So you’ve decided to sign with SparkPress or our sister press, She Writes Press. Wonderful! We’re glad to have you. If this is your first time publishing with us, or even publishing at all, there are going to be a lot of terms thrown at you in the upcoming months. Some authors get a little overwhelmed and don’t understand what all the lingo means, so today, we’d like to take a step back and define the terms for you.


Acquisition: Beginning of the publishing process, where the contract is completed and rights are negotiated.

ARC: This is shorthand for Advance Review Copy. It’s a sample copy of your book printed at a lower quality well ahead of pub day. Authors use this as a chance to see how it will really look and note any changes that need to be made before the book goes to print. Publicists may also send ARCs to media contacts to solicit reviews, placement in roundups, and other coverage. Sometimes also referred to as galleys.

Author Handbook: This is your ultimate guide to everything that will be happening as you publish your book. Please refer to it regularly. If you have not received it yet, please email your PM.


Backlist: Titles that remain in print after their original publishing season.

Back matter: Materials following the main text of a book, including the index, author bio, book club questions, suggested reading list, glossary, and other resources.

BCC: This is shorthand for Back Cover Copy, the text that appears on the back of your book. It usually includes a description and a couple of blurbs/endorsements.

BISAC: This stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications, but you’ll likely never hear anyone refer to it as that. BISAC codes are created by BISG (Book Industry Study Group) and are meant to categorize books, so booksellers and librarians know where to shelve them. When you’re working on your tip sheet, you’ll need to select the three BISACs (also referred to as BISAC codes) that best describe your book.

Blurb: A blurb is a testimony to the book’s quality or content, or the action of writing one. We recommend asking authors in the same genre and experts on your book’s subject to blurb your work. You can also use a cutting from a review as a blurb. Many authors choose to put blurbs on their front and/or back cover, but if you have a lot of blurbs, you may want a praise page in the very front of the book.

Boilerplate contract (a.k.a. a standard contract): This might be the term your publisher or literary agent uses to describe your contract; it details the royalty rates, terms, sub right splits, world rights, and more.

Book Discovery Sheet: This is a form you’ll get from SparkPress towards the beginning of the publishing process, sometimes referred to as a book summary sheet. This form will help you start thinking about your book as a product, and is great practice in figuring out how to talk about your book. This document is also useful for your publicist to get to know the book, and is a good reference for your PM until they get your tip sheet.


Cover Memo: This is a form you’ll get towards the beginning of the publishing process. It is an essential document for the cover designer to create a beautiful cover for your book. Make sure to spoil everything—our cover designers rarely get a chance to read the book before they start, and they have to know exactly what happens to make sure the cover is just right.

Callout: A special boxed text, usually no more than 400 words, used as a design element within a book. Callouts (sometimes called special topics or sidebars) add background information and color to the main chapter text and should focus on subjects relevant to that text.

Catalog: Annual or bi-annual color catalogs of the publisher’s upcoming books, produced about six months ahead of each season and used primarily for rights, international sales reps, publisher branding, and marketing.

Compression software: Programs, including Stuffit and Zipit, which compress large files, graphics, and entire folders of data into a format that is easy to email.

Copyedit: This is the edit that looks for structural, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Copyeditors may also deal with story flow, syntax, and consistency issues.

Cover mech: Your full cover file (usually a PDF file) that includes your completely designed back cover, spine, and front cover.


Denouement: The denouement (French for “an untying”) of a novel is what immediately occurs after the climax of your story, unraveling the plot and explaining the story details. Basically, it’s what leads your climax to the conclusion. You might discuss this with your editor, or your publisher might tell you at some point that it is strong or needs more work.

Dingbat:A dingbat is a character, spacer, or ornament used in typesetting. They are often used to create a box frame.

Distributor: A company that contracts with publishers to warehouse and sell their books to retail and wholesale accounts.

DPI: An acronym for “dots per inch.” The dpi number represents the resolution of a particular image. For example, a 300-dpi image has a higher resolution than a 72 dpi image and, from a technical point of view, is considered a higher-quality image. The lower a photograph’s resolution, the greater the chance that a printing device will pick up the minor color variations at the edge of each dot.


