Glossary of Publishing Terms

Photo: Timber infested with woodworms; not ancient writing! (Image from Pixabay.)


Add-ons are features and services the author decides to include to enhance his book.

1. Traditional publishers will usually not entertain add-on requests.

2. Predatory self-publishing companies will start at a low price but beware of their add-ons. These companies have many ways to inflate costs by recommending add-ons that are not clearly explained or even necessary. Be sure to clarify. They are very good at this game.

3. DIYers can do anything they want.


These are 'free' copies the publisher sends the author after completion.

1. Traditional publishers will provide a few (usually single-digit) copies for free, but authors can buy more at a preset discount. (Normally between 35% to 50%)

2. Self-publishing companies typically give authors five free copies and more at a discounted price of 30% to 60%, the upper limit applying to purchases of more than 1000 copies.

3. DIYers can own all the copies they print.


Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) will give you a Library of Congress catalogue description, which will be helpful for library sales. It is also an indirect assertion of one's copyright.

1. In traditional publishing, authors don’t have to worry about this. The publishing houses will handle it as part of their administration.

2. Most online self-publishing companies don't apply for CIP (probably due to this explanation:

3. DIY publishers, please read the contents of the link in clause 2 above for clarification


The editor marks up your manuscript in detail, raising any structural concerns or questions they have. They will not focus on the finer points of your writing at this stage but instead on the big picture, examining the overall structure and logic of the novel and its characters and suggesting changes,  additions or deletions for approval by the author.


The content editor reads and edits the manuscript with an eye on the completeness, comprehension, flow and construction of ideas and stories, working paragraph by paragraph and chapter by chapter.


Copyediting is done on a completed manuscript, not a work in progress.) A copyeditor will meticulously review your work and find spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes.


Copyright is the legal right created by law that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution for a limited time (the author's lifetime plus 70 years in many countries.)

1. In the agreement with a traditional publisher, the author surrenders exclusive publishing rights to exploit the works in many forms of expression.

2. The above should not apply to self-publishing contracts since the author pays for everything. But do check the fine print.

3. Copyright need not be registered. Some online companies offer a fee for copyright registration, which lulls many authors. Still, if any part of the author's work (except ‘fair comment’ and no clear definition of this) has been lifted off someone else's work, this is no protection. So, keep your work original.


This is the control over the content (language, storytelling, etc.) and the look and feel the author dreams of.

1. There may be a significant loss of creative control with a traditional publisher, as the house would want to maximise its return on investment. 

2. With online self-publishing companies, your content will be safe. (They'll probably, only add a comma if they are paid for it. But quality is something else. Some of what we've seen is awful, but some are impressive. Please do your research and read reviews of their work.

3. DIYers have total control over their product.


Distribution is the process of placing books in shops for retail and is the most expensive part of bookselling.

1. Traditional publishers (all over the world) outsource book distribution to companies and wholesalers, for which they may pay 60% or more of the RRP. Distribution is easier for them because they are an established brand and have many years of goodwill.

2. Self-publishing companies do not hold stock but use POD organisations like Lightning Resources for printing and Ingrams as distributors and charge all costs to the author.

3. DIY publishers may employ local distributors to place books in shops, but that would mean they’d earn 60% less on every book sold. (Setting the right RRP is very important.)


E-books are meant for reading on computers and other electronic devices. They come in many formats: PDF, epub, mobi and others.

1. Traditional publishers acquire e-book rights with other subsidiary rights when the agreement is signed, but authors will be paid a predetermined percentage as a royalty. E-book sales for them would be good since they publish thousands of books and represent many A-list authors.

2. Self-publishing companies also produce e-books and pay out royalties, but don't expect huge sales figures if you're not an A-list author.

3. DIY publishers may use third-party contractors to produce their e-books (unless they are tech-savvy.).


This refers to opportunities for one-on-one discussions with publishing professionals.

1. With traditional publishers, authors usually will have some contact (face-to-face or otherwise) with someone from the house.

2. With many self-publishing companies, authors may never have face-to-face contact with anyone other than the sales rep (if that).

3. DIY publishers should speak to friends with know-how (but it's a long learning curve).


A galley copy is an advance copy of your book that's not finalised. Usually, galleys are the version of your book that comes right before final proofreading. In the modern context, galleys are usually PDFs created for proofreading but may be used as promotional and review copies.


A ghostwriter is someone hired to write a book (or other text) credited to another person (the author). Usually, the ghostwriter remains anonymous, and there is typically a confidentiality clause in the contract between the parties. But sometimes, they are acknowledged by the author and publisher for their services, although often diplomatically called something else, like "researcher".


Some predatory (big) online self-publishing companies are notorious for the hard sell. Once they get your contact, expect relentless harassment by telephone or email until you sign a contract.


The International Standard Book Number is a 13-digit number that identifies every book worldwide. This is essential for all books that are sold in shops.

1. This will be taken care of in traditional and self-publishing companies.

2. DIY publishers will have to do this themselves, but it's not that difficult.


Leading (pronounced as in the metal ‘lead’) is the space between adjacent lines of type. In typesetting, during the pre-computer days, leading was the thin strips of lead (or aluminium) inserted between lines of type to control the vertical space between the lines.


