ADVANCE: A secret code signalling to the marketing department whether or not to promote a title.
ADVANCE COPY: A bound book that when opened by an editor will instantly expose an embarrassing mistake.
AGENT: An intellectual property and contract law specialist who is unable to pass the bar.
ANTHOLOGY: An artifact that has been superseded by stacks of velo-bound photocopied pages, usually unnumbered and with text cut off at the edges, known as CLASS READERS.
AUTHOR BIO: A piece of creative writing whose length varies inversely with the attractiveness of the person depicted in the AUTHOR PHOTO.
AUTHOR TOUR: A hazing ritual intended to make authors compliant to their publishers.
AUTHOR’S DISCOUNT: A penalty charged authors who are unable to wheedle sufficient masses of free copies, purportedly for the purpose of promotion, from their editors.
BACKLIST: Unsold inventory.
BACKMATTER: Unread verbiage. (See also SPINE)
BEST SELLER: A book purchased for display.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A list of out-of-print books found in a book that will soon go out of print.
BINDING: A mechanical technique of organizing disordered thoughts.
BLUELINES: A signal to the author to begin rewriting.
BLURB: A brief noise that embarrasses everyone.
BOOK DISTRIBUTION: An elaborate system testing the commitment of readers by making sure they cannot obtain specific books too easily.
BOOK PACKAGER: A publisher unwilling to invest in his product.
BOOK REVIEW: A recycled press release offered to publishers by newspaper and magazine sales departments as an inducement to advertising.
IN PRINT: Beta version of amazon.com.
CASING: Boards that make a dubious publication appear upright. See SPINE.
CHAPTER-BY-CHAPTER BREAKDOWN: The progressive deterioration of a COPY EDITOR who is on a tight deadline.
CLASS READERS: Documentation suggesting to students what teachers would have talked about if they had managed their time more effectively. (See ANTHOLOGY.)
COLLABORATION: A relationship in which one author exploits another.
COLOPHON: Coup de grace.
COMMERCIAL FICTION: The notion of publishing as a way of making money.
COMP COPIES: A publisher’s entire inventory, according to the urgings of his friends and colleagues.
CO-OP ADVERTISING: Bookstore promotion paid by a publisher to placate an author.
A concept invented by lawyers as a hedge against unemployment.
DEADLINE: An item that exists to be renegotiated and revised. In his famous paradox, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that deadlines can never be met.
DESIGNER: A specialist in illegibility.
DISTRIBUTOR: An annoying apparatus that is always out of tune, causing sluggish performance.
JACKET: An ephemeral object without which a first edition becomes
worthless to collectors.
EDITOR: A writer with a day job.
FANTASY: An author's sales aspirations.
FOREIGN MARKET: The part of the country outside New York City.
FOREIGN RIGHTS: In a publishing agreement, rights that cannot be expressed in ordinary English.
FOREWORD: A blurb that is placed between the covers of the book to compensate for an unmarketable author.
FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR: An annual international exhibition of artwork on paper.
GALLEYS: Rows of cubicles staffed by entry-level editors.
IMPOSITION: An author call announcing an unexpected visit.
BOOK: Dummy copy that separates topical front and back cover
KILL FEE: The cost of a contract on an author or editor.
LEAD: A heavy metal that thuds when dropped. Used in the expression "Our lead title this season is luminous and compelling."
LETTERHEAD: Colloquialism for a typographer.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: The best place to hide from a congressman.
LITERATURE: Designation applied to titles judged unsaleable.
LINE EDITOR: An escort charged with limiting an author's consumption of cocaine.
MAINSTREAM FICTION: The pretense that there is a group of readers who can be reached through writing that is sufficiently unspecific as to exclude no one.
MAKEREADY: Updating your resume.
MECHANICALS: Genre fiction.
MIDLIST: A term applied to books that sell in only moderate numbers, a category that covers approximately 99 percent of the entire sales range.
MULTIMEDIA: A book with many pictures and few words (see CHRONICLE BOOKS).
NET RECEIPTS: Gross receipts after discounts, fees, hurts, and returns are deducted, usually a negative number.
NOVELLA: A short story that has not been edited.
OLD STYLE FIGURES: Old publishing ledgers filled with black ink.
OPTION CLAUSE/RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: Motivational fiction.
PRINTER'S ERROR (PE): An error made before a book goes to print.
PUBLICATION DATE (PUB DATE): A sliding holiday based on the phases of the moon.
QUERY LETTER: A literary genre in which the key sentence ends with a proposition.
REJECTION LETTER (FORM): A condensed restraining order serving to justify requests for SASEs.
REJECTION LETTER (PERSONAL): A formulaic literary genre, premised on justifying not reading or misreading a manuscript, in which the narrator grossly exposes both deep character flaws and an absolute blindness to them.
RETURNS: A book distribution policy invented by UPS to increase its stockholder dividends.
REVIEW COPIES: Books sold at the Strand bookstore.
ROYALTY: The glamorous heads of large publishing houses, also known as GLITERATI.
SALES REP: A roaming bookstore employee retained as a buffer against publishers and authors.
SELF-PUBLISHING: Tattoo art.
SHELF LIFE: Bookworms.
SHORT STORY: A story that is seldom short enough.
TITLE PAGE: A bombastic page found in university press books listing degrees and honorifics of contributors (offered in lieu of payment).
TRADE PAPERBACKS: What readers do instead of purchasing new books.
TRANSLATION RIGHTS: The right to betray an author in multiple languages.
UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY: A biography in which there is no trace of original writing by an author.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: A business predicated on obtaining materials from scholars without compensating them in order to sell the same materials at high prices to scholars.
UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPT: A manuscript that can’t sell because it includes too few salacious solicitations.
WORK-FOR-HIRE: Migrant labor.
WRONG FONT: Comic Sans.
© Thomas Christensen
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