Publishing Industry Terminologies (Path2pub Special)

The publishing industry is a vast one. That means a whole vocabulary that writers entering the industry have to learn and keep up with. Many of these terms/acronyms we also use on Path2pub. And so for this Path2pub Special, we thought it would be great to make a list of publishing terminologies with their easy-to-understand definitions for our readers!

Buckle up. Here we go:


  • Advance: The amount a writer receives from a publisher for their book.
  • Agent (Literary Agent): An industry expert who serves as a link between a writer and a publishing house. They guide a writer’s career and would receive a commission of 10-15% of the writer’s income.
  • ARC: Advanced Readers Copy. A copy of a book that is shared to readers and reviewers to create buzz about a book/author before the book is officially published.
  • Auction: Book Auction. (AKA every author’s dream). This is a process where multiple publishers are interested in acquiring a writer’s book and then place bids to win it. Often the publishers believe this book has huge sales potential.
  • Bio: (Biography). Information about a person as related to what they are offering.
  • Bestseller: A book with one of the best sales recorded in the market during a particular timeframe.
  • Blurb: A few sentences on a book cover crafted to promote a book. It could be flattering reviews from super successful authors, or lines that make readers eager to read a story.
  • Co-publishing: A scenario where both the author and the publisher contribute financially to the publication of a book.
  • Copyedits: An editorial process where grammar is the focus.
  • Comps: (Comparative titles). Successful books that are similar in one way or the other to yours. Usually these are included in a query letter or other proposals to show where your book would fit in a market.
  • Copyright ©: Protection for an author’s book.
  • Deal: (Book Deal). This is generally a scenario where a publishing house buys a writer’s manuscript. In a deal, advances are described as thus: Nice Deal: $0-$49k. Very nice deal: $50k-$99k. Good deal: $100k-$250k. Significant deal : $251-$499. Major deal: $500k and above.
  • Earn-out: This is when a book sells enough copies that the advance is covered completely, and the author can begin to earn royalties.
  • Editor: An editor can either be one who edits your manuscript as a freelancer, or one who acquires your book on behalf of a publishing house and works with you to see it ready for publication.
  • Elevator Pitch: A brief pitch (usually one sentence) of a book that includes all the plot’s essentials.
  • Exclusive: A submissions scenario where a writer submits solely to one agent or editor, giving them time to consider the project without competition.
  • Film Rights: (Another authors’ dream when accomplished!). The rights that allows a book to be made into a movie, usually sold by the agent or author to a professional in the movie industry.
  • Foreign Rights: The rights that allow a book to be translated into other languages.
  • Genre: An umbrella under which a specific style of literature fall under. This can be romance, thriller, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.
  • High-Concept: A book that can be described entirely in one sentence.
  • Hook: What makes a story stand out amongst others in the genre.
  • Imprint: A section of a publishing house dedicated to a specific category of books. This could be based on genre or age group.
  • Lead Time: The period of time between a book’s acquisition by a publishing house and its publication day.
  • Lead Title: A book a publisher believes will make lots of sales, hence puts the most money and efforts into marketing. (Yup, you got it right. Every writer’s dream!)
  • Mass Market: Books printed for a large audience inexpensively.
  • Midlist Titles: Books that aren’t on Bestseller Lists but do well enough in the market. Often, this justifies a publisher purchasing more books from the author.
  • Middle Grade: A category of books targeted mostly at readers younger than eleven.
  • Multiple Submissions: This refers to a writer submitting different projects at once. It could be for a contest, to an agent, an editor, etc.
  • Manuscript: (MS.) The unpublished copy of a book.
  • Partial Manuscript: The first 3 chapters or 50 pages of a manuscript.
  • Preempt: When a book is acquired on preempt, it means the publishers paid a substantial sum of money to entice the author into considering them solely as the best option for the book. Usually, this is done to prevent an auction and the timeframe to accept the offer is often within hours to days. Victoria Aveyard for instance, had about 3 hours to accept the preempt for Red Queen.
  • POV: (Point of View). The narrator(s) in a story/chapter/paragraph.
  • Print-on-demand: Books printed only when orders for copies come in.
  • Query letter: (Cover letter). A proposal/pitch written by a writer (duh) to an agent/agent about their manuscript.
  • R&R: (Revise and resubmit). This is when agents and editors request major manuscript revisions (in tone, for characters, etc.) are made first before accepting it. If the changes are made sufficiently, you’re allowed to resubmit the MS to them for reconsideration. Picture it as a reset button!
  • Royalties: After a writer earns out their advance, royalties are the amount they make from ensuing book sales.
  • Self-publishing: A publication process where the author handles every step, from writing to marketing.
  • Slush-pile: Manuscript submitted to an agent or editor unsolicited.
  • Shelve-It: A term used to describe a writer setting aside a manuscript either temporarily or permanently after it doesn’t get an agent or dies on submissions to editors. E.g. ‘I’ll be shelving this manuscript after this round of querying’. ‘Shelving an MS hurts’.
  • Subagent: An agent who handles subsidiary rights.
  • Submissions: (Subs). Manuscript submissions is a period of time during which agents submit their client’s manuscript to publishing houses in hopes of getting the writer a book deal. Usually, it can extend anywhere from 1 day to 11/2 year. If a book doesn’t sell during this period, it most likely is shelved afterward.
  • Writing Community: A vast community where writers interact both online and physically.
  • Young Adult: Literature targeted at readers between ages 13-19.

Got any Terminologies you’d like us to include? Let us know in the comments!

Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

15 thoughts on “Publishing Industry Terminologies (Path2pub Special)

  1. This is very enlightening, great job. I always wondered what preempt meant whenever I saw it in Book Deal announcements, as well as many other terms here. Some I didn’t even know about! I’ll be bookmarking this!

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  2. I always feel so excited when I get a Path2pub email 😆 Yes! I agree with Lena, this is so insightful. And with the humor sprinkled in I can guess which contributor wrote this! (Lucia? 👀)

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  3. Wow, how am I only just learning the full meaning of ARC?? This post is one I never even knew I needed but need it I do, lol. There really are so many interesting terms.

    I love seeing the deals being broken down so. I’ve been seeing ‘nice deal’ on my timeline recently and didn’t understand it. When my book deal comes, hopefully, it better be a ‘major deal’! Haha. Great post!

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  4. I love Path2pub 🙂 Its a great addition to the writing community. This post is so good and informative! I’ll definitely be bookmarking it for references.

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  5. For me, comp is what I’m just learning about🙈. I know it’s books similar to yours added to a query letter but I hadn’t known it meant ‘comparative title. This is definitely a helpful pocket of the site.

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  6. I can see a bit of similarity between lead and midlist titles category-wise, so I take it they’re both tiers kind of for authors? Is there one lower than them? If so it’ll be great to add it to the list so we can get the complete picture 🙂

    I find this post informing in the sense that to an extent it shows more of the publishing world querying writers are not aware of. Many of these terms are new to us because we’re focused mostly on the querying side of things. So good job.

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    1. Yes, lead title and midlist are in a similar category. Ahh, I’m not certain about one lower (though I think so), or what it’s called, but I saw a YouTube video from an author about this some weeks back. I’ll check it out and update the list!

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  7. Wow, I didn’t know that about Victoria Aveyard and Red Queen. Very intriguing. Great post!

    And I feel like an utter novice saying this, haha, but I had no idea books could go on submissions and not sell! It’s jarring but also eye opening. Makes lot of sense and it’s a great addition

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