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A&R: Artist and repertoire.

advance: A payment before a book is published to an author by a publisher that is later deducted from earned royalties.

agent: In the case of a literary agent, an individual or business that represents manuscripts to publishers in exchange for a commission on the sale of the manuscript. Agents may be categorized as literary, film, or talent. Some are known to handle representation in more than one category.

ARC: Shorthand for advanced review copy, which would be furnished to a literary reviewer before publication.

assisted self-publishing: a term used by Harlequin Enterprises to give the appearance of self-publishing to what is actually a vanity publishing operation.

auction: Bidding by competing publishers for the publishing rights of a manuscript made available to them simultaneously by an agent.

author blitz: An orchestrated appearance or attack by individuals associated with a site to counter a negative comment or recommendation posted elsewhere on the Internet. The response can be either by posting at a forum or by email when the site in question doesn't have a page for posting comments. When used against forums, such attacks are frequently characterized by the appearance of many first time posters. This tactic gains its name because it is used frequently by authors, but it can be employed by anyone.

author mill: A publisher whose primary source of income is derived from its many authors by selling them small lots, usually fifty or a hundred, of their own books at inflated prices. Term coined by Victoria Strauss.


B&M stores: Shorthand notation for "brick and mortar" stores.

backlist: Books still in print, but not published during the current season by the publisher.

BITE CONTRACTS GLOSSARY: Recommended. Features terms commonly found in writing contracts.

blog: A word derived from weblog, it usually designates an independent website containing editorial comments and opinions. Some feature feedback options for readers to offer their own opinions on the topic at hand.

blurb: An unpaid endorsement of a book by an editor, writer, celebrity, reviewer, or expert who might be recognized by the intended market and whose endorsement might encourage additional sales for that book.

BNA: Big Name Author.

BOR - Refers to sales made at the back of the room for speaking engagements.

boutique agency: A literary agency that specializes in a particular kind of book.

boutique press: A publisher that specializes in a particular kind of book.


c.v. or curriculum vitae: A resume.

CC or contributor's copy: Most often, this is a copy of a book or magazine sent to an author whose work appears in that publication. Sometimes this acts as a form of payment in lieu of cash to the author of a manuscript that is published.

chapbook: A small booklet of poetry, ballads, or tales.

clip: Most often, a sample of an author's work taken from a newspaper or magazine.

commercial publisher: Releases books on a regular basis, ordinarily at least 25 titles each year; listed in Literary Marketplace ("LMP"); pays both advance and royalty, or one-time fees in excess of $20,000. Must also actively market products, have a distribution agreement with one of the major distributors, put ISBNs on every product, maintain a backlist, maintain reasonable communications with authors, and actually market their products (however minimally) beyond simply listing in a catalog. Contributed by John Savage.

contemporary/urban fantasy: Takes place in the author's here-and-now (plus magic). With one caveat. Pre-WWII authors who set their stories in THEIR now were not around when the category was invented, and seem to get nudged into high fantasy in spite of a theoretical real world setting. 90% or more of contemporary fantasy is also big city, thus the second name. I think stories where contemporary people get transported into fantasy worlds and stay there for the whole story get shuffled into one of the other Fantasy catagories more often than not. Compiled by Lenora Rose and Willis E. Couvillier.

contest mill: An organization with many contests along with entry fees. These generally appeal to authors desperate for some kind of recognition that will save their book's sales from tanking.

cooperative publishing or co-publishing or subsidy publishing: See: Subsidy publishing
copyright: A legal protection against copying for written matter. More detailed information about copyrights is listed under Submissions in Preditors & Editors.

cover letter: A brief letter sent with a submission to a book or magazine editor. Most often, this gives the editor information about what is being offered and by whom. It sometimes contains additional information dictated by publisher guidelines.

crowdsourcing model - A means of critiquing scripts and manuscripts by readers.


dark fantasy: Character is up against a conflict that appears too severe to be overcome, and usually is along the lines of a horror atmosphere involving insurmountable odds/evil wizards/evil magic. Can be a modern or mythical setting. A psychological suspense element is often beneficial, perhaps essential. Compiled by Lenora Rose and Willis E. Couvillier.

