We were talking the other day, and it came up that it might be time to collect a glossary of sorts, to define and discuss terms. With the changes in the industry, new ideas coming in almost faster than we can keep up, and with them, new words and phrases for things that didn’t exist ten, or even five years ago… Time to do some jargon-busting.
Please, in the comments, feel free to suggest additions, and I will amend this as needed. Hoping to make it into a resource that might last a bit. Not long, with the way things are changing, but…
- Writer-Related Words
Traditional Publishing: refers to the big five, these days, the last of the NYC-based publishers. may also refer to the larger of the small presses, but it has the connotation of being the dinosaurs in the industry: big, nasty, and full of teeth. Also known as Legacy Publishing.
Small Press: publishing houses that operate in much the same way as traditional publishers, but are usually a bit more forward-thinking and author-friendly.
Micro-Press: publishers that may only handle one or two authors.
Independent Publishers: the new breed, authors that handle their own businesses, hiring outsiders for some of the work, but overseeing the whole process like a publisher.
Self-Publishing: Ironically, this is usually not the same as Indie Publishing, although they are often lumped together. Self-Publishing tends to be an author who hands over their work to a self-publishing company that promises to provide “author services” and the results tend to be less than professional. Of the self-publishing companies I have looked into, most are scams, preying on the eager and naive. Also known as Vanity Presses. Good resources for researching before you commit to working with a publishing services company are Preditors and Editors, and Writer Beware. Keep in mind that many self-publishing companies pop up like mushrooms, and are gone just as fast, so keep in mind the cardinal rule: money flows to the author.
There are many sorts of editing, and your story may need one, more, or all of them. But it’s important to know what the editing is, before you hire someone, and to make sure they know what it is they are doing, something not all freelance editors understand.
Copy-Editing: Editing for typographical errors, common spelling mistakes, and general grammar. May also be called proof-reading. This is the most superficial and cheapest type of editing.
Continuity Editor: this person is checking to make sure your story holds together, might be helping to align it with previous books in the series, and in general making sure you know what loose ends are there.
Structural Editor: the editor who can have the most influence on your story, and the hardest to find a good one. This person should be very familiar with the genre conventions, you as a writer, and work well with you. Hard to find, and worth their weight in gold.
Pantser: one who writes by the seat of their pants, rarely outlining in any detail, this writer sits and churns out the story after the characters deign to start telling it to them. The sub-species of this is the Extreme Pantser, who can’t get their characters to tell them anything in advance, and have to just write, to find out what’s going on in the story.
Outliner: this writer gets it easier, they can plan where the trip (story) is takign them, and build a road map before they start writing.
Plotter: this writer has to build a story from the inside out, creating a plot like bones to hang muscles, flesh, and finally skin, har, and features on, bring it to life in stages.
Cat-Rotator: this is the poor writer who, nto knowing what is coming next, attempts to rotate the cats and otherwise distract themselves from the uncanny silence in their heads. Usually this lasts until the Cat-Rotator is doing something important and unrelated to writing, whereupon the characters all start to talk loudly, and at once.
By which I mean length, mostly, although I’ll add whatever you suggest to this section. With the advent of ebooks, length conventions are changing… again. It used to be that a book of 40-60K words in length was a novel. Then, the goat-gagger came into being, and suddenly 250K-300K was acceptable, where once that would have been at least a trilogy. However, with an ebook you don’t have that wrist-bending heft of the mass to assess a book by, and once again, a novel has become about the story. Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Then it is long enough.
Short Story: In general, anything from 1K-10K words. Can be longer. Shorter is called Flash Fiction.
Novella: Somewhere between 17K and 40K words. I think, unless they have moved the goal posts on me again. Which is the problem with defining story lengths, everyone defines it differently. If you are submitting somewhere, check to see what they call it, and what length they want. In the new era of ebooks, novellas are doing quite well, as long as they have a true end, not a cliffhanger and the message “buy another book to follow along!” If you plan to serialize a novel, make that clear, or you will tick off readers (why, yes, I was bitten by this, why do you ask? LOL)
Novellette: I’m not sure, and I’m not sure who uses this term. Moving right along…
Novel: the granddaddy of them all. Conventional publishing has the novel beginning at 80K words and up. However, again, this is shifting due to e-publishing. Also, a Young Adult or New Adult novel is expected to be shorter, from perhaps just over novella length on up (40K words plus). When I put The Eternity Symbiote in print, I was surprised to discover that it weighs in at a hefty 250 pages long, even though it is only 50K words printed. It feels like a traditional novel in the hand, but it falls within novella length, so I labeled it as that. I think we will see novel come back to 50K plus words, as more people transition to the majority of their reading in e-formats. As long as it satisfies, feels like a complete story, and has a good ending, they aren’t going to notice the word count.
My own milieu recently, I’ve found that many people don’t know what they want when it comes to having a book cover done. So here’s a couple of terms.
Cover Art: original, bespoke art to suit your book, and exclusive to it. This comes in many stages of quality, and price, but in general, it is much more expensive.
Cover Design: the fine art of making your cover look good, with type elements and art elements in the right places, and the proper signals being given off to let the reader know, at least subconciously, that they will like this book and it is a professional production.
Cover Layout: Arranging the text elements on a book cover, very similar to cover design, although usually the designer is also choosing art, which isn’t part of layout.
Full-Wrap Cover: the front, back, and spine of a book, suitable for printing. An ebook cover is generally just the front cover, NOT the spine as well.
And this got much longer than I thought it would when I started! Well, for those of you who read to the bottom and I didn’t put to sleep, please, let me know what should be added. Thanks!