Just as in any other industry, the publishing world is filled with a variety of words that laypeople might consider to be jargon. It’s important to know a few of these terms before you contact a ghostwriter so that the two of you share a common language. Familiarizing yourself with these terms will help your process run smoothly and efficiently:


Traditional publishing – when an author goes through a publishing house to get her book out there. Usually a proposal letter is sent to the publisher (or publishers) and they will either accept or reject the book.

Self publishing – when the author takes care of all publishing duties on his own, including fronting the money to produce, distribute and market the book.

Publisher – a company or individual that produces, markets and sells written works.

Editor – a person who selects and prepares a written work before it is ready for publishing. An editor has a hand in correcting, condensing and organizing the work.

eBook – an electronic copy of a book that can be read on a computer or portable reading device.

eBook reader – a device that displays text on a screen from an eBook. Commonly used ereaders include Amazon’s “Kindle” series, Barnes and Noble’s “Nook,” and Apple’s “iPad.” Some models have other features as well such as email capabilities, web browsers or games.

Print on demand – a publishing option in which single copies are printed only once they have been ordered, rather than having a bulk printing up front. Infinity Publishing and Trafford Publishing are two of the major companies that offer POD services. Platforms such as QooP,  Lulu, Blurb and Peecho are now attempting to bring POD services to the mass market.

Blog tour – a virtual book tour in which the author shops their book around to bloggers (people who keep Web logs with regular posts about a certain topic). Bloggers may agree to help promote the book by posting about it, therefore exposing their followers to it.

Advance – a sum of money paid upfront by the publisher to an author whose book has been accepted for publishing.

Agent – a person who acts as a representative for an author in any dealings with their publisher or prospective publishers.

Draft – a first copy of a piece of writing as it comes from the writer’s head. This is usually rough and requires some revision and editing before it is ready for publishing.

Manuscript – an original copy of an author’s work.

Slush pile – the pile of letters, book proposals and manuscripts that have been sent to a publisher and have not yet been (or never will be) tended to. It is usually the job of the publisher’s assistant to sort through and determine which books are worth further review.

ISBN – International Standard Book Number. An identification number that is given to a book and is universally recognized.

Royalties – money that an author earns when her book earns money. Usually a set percentage of the profits.

Advanced copies or advanced reading copies (ARC) – a copy of a book that is distributed before it is officially available to the general public. Advance copies are generally given to journalists or booksellers so that they can help promote the work.

Galley proofs – preliminary printings of the book for the author, proofreader or editor to read through for review.

Press release – a statement sent to the media with details of an upcoming book. It gives pertinent information about the work and the author.

Marketing plan – a strategy to help sell a book or other written work. It sets goals for sales while addressing how those goals will be met.

When you decide to write a book, it is important to have, at minimum, a general plan for where you want it to go and what you want it to do. Consider what the costs will be and whether or not you believe you can earn enough to cover the costs. When you get to the publishing phase, it will be helpful to know some of these terms so that you can better communicate with your ghostwriter, editor and publisher.



About the author

Rachel Rachel Brownlow is founder and CEO of Your Written Word LLC, a ghostwriting company that helps successful and aspiring business leaders take their ideas from conception to publication. She has written, edited, proofread, consulted and/or created publishing proposals for more than a dozen nonfiction books. She also contributes to a variety of magazines and publications, including the Austin Business Journal, Austin Monthly, NSIDE Magazine and Georgetown View Magazine. You can find more of her work at rachelbrownlow.com/portfolio.