DF: Abbreviation for dark fiction usually meaning dark fantasy, generally used to indicate what genre the publication accepts for submissions.

display site - Typically a website that offers to display part of all of a manuscript either for free or for a fee to be paid by the writer (bad idea since writers can submit for no cost to legitimate agents and publishers), by the agent (why would they since writers submit those for free), or by the publisher (why would they since most receive submissions for nothing). Often derisively referred to by the industry as a YADS.

disemvoweling: A method invented by Teresa Nielsen Hayden for dealing with unwanted posts in forums and blogs put in place by trolls, shills, or individuals unwilling to remain on topic whereby the vowels are removed from the post leaving the post otherwise intact. It appears to be an effective method of handling posts put in place by robot shills, particularly those that check later to see if the post needs to be reposted should the original be missing. At the same time, it's effective in getting the point across to human posters about what will be tolerated.

distributor: A distributor provides warehousing and fulfillment, and in addition markets the publisher's list directly to booksellers. Ideally, a publisher will have arrangements with *both* a distributor and a wholesaler, or else will maintain its own sales staff. Without that direct marketing component, it's far less likely that a publisher's books will make it into bookstores. Contributed by Victoria Strauss.


earn through (aka: earning out and sell through): The point at which a writer's book finishes earning the royalty advance and regular royalties begin.

editing service: A company that offers anything from copyediting a writer's written work to rewriting and ghost-writing. Most editing services do not claim, and rightly so, that their efforts will result in a publishing contract. Unfortunately, scam artists are often involved in this activity. Be careful who you deal with. Consult a writer's organization when in doubt.

editing stages: Ellen Key Harris, Associate Editor--Del Rey Books offers these definitions of different types of editing: developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting.

ego search: Doing an Internet search using your name to discover what's being stated about you and your writing. Term attributed to Terry Hickman.

errors and omissions (E and O) coverage: Typically, this is limited liability insurance coverage that you may need if you work primarily in a profession such as medicine or law. Very few writers will ever need this coverage, but consult with a lawyer to be certain if you are engaged in writing something dealing with a profession.

exclusive: Generally used by agents to indicate that they want the right to read through a submission before other agents who have indicated an interest.

Experimental Fiction: Often, fiction considered innovative in content or style.


fanzine: Most often a publication produced by speculative fiction fans. Very often contains fan-written stories featuring characters from popular published stories.

fem-jep: A story in which women are in serious jeopardy, such as being targeted by the antagonist(s).

fiction novel: If you really want to be viewed as an idiot, use this term and you're bound to receive an automatic rejection from many legitimate agents and publishers. Why? Because the word novel already implies that the written work is fiction. It's redundant to label a manuscript as a fiction novel. If you used that term before in a query or cover letter and received a rejection, now you know how you earned it. You proved before you even got into the ring that you didn't know what you were doing.

first right of refusal: Basically a compromise position in submitting to agents that permits the writer to query other agents, but gives the first agent the right to what might best be described as a semi-exclusive read of the manuscript. In other words, the agent has the right to be first to refuse before any other offers can be accepted. P&E believes this is fair to both agents and writers.

First Worldwide Electronic Rights: Origin attributed to Steve Algieri, editor. Believed to mean the exclusive right to publish a document of fiction or non-fiction for a limited time for first worldwide consumption in an electronic media.

flash fiction: Very short fiction. The Mystery genre sometimes considers fiction 1,000 words or less to be flash fiction. Speculative fiction sometimes considers flash fiction to be either 500 words or less or even 100 words or less.

FNASR: This abbreviation stands for First North American Serial Rights. It is one of the rights that publishers purchase from an author.

formulaic fiction: Fiction that follows a formula in telling a story.


galley: The first typeset version of a manuscript bound for publication. Sometimes presented to an author for approval purposes.

genre: The category in which a written work falls. For example, in poetry, haiku and sonnets are two different genres. In novels, mysteries and westerns are two different genres.

GL: Guidelines. Generally, the instructions for submissions to publishers.

