Free in Series) – Denotes the first book in a linked series that is made free to create a large funnel of new potential readers/fans.
Funnel (A funnel of readers, or a reader funnel) – Derived from the concept of a “marketing funnel” an author’s funnel is a consumer-centric marketing model that illustrates the theoretical customer journey toward the sampling or purchase of a good or service to other relevant content. (IE, a first book in a series for 99 cents or free that drives a large volume of new readers). The understanding is that this large group will self-select to a progressively smaller number of readers more keenly in-tune with that author’s specific brand or content, and continue to buy more, adding increasing value back to the investment of bringing them to that first product.
Hybrid (Hybrid Author) – An author who is both indie/self-published and traditionally published. I have heard some authors, typically those with a very Amazon-centric POV, suggesting that “hybrid” publishing is when an author publishes some eBooks exclusive to Kindle, and others wide. I’m not a fan of the bastardized use of the term in that way, because it’s a limiting perspective that doesn’t take the larger “hybrid author” model into account.
Imprint (Publishing/Publisher Imprint) – An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes books. Imprints are often used to denote a specific brand to a unique customer demographic. A single publisher or publishing company may have multiple imprints, often using the different names as ways of spotlighting or identifying those brands. Indie authors can define their own unique publishing imprints similarly.
Indie (“Indie author,” “indie publisher” or “to indie publish”) – A term/phrase that has been adopted by self-published authors to denote a level of professionalism and independence. They are independent spirits taking control of their self-publishing. “Indie publishing” is often used inter-changeable with self-publishing. I tend to use them both and use the term self-publishing quite regularly through this book because the phrase “indie-publishing” might still be confusing or relatively new to beginning authors. Within traditional bookselling the term “indie” is often applied to smaller trade publishers that are not owned by one of the “Big Five” as well as independent bookstores (ie, not part of a national or international chain).
Ingram (Ingram Content Group) – An American-based subsidiary of Ingram Industries based in La Vergne, Tennessee that offers services to the book publishing industry. The company has the industry’s largest active book inventory with access to 7.5 million titles. The markets they serve include booksellers, librarians, educators, and specialty retailers. Ingram offers warehousing services, print-on-demand publishing solutions, and more to publishers and indie authors. The most well-known of Ingram’s services to digital publishing are IngramSpark and LightningSource.
IngramSpark (An Indie-Publishing Solution for POD) – A user-friendly front-end service launched in 2013 and operated by Lightning Source to cater for the needs of independent publishers and authors via similar tools enjoyed big house publishers but built specifically for independent or smaller publishers.
IP (Intellectual Property) – A term used to refer to intangible creations of the mind and human intellect. This can include inventions as well as literary and artistic works or designs. The most well-known types of IP are copyright, patents, and trademarks. Authors’ rights and copyright are a fundamental component of IP for writers, but a writer’s creative expression can be leveraged well beyond the written word and book format.
IRC (International Reply Coupon) – Often used for international SASEs (see SASE below) commonly used in traditional trade publishing manuscript submissions. An IRC is coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country. IRCs are accepted by all UPU member countries. This allows a person to send someone in another country a letter, along with the cost of postage for a reply. If the addressee is within the same country, there is no need for an IRC because a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or return postcard will suffice; but if the addressee is in another country an IRC removes the necessity of acquiring foreign postage or sending appropriate currency.
ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – A 13-digit book identifier which is intended to uniquely identify a book and the originating publisher. An ISBN is assigned to each separate edition and variation of a book (for example, Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, Audiobook, etc.).
KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) – Amazon’s direct publishing platform for eBooks and Print (POD).
KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing Select) – An optional exclusivity program that authors can choose to be a part of when publishing directly to Amazon Kindle via KDP. KDP Select terms run 90 days and auto-renew unless an author de-selects the pre-filled auto-renew button. Being in this program allows for some additional marketing features like making a book free for up to 5 days, Kindle Countdown deals, and having books listed in Kindle Unlimited (KU).
KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) – A metric that is applicable to authors with eBooks in Kindle Unlimited (exclusive to Amazon). It measures how many pages of your book have been read by readers who have accessed it through their Kindle Unlimited Subscription.
Kill-fee (Often used in publishing contracts) – A pre-agreed amount of money a publisher agrees to pay a freelance writer if they decide not to publish their work, or work in progress.
Kobo (Rakuten Kobo, Inc.) – A Canadian-based digital book retailer owned by Japanese electronic commerce company Rakuten, Inc.
KU (Kindle Unlimited) – An Amazon eBook reading service that allows customers to read as much as they want from over 2 million titles. It allows readers to explore new authors, books, and genres for what they perceive as “no cost” despite them having to pay a subscription fee for this access. Indie authors often use this to refer to the side effect of being in Kindle Direct Publishing’s “Select” option which locks them into 90 days of exclusivity.
KWL (Kobo Writing Life) – Kobo’s direct publishing platform for eBooks and Audiobooks.
Lightning Source (Also known as Lightning Print on Demand) – A suite of publishing services from Ingram designed for trade publishers that include print-on-demand, wholesale solutions, drop-ship, short-run printing, traditional offset printing, and full global distribution. An easier-to-use and separate platform meant for indie authors, is called Ingram Spark.
Metadata – Metadata is data that describes other data. In publishing, metadata refers to any data that describes your book. These fields include title, subtitle, publication date, ISBN, keywords, price, and any other relevant information that readers might use to find your book.
MM (Mass market or mass market paperback) – A format of print paperback mass printed in large quantities for massive audiences at a highly economic price. Mass market paperbacks are usually smaller in size, (usually 4 inches wide by 7 inches tall), and the text is printed in a smaller font and on less expensive paper. These smaller sized books are often called pocket books, as they can usually fit easily into a purse or a pocket.
Mobi (Often thought of as an Amazon eBook) – Derived from .mobi, the file extension for “mobipocket” format for eBooks that was purchased and used by Amazon Kindle. The fundamental difference between ePub and Mobi formats is that ePub is widely supported across all platforms while Mobi is predominantly a Kindle format. In early 2021, Amazon shared that they would be deprecating the use of this format in multiple ways.
More Active Romance (Also sometimes referred to as “active romance”) – A cheeky term, first coined by Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn during a 2013 book industry presentation, to denote erotic fiction in polite company. He was referring to top-selling genres, and listed off Romance, and then, separately “More Active Romance—AKA, erotica.”
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – An annual event where volunteer participants sign up to commit to write the first draft of a 50,000-word book in the month of November.
OverDrive (OverDrive, Inc.) – An American digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and streaming video titles providing fulfillment services for publishers to libraries and schools.
PB (Paperback – also known as soft cover or softback) – A generic term to denote a particular type of binding, characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover, and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples. Paperback might refer to a mass-market or a trade paperback edition.
Perma 99 (Permanent 99 cent book) – A term coined by indie authors to denote a book that is permanently priced at 0.99 across all retailers. This price point is often used to create a large funnel of potential readers.
Perma Free (Permanently free) – A term coined by indie authors to denote a book that is permanently priced at 0.00 across all retailers (Note that Amazon KDP never allows this in a permanent way and so authors often have to rely on their whim of when and in which territories they price match to free). This price point is often used to create a large funnel of potential readers.
PNR (Paranormal Romance) – An acronym used for paranormal romance focusing on romantic love and including elements beyond the range of scientific explanation. PNR titles can blend together themes from across the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
POD (Print on Demand) – An order fulfillment method where items (most often books, where authors are concerned) are printed as soon as an order is made, often, and without order minimums. Most indie authors use this method of printing for both author copies and distribution to online retailers and the book market through large wholesalers such as Ingram.