Editorial Schedule: Shortly after you’ve been assigned a PM, they will send you an Editorial Schedule. This is an important resource throughout the editorial process because it has all of your due dates on it. While most of the dates are not hard-and-fast (although some are), you’ll want to keep pace, or even get ahead of schedule when possible.

Excess Inventory: With SparkPress, we have a deal with IPS that offers our authors unlimited free storage for the first year after publication. However, once a year is up, they calculate how many they are willing to store for free each month, and charge for any copies you have in excess of that number. The number is largely determined by the last year of sales, so the number is likely to decrease over time, increasing your excess inventory. You will receive your first monthly excess inventory email about a year after publication asking if you’d like to store for $0.10 a copy per month, ship the books out, or have them destroyed.


F&G: Otherwise known as “fold & gather,” this term refers to the picture book version of a galley. While the version isn’t bound, it shows the picture book in all its four-color glory.

Fair use: An exception to authors’ copyrights that permits copying from a protected work for certain purposes, including criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, so long as the value of the copyrighted word is not diminished.

Flush right/left: To align text or a graphic element with the far right or far left margin, with no indentation.

Frontlist: The new titles or editions published in any given season.

Front matter: Materials preceding the main text of the book, including the copyright page, dedication, epigraph, and table of contents.


Galley: See ARC. ARC is the preferred term on the publishing side, but publicists often use galley.


IPS: Our distributor is Ingram Publisher Services, or IPS. If you are explaining your distribution to a bookseller, make sure to say IPS, not Ingram. IPS is traditional distribution, but Ingram covers self-published authors too.

ISBN: The International Standard Book Number, which is a unique identifier for a book, or more specifically, of a tradeable item within the book trade. A different ISBN is required for each version of a title (i.e. e-book and paperback)


JPEG: The format most commonly used for web graphics. Unlike the GIF format, which supports only 256 colors, JPEG supports millions of colors and allows for graphic compression. It is widely used for web graphics that contain a multitude of colors and gradations, such as photos. JPEG graphics can be opened in both Mac and Windows platforms. JPEG images are created for optimum computer screen display and consequently are not appropriate for print.


Layout: When your manuscript goes to layout, we send it to an interior designer. They design the interior of your book, drafts of which we call “pages.”

Logline: A one-line summary of your story, much shorter than your elevator pitch.


Marketing: The methods used to promote a book to consumers, media, and retailers. This includes publicity, advertising, trade shows, and materials such as catalogs, websites, posters, fliers, author biographies, media kits, and bookstore displays.

Media outlet: A specific type of media coverage, such as newspapers and magazines, TV shows, or radio programs. This term also can refer to a specific publication or program, such as the New York Times or The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Metadata: This refers to data about data, and where book publishing is concerned, this is all the information you and your publisher must compile that goes out on the data feeds that update online retailers and gives them accurate information about your book, ranging from price to ISBN to trim size and more. This is created and uploaded to Ingram anywhere from 8-10 months prior to your book’s publication.

MG or middle grade: This term stands for the genre of middle grade fiction.

MS/MSS: This stands for manuscript/manuscripts, the typed, double-spaced version of an author’s work.


Narrative nonfiction: This is a popular style of writing that uses the devices of fiction. The basis is a true story, but the author uses fiction-based elements like character development and cliffhangers. Think Seabiscuit or Apollo 13.

New adult: This up-and-coming genre focuses on the demographic in between young adult and adult. The protagonists are usually aged 18-26.


Page signatures: The unit of pages used to create the plates from which books are printed. Signatures can consist of 8 to 48 pages.

Pages: These are the drafts of your book after it has gone to layout. They are usually numbered to keep track of which version is most recent: First pages, Second pages, Third pages, etc. Also sometimes referred to as designed pages or interior.

PB or picture book: A book aimed towards younger children with limited text and large pictures in either color or black and white. The sweet spot for these books is 32 pages.

PDF: An acronym for “portable document format.” A PDF is an electronic snapshot of a document. PDFs maintain the layout and graphic elements of the original document but lack page reflow flexibility. They are useful for electronic transfer of page proofs and any graphics-heavy document, such as maps or forms.