Glossary of Poetic Terms from BOB'S BYWAY: Recommended. A MUST VISIT site for anyone who likes to read or write poetry. This is perhaps one of the best poetry resource sites this editor has encountered.


HEA: Shorthand for Happily Ever After endings. First overheard used by J. Ellen Smith of Champagne Books.

headhopping: Often considered a poor writing technique, it involves changing the point of view frequently within a story. P&E recommends reading Headhopping, Authorial Intrusion, and Shocked Expressions by Anne Marble.

high fantasy/traditional fantasy: Serious story involving well defined character(s) with a solid conflict to resolve, set in a mythical setting involving mythical creatures and/or magicks. Resolution of conflict often focus's on a greater, rather than individual, good. Compiled by Lenora Rose and Willis E. Couvillier.

honorarium: A token payment of either a small amount of money or copies of the published work. Not uncommon among small publishers. Sending work to publishers offering this form of payment is an excellent way to gain recognition and a following of readers.


I.R.C.: International Reply Coupon. These are a necessity when dealing with foreign publishers if you expect a reply as their postal services do not use United States postage stamps. You can purchase I.R.C.'s at any post office. Remember to place them inside the package with your manuscript before sealing it to mail.

I.S.B.N.: International Standard Book Number.

imprint: A specific line of books within a publisher's offerings. Imprints often deal with a specific genre.

indie: A small, independent publisher or music producer. Companies with more than one imprint or label are not indies, nor are their imprints or labels considered indies.

interminable agency clause: This contract clause means an agency has the irrevocable right to receive a commission for any subsequent sales even if it didn't make the sale. P&E agrees with The Authors Guild that this clause should be avoided.

"internidiots": An interesting jumble of words created by Sherry Fine at what is now known as Writers Literary Screenplay Agency. We can only guess whether she meant to combine intern with idiots or internet with idiots. To be honest, we favor the former since it brings a refreshing idea to the Internet that there are people interning to be idiots. We presume that Sherry and the others at the Writers Literary Agency and Marketing Company are now past the intern stage.


joint accounting: When more than one book is sold by an author to a publisher and the books must sell out the advance before any can pay further royalties. In other words, when book one doesn't sell out, but book two becomes a hit, then royalties from book two are used to reach the sell out point for book one before the author receives actual royalties from book two.

juvenile fiction: Fiction generally aimed at the age 12 and under market.


kid-jep: A story in which children are in serious jeopardy, such as being targeted by the antagonist(s).

kill fee: A payment rendered by a publisher to a writer when a story or article, frequently written by request, is no longer needed. Rights to the unpublished work generally revert entirely to the author.

Klingon: A fictional language created by Marc Okrand in response to literary needs. Since its creation, actual stories have been written and published using it.


legitimate publisher: Releases books on a regular basis sufficient to maintain an LMP listing (currently 3/year); pays advance and royalty, royalty only, or one-time fee prior to publication; pays promptly. Must also actively market products, have a distribution agreement with one of the major distributors, put ISBNs on every product, maintain a backlist, maintain reasonable communications with authors, and actually market their products (however minimally) beyond simply listing in a catalog. Contributed by John Savage.

lenient acceptance threshold: A term devised by PublishAmerica to disguise the fact that they accept almost everything submitted for publication. Unfortunately, publication in PA's case does not mean getting published books onto the shelves of actual retailers since PA's primary market is its own authors thus limiting sales to someone unlikely to ever ask for a refund or return.

libel: Written or printed defamation or misrepresentation of a person.

light fantasy: Humorous. High or Contemporary/Urban, with character conflict including scenes capable of bringing a smile to the lips and a lightness to the heart. Compiled by Lenora Rose and Willis E. Couvillier.

Literary Terms: A good listing of literary terms and their definitions.


manuscript format: For most publishers, but not all, this consists of your work printed out on one side of the page with lines double-spaced and one-inch margins all around. Generally the font should be Courier or Times Roman in 12-point pitch as these two are the easiest to read. Avoid using italics and bold print as the publisher isn't interested in those at this stage. You can mark those words meant to be set off like that with an asterisk in front and another asterisk in back or by underlining. The print should be dark as well. Usually the text should be left-justified, but not right-justified. An empty line should occur between paragraphs in which the scene changes or time elapses within the story. New chapters should begin on a new page. Always be sure to learn and use whatever format the publisher wants before printing out your manuscript. There are other formats that some publishers use. More detailed information about formats is listed under Submissions in Preditors and Editors.

