Publishing lingo can be tricky. When you’re making the decision about whether to self-publish your work or pursue a traditional publishing house, you may stumble upon some unfamiliar terms. Below we have outlined some of the most commonly used terms in the traditional publishing world to help.
Advance: This refers to the amount of money you receive up front from a traditional publisher. Depending on your deal it can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands, though first time/mid-list authors should expect more modest amounts. The structure of how an advance is paid out varies by house but range from half on signing and half on delivery of the final manuscript to a third on signing, another third on delivery, and the final third on publication. One quick note: it isn’t until your book makes back your advance that you’ll see any royalties whatsoever.
Royalties: Once a traditional publisher has made back the money it advanced you to write the book, you will begin earning royalties. Like an advance, the amount you receive per book sold (to a retailer at the wholesale price) will vary based on many factors, although typically it will be on the smaller side–say 6.5% to 10% for print editions (rates differ for paperbacks versus hardcovers) and 25% for eBooks. Payment schedules will differ based on the publisher, but will typically be doled out on a quarterly or twice-a-year basis.
When you self-publish through Lulu, you keep 80% of the profits on your print books and 90% of the profits on your eBook. To understand revenue vs. royalty vs. profit, we’ve written some brief explanations:
- Revenue: a general term for any money Lulu pays you for book sales
- Royalty: a specific type of revenue that comes from retail sales and is subject to United States of America income tax laws
- Profit: the net income for your work after other expenses have been accounted for, including payment to contributors, pre-production, labor, marketing and overhead costs.
ISBN: This stands for International Standard Book Number. Essentially, it is a 13-digit identifier required if you plan on selling your book in a bookstore or distributing it via a library. It’s often printed on the back cover of a book or the copyright page and every edition (eBook, paperback, hardcover) need its own ISBN.
Laydown date: Your book’s publication date — as in the day it will go on sale. Large publishers will sometimes enforce a “strict laydown date,” meaning that retailers are not allowed to sell the book before it comes out — and may even be subject to legal action copies be accidentally released beforehand.
Galley or ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy): These are the copies that authors/publicists send to media for review. A galley will include the cover and the book’s text with the caveat that reviewers check with the publisher before printing a quote, but won’t include any special effects on the cover like foil or embossing (raised print). An Advance Reader’s Copy costs more to produce and tends to include snazzier extras. In Lulu terms, this is called a proof copy.
OOS: Out of stock. This can apply to either a retailer or the publisher — meaning books are flying off the shelves too fast for the printing press to keep up! In Lulu land, the only time this would happen would be if the author took his or her book out of distribution but a retail partner, such as Amazon, hasn’t taken the listing down from their site yet.
Mass Market: In addition to hardcover and paperback bindings, there’s also what’s known as a “mass market” edition, which is always paperback and of a smaller trim than the dimensions of a “trade paperback.” However, mass market refers to more than just size. Distribution-wise these books are sold outside of bookstores in the aisles of your local big box or grocery stores. This term is specific to traditional publishing.
If there are other terms you’d like to know more about add them to the comments section below and stay tuned for a follow-up post.