Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Common Writing Terms By Roni Adam

Originally Published in the Wild Rose Press Greenhouse

I remember being fairly new to writing and wondering what all these terms I heard tossed around meant. Without wanting to sound too "green" I began to compile a list of what they all meant. Here's a brief overview that you can print out, and use whenever you hear a term you don't recognize.

Feel free to suggest more if you don't find this complete.

Advance - This is a monetary payment "advanced" against the possible earnings of a written work. Publishers offering an advance must make this money back before royalty payments begin to the author.

Agent - An individual whose job it is to represent an author's work to various publishers. Agents also negotiate contracts for their clients. The usual commission is around 10-15% of the advanced/royalties acquired. (Note: it is commonly held that legitimate agents do not charge evaluation or reading fees - they receive payment as a percentage of what they make for you.)

Agented Manuscript - A manuscript represented by an agent. Many traditional publishers only accept agented work.

Blurb - A brief publicity notice such as on the back of a book cover.

Backlist - A publisher's list of older titles still in print.

Copyright - The laws that protect a written work from being stolen. Copyright is assigned the moment your pen touches the paper, or your fingers stroke the keyboard.

Copyediting - To correct and prepare a manuscript for typesetting and printing.

Custom Cover Design - This is also a function of the graphic design. Customer covers offer readers testimonials and book blurbs especially on the back of the book.

Earn Out - When a book has sold well enough to pay the publisher back for the advance paid to a writer, it is said to have "earned out" Royalty payments may begin after a novel has earned out.

Galleys - Long press sheets sent to an author after an accepted manuscript has been typeset so that the author can check for errors. Not all publishers use galleys.

Graphic Design - The practice or profession of designing print or electronic forms of visual information as for an advertisement, publication, or web site. Most often used for book covers.

Image Placement - This is a function of design. When a manuscript has images (whether black and white or color) those images need to be "placed" on the page in order to prepare the document for printing. The graphic designer will spend time to make sure images match up to the text they belong with, and that they are of high enough resolution to be printed.

ISBN - International standard book number, the ID code placed on a book to distinguish it from any other books. This is part of the barcode.

Proofreading - To read (copy or proof) in order to find errors and mark for corrections.

Proposal - A document sent to a publisher to interest them in publishing an author's work. A proposal includes an outline of the book (synopsis), the page count, and the author's credentials.

Page Layout -  A function of the graphic design. Page layout for books involves determining how to position the text on the page; what paragraph structure to use, as well as spacing of characters, letters and lines. A good designer takes the audience of the book into account when deciding how to layout the pages.

Query Letter - Also called "query".  A letter asking whether an agent or a publisher would like to see your manuscript. Queries contain a brief overview of the manuscript and any publishing credits.

Royalties - A percentage of a book's sale price that is paid to the author of the book. Royalties are only paid after the book has earned out and are usually paid on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Slush pile - What editors at publishing houses call the overwhelming amount of unagented and unsolicited material they receive.

Solicited Manuscript - Any manuscript that an agent or editor has asked to see.

Submission - A manuscript sent for review.

Unagented Manuscript - A manuscript that is not represented by an agent.

Unsolicited Manuscript - Any manuscript sent to an editor/agent who has not specifically requested it.


Roni is a contemporary romance author published with The Wild Rose Press. You can find information on
her books and short stories by visiting her web site ( or check out where you can find all of her titles.

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