Mary Sue (n.): 1. A variety of story, first identified in the fan fiction community, but quickly recognized as occurring elsewhere, in which normal story values are grossly subordinated to inadequately transformed personal wish-fulfillment fantasies, often involving heroic or romantic interactions with the cast of characters of some popular entertainment. 2. A distinctive type of character appearing in these stories who represents an idealized version of the author. 3. A cluster of tendencies and characteristics commonly found in Mary Sue-type stories. 4. A body of literary theory, originally generated by the fanfic community, which has since spread to other fields (f.i., professional SF publishing) because it's so darn useful. The act of committing Mary Sue-ism is sometimes referred to as "self-insertion." Frequently called a Gary Stu when a male character is used. Contributed by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

mass market paperback (mmpb): Paperback books typically found in supermarkets, drug stores, and other miscellaneous outlets, as well as traditional bookstores. Sometimes called rack paperbacks. Commonly smaller in size than hardbacks and inexpensively bound.

MC: Main character.

MG: Middle grade.

MS: Monospace when used with font descriptions.

MSS: Manuscript.

multiple submissions: Sending more than one written work to the same publisher at the same time. Unless the publisher states a willingness to accept these, it's not a good practice. As well, whether you know it or not, you're causing your own work to compete against each other in addition to any other submissions the publisher received from other writers.



on acceptance: Indicates that payment will be made to the author when the submitted manuscript is accepted. Also abbreviated in guidelines as OA.

on publication: Indicates that payment will be made to the author when the submitted and accepted manuscript is published. Also abbreviated in guidelines as OP.

OOP: Out of print.

op-ed (n.): A special feature on the page opposite from the editorial.

orphan: The first line of a paragraph left hanging by itself on the bottom of a page while the rest is on the next page.


paranoidac: Misspelled variant of paranoiac used by New York Literary Agency (NYLA) to describe writers who demonstrate common sense and an appropriate wariness concerning any claims made by NYLA. Used by Sherry Fine - VP Acquisitions (NYLA) in her correspondence to writers.

platform: Generally speaking, a foundation upon which book sales can be anticipated. For example, a traveling speaker can rely upon selling books to some individuals who attend his speaking engagements. Platforms are not limited to just this example. For instance, having a television show or an advice column in the newspaper also provides a platform. Having been the center of a national news story or being a high level politician are also platforms though some, like the news event, are limited in duration.

POA (payment on acceptance): Means that the publisher pays the author for the right to publish upon notifying the author of acceptance.

POD-speak: A derogatory term used to refer to publishers who make deceptive claims. Orgin--Victoria Strauss.

POP (payment on publication): Means that the publisher pays the author for the right to publish upon publishing the article or story. When applied to advances, this causes the advance or a portion of it to be paid out at a later date rather than on signing.

PQN (print quantity needed): This appears to mean nothing more than a short print run. In P&E's opinion, it may be meant as a substitute for POD which has acquired a poor reputation.

preempt: An offer to an author meant to drive other publishers out of the bidding or prevent their acquiring a particular manuscript.

print-on-demand (POD): A recent innovation in publishing where books are printed as they're sold rather than beforehand in quantity. Consequently, there is little or no wastage in printing. However, this is new and there is an opportunity for problems to develop. Currently, authors are being charged by most POD publishers to have their books carried with no guarantee that the POD publisher will attempt to develop a true market. This does not mean that all POD publishers are conducting a scam. What it does mean is that this industry is still in its learning curve in discovering what works and what doesn't.

publish-on-demand (POD): A recent innovation in publishing where books are printed as they're sold rather than beforehand in quantity. Some individuals and businesses have tried to differentiate this from Print-On-Demand, but there is really no difference. The definition they've tried to ascribe to Publish-On-Demand is actually for vanity publishing.

