As a self-publishing author, it is helpful to understand some of the terminology that you're likely to come across. We have included some of the more frequently used terms:
acknowledgements – recognition given to those who have contributed to the book in some way; usually included at the front of a book in the prelim pages (see prelim pages)
appendix – material appearing at the end of the book which is not part of the main text
back orders – orders taken before a title is published or while it is unavailable – these orders are then fulfilled when stock becomes available; sometimes called 'dues' or 'pre-orders'
barcode – this is generated from the ISBN number. Bar code scanning is used by most retailers and distributors in the sales and distribution chain for more effective product and pricing management.
bibliography – blah blah blah
bleed – a term used for an illustration or image which extends beyond the trimmed page; the purpose of bleed is to ensure that if the trimming of the page is fractionally out, the image will still run off the page and there will be no white page edges; most printers insist on a 3-5 mm bleed area for all images that extend beyond the trimmed page - this is especially important to remember when designing your cover which will usually have a full colour image or background right up to the page edge
blurb – the brief description of a book that appears on the back of a book or dustcover.
book block – the sewn or perfect bound pages of a hardback book before they are cased in.
bookstore (bricks-and-mortar or online) – this is where most customers buy their books. Bookstores take 40-45% of the retail price to stock your book. Online bookstores can take up to 55% of retail and includes all the distribution costs.
consignment – books sold on consignment (usually to a retailer) are paid for by the retailer only when they are sold
counterpack – a presentation pack comprising a small number of copies of a book, used for point-of-sale merchandising and intended to stand beside the bookshop till to encourage impulse buying.
distribution – this is the physical act of getting the book from the publisher’s warehouse to the customer. Distribution usually includes the warehousing, packaging, invoicing, and shipping of the book. The cost of distribution usually accounts for 20 to 25% of the retail price.
distribution centre – a location where orders from booksellers are received and processed and where books are stored and dispatched. One distribution centre can service the requirements of many publishers and imprints. Two well-known distribution centres in South Africa are Booksite Afrika and On-The-Dot Distribution.
distribution channel – all the parties involved in getting a book from the publisher to the customer.
dues – orders taken before a title is published or while it is unavailable – these orders are then fulfilled when stock is again available. They are often called ‘back orders’ and sometimes 'pre-orders'.
dumpbin – a presentation stand, usually containing 20-40 copies of a book, used for point-of-sale merchandising in bookshops.
ebook – this is a book in digital format that can be downloaded to your computer to be read or printed out, or to a portable eBook reader which you can carry around with you and read when convenient. eBooks come in different formats, depending on which device they will be read. The most common format at this stage is still PDF (portable document format).
edition – the whole (usually first) printing of a title. See new edition, first edition.
extent – the number of pages in a book.
firm sale – books supplied on this basis are paid for upfront by the bookseller and unsold books cannot be returned.
first edition – first printing of a book; occasionally gains substantial secondhand value if the book or its author become especially collectable.
format – the shape of a book defined by its height and depth. [Rach, somewhere on the site we should give the different book formats available – we should break them down into SA and international as they differ quite a bit]
half-title – the first page of a book, on which the title is displayed, sometimes with a blurb or quotations from reviews.
hardcopy – blah blah blah
imprint – a brand name under which a work is published. A publishing company may have multiple imprints; the different imprints are used by the publisher to market the work to different demographic consumer segments. Imprints may also exist as a result of one publisher taking over smaller publishing companies. For instance, Phumelela Books, previously a publishing company on its own, has now been taken over by Maskew Miller Longman (Pty) Ltd as is known as an imprint of Maskew Miller Longman (Pty) Ltd. It is also used to refer to the printer’s name and address which by law must appear in all printed books.
ISBN – an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique identification code given to each book, ebook or audiobook. The ISBN identifies each title and edition of that title to allow for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors. Each form of a particular book (e.g. paperback, hardcover, ebook, audiobook) will have its very own ISBN, as well as each new edition of that particular book. This is so that bookstores and customers can order the correct edition of a book in the correct format.
ISSN – abbreviation for International Standard Serials Number, the equivalent of the ISBN in the journal and magazine publishing business.
legal deposit – legal deposit is a legal obligation that South African publishers (or producers) of all types of documents, including audio-visual publications, have to deposit a certain number of copies of each of their published documents to designated places of legal deposit. The purpose of legal deposit is to collect, preserve and make available to present and future users the documents that contain the intellectual and cultural heritage of the country.
margin: the white space surrounding a page of type.
marketing – this is the act of getting the word out there, of making people aware that the book exists; it includes sending the book to magazines and publications for review; setting up book signing events; issuing press releases; and the physical act of taking a copy of the book to bookstores and encouraging them to stock the book. Many publishing houses make use of book marketers and/or sales representatives. There are a few book marketers and distributors in South Africa who specialise in bookstore distribution and work in conjunction with book distributors (see Distribution).