PM: This is shorthand for Project Manager. A PM is going to be your guide through the publishing process, and act as a liaison between you and all of the people working on your book. We like to joke that your PM is the Sherpa that will guide you to the top of book mountain. Early in your publishing process, you will be assigned to either Lauren Wise or Samantha Strom.

POD: This stands for Print on Demand, also sometimes referred to as Print to Order. This is a type of printing for small quantities (usually less than 300). It is lower quality than a traditional print run, and also takes less time. We may also refer to flipping to POD, which indicated that orders would be fulfilled in this manner rather than from print runs stored in the warehouse.

Praise Page: This is a page in the frontmatter of your book showcasing your blurbs. We try to not repeat blurbs from the cover, so this page is only wise to add if you have at least three blurbs more than you are putting on your cover.

Premium sales: Selling a customized edition of a book to a business. For example, selling a guidebook with a specialized cover to a company hosting a convention to pass out to the attendees.

Proofread: This is the last edit before you go to layout. A proofread is supposed to catch stylistic errors, incorrect spelling, and syntax. A proofreader’s goal is clarity.

Pub Day: The date that your book is officially published out into the world, decided between you and your publisher.

Public domain: Any work that is not protected by copyright is said to be in the public domain, including works for which the copyright has expired. Such works belong to the public as a whole, and anyone is free to use them without seeking permission.

Publicity:The act of promoting books to the media, including television and radio programming, websites, newspapers, and magazines. It also includes any type of author interview or event featured either in the media or in another type of consumer venue, such as a bookstore, panel, or festival. Publicity is an integral part of the book publishing process.


QI: QI stands for Query Integration. After your manuscript is proofread, you will have a chance to review it. When you return it to your PM, she will go through both your comments and the proofreader’s to determine if the changes should be made, integrating them into the text as she goes. This is the last step before your book goes to layout with the designer.


Read-only file: This is any file, whether it’s locked or not, that a publisher asks not be altered for the purposes of keeping the file pristine and not introducing new errors.

Reprint: Printing more copies of a current title to meet demand. To produce a reprint, the printer who originally printed the book uses the stored film or digital files from the most recent edition to create new printing plates.

Returns: Books returned to the publisher or distributor by the account that bought them originally. According to a standard book-industry practice, books may be returned at any time for any reason—a system that gave rise to publisher Alfred C. Knopf’s famous saying, “gone today, here tomorrow.”


Sample ch: When we ask for a sample chapter, we mean an up to ten-page excerpt of your book. Generally, the first 7-10 pages is what is submitted, but if there is a section you think is stronger, you can elect to send that instead. The goal is to give the sales team a taste of your writing style.

Sic: This Latin term for thus or so is inserted after a phrase or expression to indicate that it has been quoted exactly as written. It’s usually enclosed in brackets or parentheses, and is used to clarify things that might seem incorrect, like a spelling error in a quote.

Special markets: Sometimes referred to as special sales, special markets includes sales to non-bookstore retailers and wholesalers, such as airport stores, outdoor retailers, pet stores, museums, or large companies like Costco.

Stet: This Latin term for let it stand is used by editors and proofreaders, and is often placed in the margin of a manuscript to indicate that a marked change or deletion should be ignored, and that the copy typeset should be kept in its original form.


Tip Sheet: Towards the beginning of the publishing process, you will receive a tip sheet form to fill out. This document is essential to creating your metadata. Because of the high importance of the tip sheet, you will also get an example of a tip sheet and a webinar explaining exactly how to fill it out.

TIFF: The most widely supported graphic file format. It is used primarily for scanned images (mostly photographs) and is the best graphic file format for use in desktop publishing applications.

Trademark: A trademark protects names, titles, and short phrases. Under both federal and state laws, manufacturers, merchants, or groups can obtain protection for a word, phrase, logo, or symbol to distinguish their product or service from others.

Trim size: The physical size of a book page, measured in inches.


W9: This is a form that allows us to pay you royalties.


YA or young adult: This stands for the genre of young adult fiction.