puff: An unpaid endorsement of a book by an editor, writer, celebrity, reviewer, or expert who might be recognized by the intended market and whose endorsement might encourage additional sales for that book. This term used more in the U.K.


query letter: This is a letter used to find out if the publisher or agent is interested in seeing your work. Most publishers state in their guidelines whether they want to be queried first. Generally, magazine publishers are unlikely to want a query unless the work is overly long or extremely unusual. Some book publishers want to be queried. Some don't.


reader: A person who reads unsolicited manuscripts for an editor, usually for the purpose of weeding out those manuscripts that are unwanted.

reading fee: A charge to the author ostensibly for the purpose of defraying the cost of time spent reading the author's manuscript or the hiring of readers. Membership fees are often a cover for reading fees. Too often, these charges may constitute the only business income or a significant portion thereof. Consequently, P&E does not recommend any publisher or agency that uses a reading fee.

ream: Five hundred sheets of paper regardless of size.

romance: A genre that typically involves a romantic situation among several main characters within the main plot of the story. Romantic novels take place in many cross-genres making this a highly adaptable genre on its own.

royalty: Payment by publisher that is an agreed upon percentage of the book's earnings. Contributed by Carol Hayes.

royalty publisher: A publisher who pays the author for the right to publish a book.

RT: Response time. Generally, the turnaround time required to hear back from a publisher based upon when the manuscript was submitted.


S.A.S.E.: Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. This is an envelope addressed to yourself with postage attached. Most publishers prefer you use a #10 envelope. This is a necessity when dealing with almost all publishers if you expect a reply. However, a few are now accepting an E-mail address instead.

sample chapters: Unless otherwise indicated by the guidelines, these are generally meant to mean the first three chapters of a manuscript. It is important that writers understand these provide many important details to the agents and publishers who request them. They are seeking information about how well you handle continuity, chapter breaks, and so forth. If they want the first two and your choice of your strongest chapter, their guidelines will specify that. Otherwise, use common sense and send the first however many chapters or first however many pages the guidelines might specify.

sans serif: Typically means that the font does not have serifs (embellishments) on the ends of the letters. For an example of the difference, view the same word with your word processor in Ariel and Times New Roman. The difference should then stand out. Times New Roman has serifs.

science fantasy: A fictional story in which the science elements are mistaken for magic by the characters.

scope of work (SoW): Generally, a section stating limitations and specifications concerning what the task requires. This may be encountered in some write-for-hire contracts, but is not necessarily limited to those.

self-publishing: publishing is controlled by the author(s) who pay for or do the actual printing, marketing, and distribution of their books and receive all the profits. The author(s) not only own the book and receive all its profits without sharing with other entities, but they also own the ISBN.

SF/F/H: Abbreviation for science fiction/fantasy/horror generally used to indicate what genres the publication accepts as submissions.

shopdropping: The act of leaving a new book not carried by a store on the selves of that store in an attempt to cause that store to carry the book because their customers will then see and want to purchase that book. Authors should be aware that many stores throw away such books because they're not in the store's inventory and can't be sold thus causing further loss to the author's own wallet. This term also applies to the same act conducted with music CDs and the like.

short short: A short story that is larger in word count than flash fiction, but still exceptionally short. Probably best described as 500 to 1,000 words in length.

simultaneous submission or simsub: Sending the same written work to more than one publisher at the same time. Should you do so, you should courteously state so in your cover letter.

slipstream: Genre describing a story that falls in between genres. The story isn't recognizable as any one genre in particular because the transition between genres within the story is almost seamless. Additionally, the removal of one genre or another from the story would cause the story to flounder or fail.

slush pile: Generally refers to submissions that were not requested by either a publisher or agency. Said submissions are also referred to as coming "over the transom."

