Friday, October 26, 2012

Publishing Industry and Writing Terms

by Jill Williamson

Go Teen Writers has really been growing. And since there are many new readers here, I thought it might be nice to post some definitions. 


ABA: American Booksellers Association
ARC: Advance reading copy
BCC: Back cover copy
BEA: BookExpo America
CBA: Christian Booksellers Association
FMC: Female main character
GTW: Go Teen Writers
ISBN: International Standard Book Number
K: Thousand, as in an 80,000-word novel or 80K novel
MC: Main character
MMC: Male main character
MS: Manuscript or Microsoft (as in MS Word)
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month
OP: Out of print
POV: Point of view
SASE: Self-addressed stamped envelope
SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
WC: Word count
WIP: Work in progress

Publishing Industry Terms

Acquisitions editor: A publishing house employee who reads incoming manuscripts to seek out publishable material.
Advance: A sum of money paid to the author in anticipation of royalty earnings, often pain in increments.
Agent: A person that represents an author’s work and tries to sell it to editors.
Content editor (also known as a developmental or substantive editor): A person who edits a book for overall plot issues, character development, and continuity of the story.
Cover letter: A letter sent with a manuscript or proposal to introduce the author and his project to an editor or agent.
Fiction: Works of the imagination, made-up stories.
Independent (Indie) publisher: A small publisher. Some pay an advance, some don’t. Many are too small to get into bookstores, though some can.
Line editor: A person who goes over every sentence in a manuscript to make sure there are no errors.
Manuscript: A typed out story, article, or novel.
National Novel Writing Month: An organization that encourages participants to write at least 50,000 words in one month.
Nonfiction: Works that are not fictional.
Proofreader: A person who reads a final manuscript for errors.
Proposal: A thorough presentation of an author’s book to an editor or agent for publication.
Query letter: A letter an author writes to propose his project to an editor or agent. Usually one page long.
Self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE): An envelope that an author addresses to himself with sufficient postage that he sends along with his query letter or manuscript so that the editor or agent can mail the decision back to the author.
Self-publishing: And author pays to have his ebook or paperback book published. 
Slush pile: The imaginary and sometimes literal “pile” of manuscripts that have been sent to an agent or editor without an invitation. (You don’t want your manuscript here.)
Synopsis: A one to two page summary of the plot of a novel.
Traditional publishing: This is the standard way an author gets a book published that should get his books into bookstores. In this type of publishing, the publisher pays the author for his book.
Unsolicited: When an author sends in her work to an editor or agent without permission to do so.

Writing Craft Terms

Action tag: Action used to identify the speaker of words spoken in quotes. Ex: “Fine!” Sherry slammed the door.
Backdrop: The setting of your story.
Backstory: What happened to your characters before your story began.
Conflict: That which causes your character to struggle.
Flashback: Inserting an earlier event into the chronological structure of a story.
Narrative: When the story moves into narration, or telling, to explain what’s happening outside a character point of view.
Point of view (POV): The position of the narrator who’s telling the story at that moment.
Said tag: Used to identify the speaker of words spoken in quotes. Ex: “Do what you want,” Sherry said.
Scene: A section of a story that represents a single episode or event.

Stephanie and I will add to these over time, so let us know if we missed anything.


  1. Great post! I hadn't glanced at the follower button in some time and Wow! That's a lot of followers.

    Congrats to the blog authors and welcome to all you newbies (I say this in the most loving way possible. I remember wondering what in the world this pov thing and sase [which I pronounced case with a S,] was.)

    Another good abbreviation is K. It's short thousand. If someone said they wrote 12K it means they wrote 12,000 thousand words.

    WC means word count. We don't normally judge books by page number, we do it by word count. I believe the average length is 60K-100K.

    Thanks for the great post, Jill!

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Those are great ones. I've added them.

  2. You left out Proofreader and Line editor, but other than that I think you and Sarah mentioned them all. I liked the post, because I still didn't know what some of them meant :)

    1. Thanks, Maddie. I don't know what went wrong on proofreader and line editor. I meant to fill those in! LOL

  3. This is great and SO needed! Before finding this amazing site, I joined this live writers group for several weeks before I quit because there was no one my age (15) there and it was a bit awkward. Anyway, I knew NONE of the terms and it was so embarrassing! The worst was not knowing what "WIP" was. The group never said WIP but they always wrote it on the board and for weeks, I tried to think of what it was and yeah...I wanted to sink to the floor when I finally asked and found out what it meant. I was SO embarrassed.
    Anyway, thank you so much for this!

    1. LOL! Nothing to be embarrassed about, Leorah! We all learn these things at one time or another. I'm glad it was helpful. :-)

    2. Leorah,

      You felt uncomfortable in the other sites due to your age. I am so sorry. I have been a 'newbie' here for several months and have learned more here in this time than I have in reading from other sites, even some books, or other published authors. The authors here truly believe in giving back, in sharing their knowledge as so few others do. Others want to SELL what they have learned. Or not share at all.
      And Leorah, I am almost 60 and working on 3 different genres right now. Still, what I am learning is helpful to everything I am writing.
      Thanks to all! You are all such a blessing!!

    3. Aww, Debby. Thank you! I'm so touched that you've found Go Teen Writers to be a helpful resource.

  4. From Amo Libros:
    Excellent! I've been wondering about some of these!

  5. PO! Out of print ... as in, 'How to Write Good Dialogue, Part 3'?
    I have searched all of the archived and I cannot find part 3. Part 1, 2, and 4 are readily available. But part 3 is just ... POOFED ... gone.
    So, I have to ask, is it PO??
    BTW, I found this post very helpful, as many of the acronyms were, um, confuzing to my addled mind.
    Thanks ...

    1. Took me a bit, but I tracked it down!

    2. Stephanie,
      Thanks so for your help.
      And, you know I meant OP ... NOT PO!
      I had to laugh at myself. I hope you did too.

    3. Lol, Debby. My fingers often work faster than my brain :)

  6. These are really useful! I didn't even know most of them.
    You could add 'excerpt' which you have to fill out in NaNoWriMo.