Author Speak for Readers: Industry Terms #1

It’s time for another author speak post. This time around are words and phrases that deal with the industry, or job of writing/being an author.

Author Speak: Industry #1

Big6 (soon to be Big5) = This term refers to the main six (soon to be five) publishing houses: Simon & Schuster (Pocket), Hachette Book Group (Grand Central and Orbit), HarperCollins (Avon), MacMillan (Tor and Forge), Penguin Group (Jove, NAL, and Ace), and Random House… which Penguin and Random will soon be merging, hence why I said soon to be five.

Note: I have no clue why Harlequin and Kensington are not considered part of the Big6, but they aren’t.

Small Print Press or Small Press = This phrase refers to… well… small publishing houses. This is not a knock against their size or how many books they put out. If Big6 is equivalent to Wal-mart then small press are the “family-owned, local” stores. Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, Changeling Press, Loose Id, Siren-Bookstrand, etc. Pretty much any e-pub is a small press.

query = A prepared set of documents meant to sell a title to a publishing house or agent. Usually included is a query letter, synopsis, and a partial manuscript or the full manuscript.

query letter = Say this phrase and most authors cringe. This letter (usually a single page) is a quick intro of a book with a sales pitch the author hopes will intrigue an agent or publisher enough for them to ask to read the manuscript. Some publishers and agents only want a query letter and will accept or reject a manuscript based on it.

synopsis = A two to five page summation of the ENTIRE book. Yes, including the ending. The synopsis is written for the benefit of the publisher/agent, not the general public. It is meant to show setting, character and plot development, and the story conclusion. Basically the Cliff Notes before a busy agent/editor commits to reading the full manuscript.

blurb or back cover copy = A two to five paragraph explanation of the book meant to entice readers into wanting to read the rest of the book. Basically a movie trailer for a book.

partial = This refers to a short excerpt from a manuscript that agents or editors request in order to judge if they want to read more of the book. Industry standard is the first three chapters or the first fifty pages (double-spaced, one-inch margins, standard font). Some agents/editors ask for more, some less.

agent = The liaison or middleman between an author and a publishing house. For authors to be accepted at a Big6 publishing house, they must first sign with an agent. The agent sells the book to one of the publishers in Big6 and helps negotiate contract terms.

logline / log line or tag line = A single sentence (sometimes two sentence) hook meant to sum up the book’s plot in a way that catches the reader’s attention so they want to read more. Usually the italicized sentence before the blurb starts.

backlist or book list = A list of the author’s published works. Usually called a Bookshelf when people visit an author’s site. Amongst authors, it’s known as a backlist.

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