A line editor looks at the creative content, writing style and language. She focuses on the way language is used to communicate with the reader. Is it clear, fluid and pleasant to read? Does it convey the right atmosphere, emotion, and tone? Are the words precise? She also hunts down generalisations, overuse of certain words, and clichés. Line editing is all about enhancing the style.


This refers to listing the author’s book on prominent e-commerce sites like, Apple’s iBook store, etc.

1. Large traditional publishers will do it as a matter of course because they are essential retail outlets and for branding. They get traction due to their A-list authors.

2. Online self-publishers primarily use this feature to flatter the author into dreaming of world fame, massive sales and outrageous revenue. In reality, it’s a lie. Sales from these channels are very low as the new author is unknown. Typically, name recognition sells books.

3. DIYers are advised not to waste time with Amazon and other online giants. It’s good for vanity, not the wallet. Sell your books on social media.


Traditional publishers may nominate stand-out works they produced for literary prizes, and these are more easily accepted because their books are perceived as having gone through a 'pre-selection' process. Critical acclaim and sales of translation rights, too, are more likely


This includes all methods of promoting your book.

1. Large traditional publishers absorb marketing costs for books by their big-name authors. Lesser authors are expected to sell with the prestige of the house brand. So, lesser authors must promote their own books.

2. Self-publishing companies do hardly any marketing, except for their own services, besides listing the author’s book on Amazon and the like (see under 'listing' above).

3. DIY publishers must clearly understand that they must sell their own books.


This is the widespread respect and admiration perceived by authors due to acceptance by a major publishing house.


This is often called POD, a system which allows publishing houses not to keep stock of books but depend on a POD printer (like Lightning Resources) to produce the book only when there’s a sale.

1. Traditional publishers typically offer this service for books that have gone out of print, which they have preserved in digital form. Espresso Book Machines use this technology.

2. POD is the preferred method of distribution for many self-publishing companies. This is good for them since they only need to store digital copies, but not for authors because the retail price becomes very high, and bookshops are generally reluctant to stock the books at that price.


A publisher's professional team will include editors, proofreaders and designers. Many online self-publishers, though, lack professional teams. Authors need to research publishing companies before signing on.


After copy editing, the manuscript is sent to a designer for typesetting. The work is printed (or displayed on the screen) and is ready for publication after proofreading, which is the final quality check and tidy-up. A proofreader looks for consistency in language usage and presentation, typos, accuracy in text, images and layout errors but is not responsible for editing the author's work.


This is the process of using computers and software in book production.

1. Authors don’t have to worry about this aspect with traditional and self-publishing companies. It will be taken care of.

2. DIY publishers will have to, well ... do it themselves. (Some learning and investment in software will be involved, or this work could be outsourced.)


Quality is what most authors pay for but only sometimes get.

1. With a traditional publisher, the quality of the product is apparent. It's their house style. (It is usually competent but not excellent.)

2. With online self-publishing companies, the final product quality could be better despite the author's high cost. (Again, read Google reviews first).

3. With DIY publishing, the author has complete control, and quality depends only on them.


Traditional publishers may or may not accept your manuscript for many reasons – the book might not fit the publisher's niche, your book is too narrowly targeted, or it is on a topic that does not sell too much for this publisher, etc. The author, the book and the publisher must match. With self-publishing companies, there is little chance of rejection (except for illegal content).


These are monies paid by publishers to authors for selling their books.

1. this will typically be around 8% to 12% of the RRP for traditional publishers since they absorb all the upfront and marketing costs.

2. For self-publishing companies, this can be as low as 10% (if sold on Amazon) and 25% if sold on the publisher's site. 

3. For DIY authors, the royalty issue does not arise. 


RRP is the Recommended Retail Price

1. For traditional publishing, the publisher determines the selling price based on market forces.

2. Self-publishing companies also set prices, which can be too high for the local market.

3. DIYers set their prices based on the market.


1. These rights can be sold to third parties, like for movies, television, radio, translations, e-books, adaptations and so on. 
1. Traditional publishers would acquire these rights from authors when they take on the job. But authors will share proceeds from any sell-on. This is fair because the publishers would assume all publishing costs and have all the contacts anyway.

2. Online self-publishing companies do not acquire subsidiary rights.

3. Very few DIYers would know how to exploit subsidiary rights apart from dreaming of making movies based on their books.


These are costs incurred for publication.

1. In traditional houses, the publisher assumes all costs for this.

2. With self-publishing companies, the author entirely bears this cost.

3. DIYers are under no illusions about who is paying for everything.


The perceived feeling of recognition and affirmation by authors as a result of their work being accepted by a 'big house’.



PAKKA Publishing Overview
PAKKA Publishing Solutions
Why Self-Publish
A Guide to Book Publishing
Traditional Publishing
Self-Publishing Online
DIY Publishing
The New PAKKA Solution


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Write and Publish Poetry
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PAKKA Editing Services


Glossary of Publishing Terms