Glossary of Publishing Terms

Like any industry, publishing is heaving with jargon, so here’s a selection of terms you might stumble across.


#/#: The format used in sending print orders, where the # is replaced with the number of colours to be used. 1/1 would mean ‘black and white on both sides’, as per a standard Mono title. Covers are usually 4/0, i.e. CMYK on the front, but plain white on the underside.

A format: A common size of paperbacks in the UK. (Paper sizes vary by printer, but usually 110 x 178 mm.)

ACE: Arts Council England – a funding body.

Advance: In full, ‘advance against royalties’, a sum of money paid up front to an author, against which royalties are deducted.

Advance copies: See ARCs.

Aggregator: A company that acts as a mediator, disseminating information or files. Most commonly used to describe ‘data aggregators’ or ‘eBook aggregators’.

AI sheets (AIs): Advance information sheets – a single page containing all of a title’s bibliographic information, used primarily (less and less frequently, due to the marches of technology) by sales reps to brief booksellers about forthcoming titles.

ARCs: Advance reading copies – usually uncorrected (or edited but unproofed) copies of forthcoming titles, issued months ahead of publication and dispersed amongst reviewers.

ASIN: Amazon Standard Identification Number. Amazon does not require publishers to use an ISBN and issues all titles an ASIN.

ASR: Automatic Stock Replenishment – an arrangement with a distributor or printer to automatically order reprints of titles when they dwindle to a certain threshold.

Auction: A rights sales technique in which agents invite bids from rival publishers.


BA: Shorthand for the Booksellers Association.

Backlist: Titles published in an earlier season, usually no longer a publisher’s main focus. Increasingly publishers are rebranding ‘backlist’ as ‘core list’.

B format: A common size of paperbacks in the UK – ‘the literary size’. (Paper sizes vary by printer, but usually 129 x 198 mm.)

Biblio: A trademark name of a bibliographic management system, often in extended use to refer to a system that propagates bibliographic data.

Bibliographic: All the information relating to a title.

BIC: Book Industry Communication. Often seen in the context of BIC Codes, which are subject categories. For a long time the preferred categorisation method, BIC Codes will become obsolete in February 2024, with Thema becoming the preferred replacement.

Binding: The method of attaching a book block to its cover; also refers to the format, i.e. paperback or hardback.

Bio: Shorthand for ‘biography’.

Blad/eBlad: Book Layout and Design (or electronic-). Historically a sample of a title, showing its layout; now more commonly a digital representation of a forthcoming title’s layout, made to look 3D.

Bleed: The part of an image that extends over the trim line of a book, so that there is no white margin. Also refers to the small margin (usually 3mm in the UK) around a page/cover added for this purpose.

Blurb: The promotional copy on a book’s cover – the term refers just as frequently to the book’s description as to short reader recommendations on covers, which are also often called Puffs.

Boilerplate: Heard most frequently in contract discussions, this refers to the standard version of something – so a publisher’s boilerplate contract is one that contains standard clauses and terms.

Bulk: A production term, referring to the thickness of a paper and how this affects the spine width.


Cased: That is, hardback.

C format: Also known as a ‘trade paperback’, this is a slightly less common size of paperbacks in the UK, usually reserved for high-brow titles or smart first editions. (Paper sizes vary by printer, but usually 135 x 216 mm.)

CMS: Content Management System – systems that control digital platforms or oversee production processes.

Co-edition (Co-ed): A title that has been produced by two publishers.

Colophon: A publisher’s logo. Historically also a term for the Copyright page.

Consignment: Books shipped to and held by a retailer, but which are only paid for once sales have been made.

Contract publishing: An arrangement where a press is paid by an author to publish a book. Versions of contract publishing have become more and more common, and is commonly seen marketed as Hybrid publishing.

Copyright page: The page at the front (or, especially in art books, at the back) of a book, which bears a publisher’s name and address, the printer’s details and copyright statements.

Core list: See Backlist.

CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Usually databases or spreadsheets held by publishers to oversee and record transaction details and make notes.

Crossover: Books that appeal to readers of different genres or reading ages – especially to adult or children’s markets.


Demy: A common size of hardbacks in the UK. (Paper sizes vary by printer, but usually 138 x 216 mm.)

Desk copies: See Inspection copies.

Discount: The cut that publishers offer to bookshops or wholesalers.

Distributor: The warehousing company that holds a publisher’s books – this is usually an exclusive arrangement. Find out more here.

dpi: Dots Per Inch – a measure of resolution. Most printers will ask for ‘high resolution files’, which tends to mean at last 300dpi.

DRM: Digital Rights Management: the protections that publishers add to e-editions to prevent piracy.

Dues: Pre-orders of titles.


Earn out: If an author has been paid an Advance, their advance has been ‘earned out’ once royalties exceed the advance paid. At this point publishers sometimes choose to pay a Refresher.