SPA: Self-published author.

speculative humor: Humorous fiction with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror story as the foundation. Term origin attributed to Mark Rapacioli of Planet Relish.

steampunk: Science fiction covering alternate histories of the Victorian era in which modern inventions are reinvented using Victorian technology and examining its effect on society. Derived from Cyberpunk. Compiled by Willis E. Couvillier.

stepback: The art just inside a book behind the cover.

sub-genre: A further categorization of a particular genre. For instance, space opera and sociological are both sub-genres of the science fiction genre.

subsidy publishing, cooperative publishing, co-publishing, or subvention: An arrangement in which the publisher and writer share in the costs of publication. This is another form of vanity publishing in many instances. The requirement to subsidize publication is not unheard of in academic publishing, but generally not recommended in commercial/non-academic publishing (where there are many paying publishers to try). Unfortunately, many scam artists are involved with this type of publishing. Be wary when dealing with a publisher of this nature. Do research before accepting any contract. Though the Better Business Bureau might have information on the publisher, be sure to check with a writer's organization. Usually the Writers Guild has more and better information.

sword & sorcery/heroic fantasy: Character's conflict include resolution by own skills, usually against evil magic/wizard/demon in a gritty, severe mythical setting. Often resolution of conflict benefits the individual more, with any benefit to a greater good being an incidental side-effect. Also, resolution often requires a hefty dose of luck to succeed. Compiled by Lenora Rose and Willis E. Couvillier.


TAC: Terms and conditions.

tagline: Speaker identification in lines of dialogue. For example: She said, "Welcome!" The "She said" portion is the tagline.

trade paperback, TP: Paperback books typically found in bookstores, often the same size as hardbacks. (As opposed to mass market paperbacks.)

traditional publisher: A deceptive term created by Larry Clopper that was intended to separate his company, PublishAmerica, away from other vanity publishers. Since then, the term has been seized upon by a number of moonbeam operators claiming to be part of the publishing industry. This term is not standard publishing industry terminology. Use of it by a publisher describing themselves should raise a red flag to any writers considering that publisher for their work as it could indicate they're clueless as to how the industry actually operates.

trunk story: A story that's been submitted virtually everywhere and been rejected leaving the writer with little to do but store it away. There it sits until you're famous or a new market opens where you can submit it.

trope: A story element that defines a genre. For example, when one reads of a starship and aliens, the reader thinks science fiction.

tween: Generally refers to books meant for 12 to 14 year-olds.


unsolicited submission: Typically, this means any submission other than a query letter that wasn't requested by the agent or publisher. Generally, the proper way to get around this is to first send a query letter. If the agent or publisher then asks to see the chapters or whole manuscript, it is no longer unsolicited.


vanity gallery - An art gallery that exhibits an artist's work for a fee rather then presenting the work to be sold thus deriving a profit to the artist and themselves through the commission they make. When paid by the artist, they have no incentive to vet the work as marketable and have no incentive to actually promote and sell the work.

vanity publisher: This means that the publisher charges you to publish your book. This is also known as self-publishing by some but that is incorrect. The fee can occur at any point in the process. In other words, vanity publishers sell primarily to their authors who then attempt to sell their "published" work to the reading public. Memberships also count as fees.

vanity radio: A form of radio most frequently found on the Internet where guests have to pay to be featured contrary to how it's done on most, if not all, normal commercial radio stations.

vanity TV: This particular archive on Making Light looks at vanity TV. Yes, that's right. You pay to guest on a TV program.

VirtualSalt: Recommended. "A Glossary of Literary Terms."


What is it?: If you've written something and aren't sure what it is, you might want to use the following: The criteria regarding length for the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and the World Science Fiction Association are:

Under 7,500 words is a short story
7,500-17,500 words is a novelette
17,500-40,000 words is a novella
over 40,000 words is a novel

wholesaler: A wholesaler (Ingram and Baker & Taylor are the biggest) provides warehousing and order fulfillment services for publishers, but no real promotion of titles. Contributed by Victoria Strauss.

widow: A short line occurring at the end of a paragraph that appears on the following page or column.

WIP: Stands for work in progress meaning the manuscript the writer is currently writing.



YADS: A derogatory acronym meaning Yet Another Display Site. Used to denote a website that purports to operate most frequently as a site for publishers to visit and view a writer's written work. Exact orgin unknown.

Yog's Law: Money flows to the writer. --James D. Macdonald. Alternate version: The only place an author should sign a check is on the back, when they endorse it. Editor's note: one of the most important rules any writer should learn.


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