POV (Point of view) – The narrative eye or perspective through which a story is written. The three main types of POV are: First-Person (told through an openly self-referential and participating narrator), Second-Person (where the reader is made a character), Third-Person (where the narrator is not identified and provides the viewpoint of all characters with third person pronouns like he, she, or they, and never first- or second-person pronouns). There are additional considerations such as omniscient, limited, subjective, and alternating perspectives.
Reader magnet – A piece of writing that an author gives away for free in exchange for something such as readers signing up for their author mailing list. The reader magnet is typically relevant to an author’s published works and can be exclusively available only for those who sign up.
RPG (Role-playing Game) – A narrative style game in which players act out the roles of characters. This includes games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and thousands of others. You might see the term LitRPG which is short for a literary genre combining the conventions of desktop or digital RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels where the players are aware they are in such a game. A few popular recent examples of this would be Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One and Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji.
SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) – An envelope with the sender’s name and address on it, plus affixed paid postage, that is mailed to a person or company to facilitate quick and “free” return postage. Commonly used in traditional publishing submissions of short stories and book-length manuscripts.
Self-publishing – This is an all-encompassing and generic term meant to denote authors that take control of their publishing, by either publishing directly, through a third-party distributor, or even authors that employ publishing service providers and vanity presses. The term indie publishing is often used by authors who recognize this control and the logistical operation as a professional entrepreneurial business pursuit.
Slush pile – A set of unsolicited query letters or manuscripts either directly sent to a publisher or agent by an author. Most larger publishing houses and agents do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and slush piles are usually looked down upon and disregarded as the work of aspiring writers of all levels of skill and talent. The responsibility of sifting through slush piles to find works of potential merit and review, is usually reserved either to editor assistants, or interns often called first readers.
TP (Trade Paperback) – A specific format of paperback generically used to indicate any paperback book that is larger in size than a mass-market paperback. The term derives from the standard practice within trade publishing of issuing a version of a hardback book in a less expensive form. Trade paperbacks are issued in the same size and format as a hardcover edition of the same book. Unlike the smaller and less expensive mass-market paperback, trade paperbacks often are identical to a hardback book, even having the same page numbers and same higher paper quality than mass market editions.
UBL (Universal Book Link) – A web link usually created via a service such as Books2Read that acts as a single share website landing page that is inclusive of multiple platforms, retailers, libraries, often with built-in automated geo-targeting.
Vanity Publishing (Vanity press, Vanity publisher, subsidy publisher) – A vanity publisher is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published, instead of the publisher paying the author. In this model, the author assumes all the risk. Many vanity publishers masquerade as “real publishers” and trick unsuspecting authors into thinking they are getting great value and will be served like a publisher. But these outfits make the majority of their revenue selling services to authors rather than selling books. Before working with any publisher or self-publishing service provider, authors should check resources from Writer Beware and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
WFH (Working from Home) – Telecommuting, also called remote working, teleworking, working from home is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel to a central place of work. This is a common desired experience for writers. Though some writers do find “commuting” to a local coffee shop or library allows for the “transition to work” experience to help them and the people in their lives to take their profession of writing seriously.
Wide (A publishing strategy “publishing wide” or “publish wide”) – In indie author circles, the concept of making one’s books (often used to mean eBooks) available on many platforms rather than exclusively to Amazon Kindle. As you’ll see, my personal definition of wide goes far beyond that dichotomous perspective. Oh, and there’s a hell of a lot more about wide publishing explained repeatedly throughout this book. But I suppose that’s why you’re reading it.
WIP (Work in Progress) – For writers, a WIP, or W.I.P is a term used to refer to the current project being written, or in the process of being edited, as opposed to completed and/or published works.
YA (Young Adult) – A category of fiction spanning many genres and written for readers aged 12 to 18. The subject matter and of YA novels typically correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist. While targeted to adolescents, as many as half of all YA readers are adults.
ZON (Also referred to as “The ‘Zon”) – A cheeky reference authors sometimes use when referring to Amazon, the world’s largest online bookstore. I coined the term “world’s largest river” many years ago in a tongue-in-cheek “they who shall not be named” during a presentation for Kobo.