EDI: Electronic Data Interchange – a system by which companies communicate. This is most commonly seen in distribution – where, for instance, large retailers can communicate automatically with distributors.

End matter: Any text or pictures coming after the main body of a book.

Errata: A list of errors – usually in a text that has already been printed.

Exclusive submission: When an agent approaches only one publisher – usually used to describe the resulting deal.

Extent: How many pages a book has.


Facing pages: A typesetting term – proofs where you can see pages as they appear in a book, one on the left, one on the right. Also called ‘2 Up’ or Spreads.

Fair dealing (or fair use): Copyright exemptions. More information here.

Folio: An individual page (or page number).

Fore-edge: The right edge of a book. (Often discussed in terms of Spredges.)

Format: The shape, size and Binding of a book.

French flaps: The flaps on a paperback cover.

Frontlist: A publisher’s forthcoming or recently published titles.

Front matter: Any text or pictures coming before the main body of a book.

FSC: Forestry Stewardship Council. Most printers will be able to advise on which materials are FSC certified, and are therefore considered more sustainable.


Galleys: Now largely considered an archaic term, this refers to the typeset Proofs of a book, particularly those in single pages, rather than Facing pages.

Grant of rights: The part of an author contract that details the specific rights they are granting to a publisher. Find out more about contracts here.

gsm: Grams per Square Metre – a common paper grading scale. The majority of trade papers are 70–90gsm, although titles with more premium finishes may use a higher gsm. It is worth noting that a higher gsm does not necessarily mean it will be thicker – see also Bulk.

Gutter: The margin that is glued to the spine.


Half-title: A page that bears only the book’s title (see also Title page).

Hard proofs: Real printed proofs, as opposed to digital Soft proofs. See also Proofs.

House style: A publisher’s preferred editorial rules, governing spellings where there are several common variants, a preference for the use of -ise or -ize (realise/ize, organise/ize, and so on), etc.

Hybrid publishing: A type of publishing where an author pays for publication – either in full or under an agreement where the publisher also covers some costs.


Imprint: Each of the distinct lists within a publisher – divisions to group similar titles or focuses. Sometimes used to refer to a publisher’s information, and, by extension, the Copyright page.

Inspection copies: A gratis copy sent to an academic or institution for consideration for a set course text.

IP: Intellectual property.

IPG: Shorthand for the Independent Publishers Guild.

ISBN: International Serial Book Number – the identifying number for a book.

ISSN: International Standard Serial Number – the identifying number for a journal or magazine.


Kerning: A typesetting term – the space between characters.


Lamination: The finish on a book’s jacket, usually matt, gloss or soft touch.

Leading: A typesetting term – the space between lines.

Lead time: How long it will take a printer to deliver books to a publisher’s warehouse.

Legal deposit: The books a publisher is required by law to send to the copyright libraries. Find out more here.

Limp: Another term for paperbacks.

List: A publisher’s (or imprint’s) titles.

List price: See RRP.

Litho (lithographic): A type of printing, which uses rollers to transfer print onto paper. This term is often used to say ‘not digitally printed’, and is more common on longer Print runs.


Metadata: The bibliographic information about a book, often used in terms of a Biblio feed.

Midlist: A term used to describe books that sell relatively well but aren’t bestsellers.

Mono: Monochrome – black and white.

MMP: Mass Market Paperback – usually A format in the UK.

Moral rights: The rights writers have – i.e. to be identified as the author of a work.

MS/MSS: Manuscript(s).


Net Book Agreement (NBA): A former law that meant retailers had to sell books at their RRP. This was scrapped in 1995; publishers often discuss this in terms of the retail revolution it led to, with books sold at huge discounts to readers.

Net receipts: A contractual term meaning ‘after deductions’. Contracts often stipulate a royalty as X% of the RRP or of net receipts. More information here.

NYP: Shorthand for Not Yet Published.


Offset: A type of Litho printing.

ONIX: Online Information Exchange – the international standard for formatting bibliographic information for Biblio systems.

OP: Shorthand for Out of Print.

Option: A form of placeholder rights that are bought by a production company while they explore the possibility of producing a film or TV version of the book.

Orphan works: Books where the copyright holder or owner of the IP cannot be traced.

OS/OOS: Shorthand for Out of Stock.

Overs: Where a printer delivers more books than ordered. See Run on.


PA: Shorthand for the Publishers Association.

Packager: A sort of publisher who creates many different variations of the same title – say, gift editions of the same book about different football clubs – or who buys pre-made titles to sell on as their own.

Pack shot: A digital mockup that renders a book in 3D, showing its front cover and spine (or Fore-edge).

Perfect bound: A paperback that has the pages glued straight on to the spine (as opposed to being sewn).

Plate section: A colour section, usually in full colour and on different papers, Tipped in to a Mono book.

PLR: Public Lending Right.

PLS: Publishers Licensing Society.

POD: Print on demand.

