Adjective A word that modifies a noun or pronoun by describing, refining, or qualifying it. Adjectives can add color and immediacy to writing; however, adjective overuse is a stylistic error common to beginning writers.
Advance Money paid to a writer by a publisher prior to publication of a book. An advance is made against the royalties the book will earn, and is paid back to the publisher when the book begins to earn royalties.
Antagonist In fiction, the main character who comes into conflict with the protagonist (hero or heroine). The antagonist could, in some stories, be a thing or situation (a monster, a storm, a flood, etc.).
Assignment A specific article requested by an editor for a pre-determined fee.
Backlist List of books published before the current publishing year, but still in print.
Bimonthly Every two months.
Bionote (Bio) A sentence or short paragraph containing personal information about the writer of a story or article.
Biweekly Every two weeks.
Boilerplate A standard publishing contract, with no changes or addenda made by the writer or agent. The boilerplate should be considered a starting point only; usually changes will be made.
Byline Author’s name appearing with his or her published work.
Category fiction General term used to denote commercial fiction which falls into genre categories, such as science fiction, mystery, romance, and others.
Climax The moment of greatest intensity in a work of fiction; the point to which the story has been building from the outset.
Copyediting Marking errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage.
Copyright The intrinsic ownership by an author of his or her works. Copyright law recognizes that the creator of a work owns it automatically and immediately upon its creation.
Cover letter Short letter accompanying a manuscript or book proposal. Should include the name of the piece, word count, and a brief mention of the author’s publishing credits, if any.
Electronic submission Submission made via email or online submission form.
Fair use Reproduction of short excerpts from a copyrighted work, usually for educational or review purposes. Such use does not infringe the author’s copyright.
Galleys The initial typeset form of a manuscript, sent to an author for review. Page divisions are not made, but type size and column format are set.
Genre A particular category of writing such as poem, novel, or short story, or a sub-category such as sonnet or sestina. Commercial fiction genres include mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, western, romance, etc.
Imprint Division within a publishing house that deals with a specific line or category of books.
Kill fee Compensatory payment made for an article that was assigned, completed, but not subsequently published.
Lead time Elapsed time between acquisition of a manuscript by an editor and its publication.
Novelette/Novella Short works of fiction ranging from 7,500 – 40,000 words. The terms are often used interchangeably, although novelettes tend to be shorter, and novellas longer.
On spec Editors will sometimes look at works “on speculation”, meaning that they have some interest in the piece, but are under no obligation to buy.
Over-the-transom Unsolicited materials submitted to editors are described as coming “over-the-transom”.
Plagiarism Presenting another’s works, words, or ideas as one’s own.
ProofreadingCareful and detailed reading of copy to identify and correct typographical mistakes
Public domainAny material that can be freely used by the public, and does not come under the protection of a copyright, trademark, or patent.
Query A query letter “pitches” an article or book idea to an editor to see if that editor might be interested in purchasing the proposed or completed manuscript.
Rights Ownership of all the various ways in which a creative work may be reproduced, used, or applied. Most editors buy only specific rights at any given time, and these should be clearly outlined in the contract.
Serial A publication that appears periodically, such as magazines, newspapers, or newsletters.
Simultaneous submission Manuscript sent to more than one market at the same time. Most markets do not accept simultaneous submissions; those that do will specify so in their guidelines.
Speculative fiction Umbrella term often used to cover various subsets of fiction in the science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and sometimes horror genres.
Slush pile Common term for unsolicited manuscripts received by a publisher or editor.
Synopsis Concise but thorough summary of a manuscript or script. A synopsis is a necessary part of any book proposal
Tearsheet Sample of an author’s published work; the actual page containing the article, story, etc.
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