Know your back order from your blurb and your book block from your bleed. Stay ahead of the curve and communicate like a pro with your publishing service provider by learning some common publishing lingo.

Publishing glossary

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 – this is a list of all the sources you have used in the process of researching your work and should include the authors’ names, the titles of the works, the date of publication, the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources.

bleed – a term used for an illustration or image that 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 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

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 15 to 20% 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 RNA 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’ or ‘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 on; the most common formats are ePub, Kindle and PDF (portable document format)

edition – the particular version of a book, magazine or newspaper that is printed at one time

extent – the number of pages in a book; one side of a sheet of paper is counted as one page; both sides of the same sheet is counted as one leaf – one leaf produces two pages

firm sale – books supplied on this basis are paid for upfront by the bookseller and unsold books cannot be returned; most stores these days stock books on a sale-or-return basis (see sale-or-return)

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

half-title – the first page of a book on which the title is displayed, sometimes with a blurb or quotations from reviews

hardcopy – the physical version of a book as opposed to the digital version; hardcopy proofs are printed proofs

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 and is known as an imprint of Maskew Miller Longman (Pty) Ltd. It is also used to refer to the printer’s name and address.

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 enables bookstores and customers to 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 who work in conjunction with book distributors.

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 and layout, 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

permissions – the granting of rights by one publisher to another to quote extracts from a previously published title; sometimes 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; is used in typesetting (normally takes the form of laser printouts or PDFs) and as a final check before printing begins (online digital proofs or physical contract proofs); final proof sign-off is performed by the self-publishing author or, in the case of traditional publishing, key members of the publishing team

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 or blind numbered (no numbering on the pages)

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. Costs for printing one book are 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 colours used in printing to represent the full spectrum of colours: 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. In the self-publishing environment, it generally refers to typesetting and layout, cover design, print-ready PDF file generation, printing and ebook conversion.

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, editing costs, production and printing costs, and other direct costs related to publishing and selling the book.

publicity – the promotion of titles published, often through the sending out of review copies or soliciting coverage in the broadcast media

publisher – this is a person or entity that funds and/or manages the publishing of a book and all its functions such as financing, administration, production, marketing and distribution; in the self-publishing environment, it refers to the company assisting an author to publish his or her book, but includes fewer of the functions mentioned above. The self-publishing author is responsible for funding and marketing the book.

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 open book

references – a list that comes at the end of your book detailing the sources you have cited in the body of your book; it shows readers where they can go to find the original source material

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 applicable

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 (see publicity)

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 8, 16 or 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 are taken that are held as dues until shortly before the publication date

subsidiary rights – rights that are acquired by publishers for subsequent resale, such as serial rights, translation rights, etc.

title page – the page that displays the title, author and publisher’s name at the beginning of the book (often the third page, and usually a right-hand page); 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, printer’s imprint, ISBN and other bibliographical details 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

Production glossary

DTP – an acronym for Desktop Publishing, which involves creating publications on computer by combining text and images through the use of publishing and graphics software

book interior design and stylesheet creation – this involves designing the basic style or ‘personality’ of the book. It includes choosing margin widths, font styles and sizes, word and letter spacing, how the start of new chapters should look, and how other elements should be displayed, such as information boxes, glossaries, footnotes, and so on. Finally, it involves programming these styles so that the text can be flowed in and consistently formatted. Find out more about book interior design.

booksetting / typesetting – formatting the raw text of the book according to the book design spec and preset style sheets, laying out the content, and inserting all images and captions; these days it also involves many other production processes such as preparing images and photos, creating DTP artwork, preflighting documents, and providing print-ready files. Find out more about typesetting and production.

editing – a process whereby the content of the book is checked so that it is grammatically correct and structurally sound (i.e. makes sense and flows well). The work of the editor includes preserving the author’s voice, ensuring that the essence of the work emerges through the edit. The more complex the edit, the more expensive it becomes. Most of the editing happens before the book goes off for typesetting and production. The editor is also responsible for checking the proofs after typesetting to ensure that instructions have been carried out and that no further errors have crept in during the typesetting stage. A ‘second-eye’ proofread is usually performed by a second editor or proofreader who is unfamiliar with the book and can approach the book with ‘fresh eyes’. Find out more about editing.

manuscript evaluation – publishing a book that will sell is not an exact science. However, having your manuscript evaluated means that a publishing professional will go through your work to see whether it would have reader appeal. Depending on the scope of the evaluation, the evaluator will then send you their informed opinion and a review. The review usually contains useful advice on how to improve your manuscript and highlights the manuscripts strengths and weaknesses. Examples are usually given on changes that can be made. Find out more about manuscript evaluation.

proofing / proofreading – this involves checking printed pages of the formatted book to ensure that the text, images and layout are correct. There can be a number of proofs, known as first page proofs, second page proofs, third page proofs, and so on. The final set of proofs, known as the “master set”, is the set of proofs that is approved and signed off by the author indicating that the book is ready to go to print. Proofreading is an editorial function that includes checking for grammar and punctuation problems; inconsistent treatment of numbers, time formats, distance formats, proper noun usage, etc; table of contents page numbering; table and diagram numbers; and so on. Find out more about proofreading.

imagesetting/repro – this involves converting the electronic data of the computer file into ‘film’ that the printer uses to make printing plates. With new technology, some printers no longer need film – they can create printing plates straight from disk (called ‘disk-to-plate’) which saves time and money. Imagesetting is rarely used in today’s modern print environment.

printing – as the term implies, this involves the actual printing of the book. This can be done using either litho printing or digital printing. The minimum print quantity for litho printing is generally 750 units or more (publishers print in the thousands), whereas digital printing has become very economical for quantities less than 750. With digital printing, you can print as few as one copy of a book (see print-on-demand). Find out more about litho and digital printing.

finishing – this refers to the process of folding the flat printed sheets, and then cutting, stitching and glueing them into their covers to create a book. It also refers to any special processes applied to the book, such as foiling and embossing. Finishing includes the type of binding to be used – basically, the finishing required to make the book after the sheets have been printed.  


Download the first three chapters of
Publish Like A Pro

Chapters one to three talk about traditional versus independent publishing, who owns your work, potential earnings, planning your book, planning your writing schedule, how to structure your book, choosing a title, using keywords for better SEO, what you need to include for publishing, how to find a publisher and submit your manuscript, and protecting your copyright. 


Send download link to:

Receive publishing advice and tips from time to time. You can unsubscribe anytime.

To read the full table of contents, visit the book page on by clicking the link below. Scroll down to the "look inside" feature.