Know Your Vocabulary

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Hello Everyone,

Just thought I would drop a line and explain some of the publishing terms and abbreviations you may see when you are conversing with writers, editors or publishers.

Dictionary, Know Your Vocabulary, Rita Writes History

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, it is important that you’re familiar with these words. I’ll add to it whenever the occasion arises.

Here goes (By the way, you’ll find out soon enough that this is in no particular order…so spare me a little folly):

BIO – a few brief lines about yourself (written in 3rd Person) that will go at the bottom of your article, or at the back of your book.

Example: Sarah Jones is a fiction writer based in Massachusetts. Prior to becoming a writer, she was a Music Teacher of 13 years.

Deadline: That particular date when your work must be in the editor’s hands.

Graphic Novel – a term used by librarians, educators and booksellers to indicate a publishing format…books written and illustrated in the style of a comic book. They have also been described as novels consisting of “sequential art,” because they have a series of illustrations that, when viewed in order, tell a story.

Guidelines – The description/document that explains what a particular editor of a particular publishing house expects and requires in terms of books, queries, proposals, word lengths, etc. Some editors still require a #10 envelope for guidelines, but most guidelines can be retrieved from the publisher’s website.

Hook – The first paragraph of your query letter or article that grabs or hooks the editor’s attention and makes him/her want to read more.

Elevator Pitch – a description that tells all about your book in one sentence…or in the approximate amount of time you’d have to pitch your book if you suddenly found yourself in an elevator with an agent.

MC – Main Character

MG – Middle Grade, where the target is for children from ages 9 to 12.

PB – Picture Book. Sometimes it is easier if you simply refer to your project as a Picture Book instead of using the abbreviation, because if you don’t specify, your meaning my be misconstrued, and the publisher may think you are referring to a Paper Back.

Nonfiction Book Proposal – A selling tool for your nonfiction book. I’ve seen proposals that had up to seventy pages! The content includes the book’s description, the competition, the market, an outline, and a bio.

Unsolicited MS/MSS – a manuscript you send that the editor has not requested to see.

Query – A type of sales letter you send to sell your book/manuscript idea to an editor. This letter showcases your writing style and abilities, and is expected to be well-written and error-free.

‘Tweens – those children dubbed by marketing authorities as no longer young children but not quite teenagers. These prepubescent readers land somewhere between the ages of 8 to 12, give or take a year or two on either end. Whatever the exact age range, most experts agree that children are “tweens” by the American fifth grade (approximately age 10) at which time they typically begin to reject more childlike images and associations and aspire to be more like a teenager.

YA – Young Adult, which means that the target is for children ages 12 to 18.

WIP – Work-in-Progress
Simultaneous Submissions – A simultaneous submission is when you send your book or query letter to more than one publishing house or agent at the same time. Many publishers/editors forbid simultaneous submissions, so by all means, check the guidelines before you do it. But even if guidelines indicate that it is indeed permissible, be sure you alert each editor/publisher just the same.

Multiple Submissions – This is when you send more than one article or story to the publisher/editor (under separate cover, of course).

There are more terms and abbreviations in the publishing world, and I will add to this list from time to time.

Best wishes and happy writing!


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