Publishing Business Terms
ADVANCE: $ pub pays author for book under contract, i.e. ½ paid at signing, ½ at delivery of final ms. Author doesn’t receive more $ until proceeds ($ales) exceed amount of advance.
BACKLIST: books from previous seasons still in print.
COMMISSION: advance payment from publisher to author asked (commissioned) to write something
COPYRIGHT: designates ownership of work. Most pubs © in author’s name, so when work goes out of print rights revert to author who may resell ms to another publisher.
COVER LETTER: accompanies solicited ms sent to agent or publisher.
FLAT FEE: “work-for-hire.” Lump sum for work. No royalties.
FRONTLIST: books published in current season and in publisher’s current catalogue.
INSTITUTIONAL SALES: books sold to schools/libraries, roughly 25% of kids lit is bought by libraries.
MASS MARKET: “rack-sized”, paperbacks smaller than trade paperbacks, usually different cover than hardcover edition, and cheaper.
MASS MARKET PUBLISHERS: companies that produce large quantities of paperbacks inexpensively, titles follow trends that fit markets – tie-ins with movies, TV characters and toys. Sell high volume in short time.
NET PRICE: “wholesale price”, $ pub receives from each book sale after discounts given to bookstores/buyers. Some pubs base author’s royalty on net price.
PROPOSAL: document author sends to agent/pub describing proposed book, length, audience, table of contents, chapt outline, first 3 chapts, competing titles, ways to market book, author’s credentials.
QUERY LETTER: letter author writes seeking permission to send ms to agent/pub.
RETAIL PRICE: cover price on book. Most big pubs pay royalties based on cover price.
ROYALTIES: 3-15% of proceeds from the sale of each copy of book.
SASE: self-addressed stamped envelope
SELF PUBLISH: Author pays for publication. Companies offer different levels of service. Authors must do a lot of marketing themselves.
SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: pub/agent sells book to foreign pubs, mags, movie studios. If pub sells rights, $ split with author (usually 50/50). If agent sells rights, author keeps proceeds minus agent’s commission.
SUBSIDY PUBLISHER: “vanity publisher”, pubs that charge authors $$$$$ to publish ms. Avoid.
TRADE PAPERBACK: bound with heavy paper, usually same size and cover art as hardback, cheaper.
TRIM SIZE: outer dimensions of book.
UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS: ms sent to pubs who didn’t request them. Often rejected, languish in “slush pile”.
Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.