POS: Marketing materials (e.g. posters) provided by publishers for in-store promotion of titles.

PostlimsEnd matter.

PPC: Printed Paper Case – hardbacks which have a printed hard cover (as opposed to cloth-bound books).

Pre-empt: When a publisher makes an offer on a book in order to stop other publishers from having the chance to bid.

PrelimsFront matter.

Prepub: Things that need to be accomplished before a book is published.

Price points: The standard RRPs used for books, e.g. £7.99, £9.99.

Print runs: How many copies in a printing.

Print scales: When a publisher and printer agree rates for printing, so that the publisher doesn’t need to attract quotations for each job. Usually these agreements are exclusive, and the publisher can’t then print elsewhere for an agreed time.

Pro forma: An invoice that should be paid before books (or services) are supplied.

Proofs: Pages of a book that are prepared for careful checking before being sent to print. See also Soft proofs and Hard proofs.

Proposal: Where a document with, say, chapter summaries and an overview is supplied as a submission, rather than an excerpt of a finished work. More common in academic, translation or non-fiction publishing.

Pub date: That is, publication date.

Puffs: Reader reviews on book jackets; also confusingly known as Blurbs.

Pulping: That is, destroying (and recycling) stock that is no longer wanted.


Recto: The right-hand page of a book (as opposed to the Verso).

Refresher: Once a title has Earned out, a publisher can choose to pay a second (usually smaller) advance against further royalties.

Reissue: That is, a new edition – usually more than a straight reprint.

Reps: A publisher’s sales representatives.

Returns: Unsold stock that is returned by a retailer, where it has been sold on a ‘sales or return’ basis.

Reversion: When, for various reasons, a publisher returns the rights to the author.

RP: Shorthand for Reprinting.

RRP: Recommended retail price. Retailers are free to choose their own price, but most books printed in the UK have a suggested price on the jacket.

Running header/footer: The headings at the top (and bottom) of each page in a book. Headings are often either the book’s name or the author’s name on one side, the chapter title on the other; titles are less common in the footer, which is more often used for the page number.

Run on: Printing agreements traditionally stipulate a price for the first X copies, with multiples of, say, 100, added on top at a cheaper rate. The term is also occasionally applied to Overs, where a printer delivers more books than were ordered. (Many printers’ terms and conditions will stipulate a Tolerance of around 5–10%, meaning that they can under- or over-deliver that amount of copies. So if a publisher orders 2,000 copies of a book, this printer would be allowed to deliver anywhere between 1,800 and 2,200 copies and charge accordingly. This is less common – even unusual – for digital or short-run printers.)


Saddle stitched: Stapled.

SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals. A United Nations initiative that publishers can commit to – a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.’

Self-publishing: Where an author makes their own work available. Examples range from self-publishing in eBook format only to some versions of Hybrid publishing. Some self-publishers refer to themselves as being independently published (in that they are published independent of a publisher), but the trade largely draws a distinction.

SfEP: Society for Editors and Publishers.

Showround copies: Also ‘samples’, the copies a publisher sends out to their sales reps, which they then show to bookshops and key buyers.

Signatures: Also known as sections, multiples of pages that are printed and folded down in the printing process before being bound and cut. In B format printing it is most common to see signatures of 32, although traditionally half-signatures of 16 are tolerated. In digital printing many printers can work to multiples of 4.

Simultaneous submissions: When an author or agent submits to many publishers at the same time.

Slush pile: A rather condemning term used to describe the submissions pile of unsolicited manuscripts.

SoA: The Society of Authors.

Soft proofs: Digital proofs, as opposed to printed Hard proofs. See also Proofs.

Spec: A book’s print specifications.

Spreads: See Facing pages.

Spredges: Sprayed edges – where a printer sprays a colour or pattern on to the sides of a book, usually on the head or Fore edge.

Sub agent: An agent who sells rights on behalf of a publisher.

SYP: The Society of Young Publishers.


Terms: Clauses in a contract, where agents want to ‘talk terms’; the time in which an invoice has to be paid; or the agreed Discount a publisher grants a bookseller or wholesaler.

Territory: The part(s) of the world in which a book can be sold. The most common rights are UK & Commonwealth or World English. Sometimes these rights are suffixed by exclusions – particularly North America, e.g. ‘World English (excluding USA and Canada)’.

Tipped in: The process by which a separate section is printed and sliced into a book.

Title page: The main page with the title, the author’s name and publisher’s name and colophon at the start of a book. See also Half-title.

Tolerance: See Run on.

Tracking: See Kerning.

Trim/TPS: The size of a book’s page.

TS: Typeset(ter): Used to address notes to the typesetter, or to refer to typeset proofs.


Verso: The left-hand page of a book (as opposed to the Recto). Also a well-known independent publisher.


WIP: Work in Progress.

Anything to add? If you think we’ve missed something, or you’ve come across a term you don’t know, help improve this list and drop us a line!

Last updated: 30th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press