net, nett – system of pricing whereby no retail price is recommended by the publisher; it is the price that books are sold by the publisher to a wholesaler, or book marketer and distributor, and are not subject to further discount; in South Africa, author royalties of 10-15% are often calculated on this amount.
new edition – a reprint of an existing title incorporating substantial textual alterations, or republication of a title which has been out of print.
page proof – proof of the made-up pages in a book, often used not only to check accuracy of typesetting but also as an advance promotional tool.
perfect binding – adhesive binding in which the individual pages of a book are glued together as opposed to section sewn or thread-sewn.
permissions – the granting of rights by one publisher to another to quote extracts from a previously published title; under normal circumstances a permission fee is charged.
picture research – the process of finding suitable illustrations for a book, normally involving contacts with photo libraries, art galleries, museums and so on.
prelim pages – the pages at the front of the book not part of the actual body; usually consists of half title, title, contents, acknowlegements, foreword, etc.
proof – general description of any kind of check of accuracy and quality control of a book’s content; might be used of typesetting (when normally takes the form of a photocopy), of the reproduction of illustrations, or as a final check before printing (see ozalid).
proofreader – person either employed in a publishing house or as a freelancer to read text proofs and ensure accuracy of typesetting.
pop-up – type of novelty book where a three dimensional image is created when the book is opened.
prelims – universal abbreviation for the preliminary pages of a book before the start of the main text, often numbered in roman numerals.
print run – the number of copies printed in a single impression.
print-on-demand (POD) books – these are books that are digitally printed, only when actual orders are placed. Digitally printing one book is very high, so little profit is made using this method. The advantage, however, is that you have access to a global market (a print-on-demand printer anywhere in the world can hold your digital file and print the book the moment an order is placed), and it means that you do not have to carry stock. This option is ideal for small publishers or publishers wishing to keep out-of-stock or previously out-of-print titles in circulation.
process colours – the four colour colours used in printing to represent the full spectrum: cyan (blue), yellow, magenta (red) and black – also known as CMYK.
production – the department within a publishing house responsible for print and paper buying and cost and quality control; in some cases has responsibility for typographic design also.
profit – this is the distributable income derived from the sale of a book after all expenses have been paid. Expenses include: reseller’s discount, book marketer’s and distributor’s fee, production and printing costs, other direct costs related to selling the book.
publicity – the department within a publishing house which organises ‘free’ promotion of titles published, often through the sending out of review copies or soliciting coverage in the broadcast media; often nowadays in larger firms a part of the marketing department.
publisher – this is a person or entity that funds and manages the production, marketing and distribution of a book. They also handle all the financial and administrative functions involved in production and distribution.
recommended retail price – the price at which the publisher recommends that a book be sold; the royalty payment to the author is sometimes calculated on this amount - in South Africa it is usually calculated on the trade price of the book (see trade price and royalty).
recto – the right-hand page of an opening in a book.
references – blah blah blah
reminder – a publisher’s overstock sold off cheaply for resale through bargain bookshops etc.
reprint – a second or subsequent printing of a title with minimal alteration to the text.
retail price – this is the selling price of the book, including VAT if appicable.
returns – books returned unsold from bookshops to publishers for full credit.
review copy – advance copy of a book sent out without charge to the press or other media for the purposes of review.
royalty – a royalty is the commission paid to an author whenever a book is sold. Royalties in traditional publishing are usually 7.5% of the retail price (international) or 10-15% of the trade price (South Africa) but can differ from publisher to publisher. They are generally paid every six months. While royalties are common with traditional publishing, they do not apply to self-publishing. This is because self-publishing is a business venture undertaken by the author in which the author reaps all the profits gained from the sale of each book.
sale or return – this is when books are supplied to bookstores on the basis that if they are not sold, they will be returned to the publisher for a full refund
section – the unit of folded pages produced by the printing or folding machine, most often 32 pages, which is then sewn together to make a book block or gathered for perfect binding.
spot varnish – the varnishing of only a particular part of a cover or dust jacket for visual impact.
subscription – the process whereby a title is sold to booksellers in advance of publication and orders taken which are held as dues until shortly before the publication date.
subsidiary rights – rights which are acquired by publishers for subsequent resale, such as serial rights, translation rights, etc.
title page – the page, normally the third page in a book, which displays the title, author and publisher’s name. The half-title (see Half title) is normally the first page
title verso – the reverse of the title-page, on which the publisher’s name and address, printing history, ISBN and other bibliographical details, and the printer’s imprint are customarily printed.
trade price – this is the price the publisher sells the book to the bookstore at. The trade price is usually the pre-VAT retail price less the store discount of 40%. The store discount can vary from store to store.
typeface – the font used for the text of a book. Many hundreds of typefaces exist and are continually being designed, of which only about twenty are used with any regularity for books.
UV varnish – a varnish cured by ultraviolet light normally applied to covers and jackets as part of the printing process.
verso – the reverse of a page in a book, thus the left-hand page when the book is open.
wholesaler – someone who buys books in bulk from the publisher and supplies single copies or small orders to booksellers.