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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

63: Publishing Terms, etc

lady with dark short hair over jewelry in front of mondrian-esque design
A collage I digitally altered in preparation for an upcoming painting

Howdy! Reading the live tweeting of the recent Department Of Justice vs Penguin Random House trial, (over whether or not their acquisition of Simon & Shuster would create a "monopsony" and have a massive negative impact on the ability of writers to make a living AND further limit what sorts of books get published), I came across loads of terms and shorthands that I'm unfamiliar with (or that I suspect non-publishing-industry folks might not know). If I am, others probably are too, so I figured it was worth listing & translating them here. While I'm super guilty of just glossing over unfamiliar words while going by vibe, these might be good to know.

Publishing Terms / Shorthands,

small press/publisher: A small press is a publisher with annual sales below a certain level or below a certain number of titles published. The terms "indie publisher" and "independent press" and others are sometimes used interchangeably.

mid-size publishers:

Big 5 (Used to be Big 6, Unfortunately likely to become Big 4): the publishing industry insider term for the largest book publishers in the US.

The logo of HarperCollins, a publisher known for its imprints Amistad, Ecco, Harper Business, Dey Street Books, Thomas Nelson, Harlequin books, and more.

In the USA, the Big 5 consists of Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

backlist: a list of older books available from a publisher. This is opposed to newly-published titles, which is sometimes known as the frontlist.

frontlist: a publisher's sales list of newly or recently published books, especially those of popular or ephemeral appeal.

midlist: titles on a publisher's list that are not expected to be big sellers, but are expected to have limited/modest sales.

title count: pretty sure this is the total amount of titles a press publishes (so if a small press prints 3 separate fantasy titles in one year, I believe their title count is 3)

best seller: vague term indicating that Amazon, or a publishing industry, bestseller list included the title. Standards for being including on such lists vary widely, but generally depend of selling many copies quickly.

top-seller: pretty sure this is the best selling title within a group. (so if an author has 3 titles out but their werewolf fantasy sold the most copies, the most quickly, that's the author's top seller. Ditto for a press or a store. Top-seller market would be the best selling books within that market.)

lead title: a book that the publisher thinks has the best chance of selling, and they will put the most money into its marketing and publicity.

sub-lead title: a book that the publisher thinks has a chance of selling well but not as well as the lead title, and they will put some money into its marketing and publicity.

imprints: a trade name—a name that a business uses for trading commercial products or services—under which a work is published. Imprints typically have a defining character or mission.

ARC: an advanced readers copy, it is a copy of a book prior to release intended for marketing and review purposes.

Business Terms:

monopsony: a market situation in which there is only one buyer.

oligopoly: a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers.

P&L: A profit and loss statement , also known as an income statement, is a financial report that shows a company's revenues and expenses over a given period of time, usually a fiscal quarter or year.

sub-market: a portion or subdivision of a market a profitable submarket of the publishing industry

downstream sales: sales that are made by the parent company to its subsidiary. The parent company may sell asset or inventory to the subsidiary. In case of assets transfer, it is also referred to as loan because the parent company owns 50% share in subsidiary and either ways the asset is owned by parent company only.

upstream sales: a subsidiary selling into the parent entity

strategic thrust: high-level initiatives arising from the strategic vision and serve to guide the action plans towards some over-arching goals.

metadata: a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.


first-price auction: In a first price auction, the highest bidder determines the price of the impression. In a second price auction, the runner up determines the price of the impression. So in a second price auction, if two buyers bid $10 and $15, then the buyer who bid $15 will win but will only pay the publisher $10.01

diversion ratio: measure the proportion of sales captured by different substitute products when the price of a product is increased.

unilateral contract: contract is a one-sided agreement-that is, only one party makes a promise to perform.

bilateral contract: contract where there is a promise for a promise. Sales contracts and listings are examples of bilateral contracts. In a listing contract, the seller promises to pay if the agent promises to procure a purchaser.

omnibus: a volume containing several novels or other items previously published separately.

"an omnibus of her first trilogy"

first-price auction model:

omnibus model: an alternative way to record and maintain client holdings in the custody business. A custodian that uses the omnibus model combines clients' assets and spreads the assets across multiple digital asset private and public key pair groups (aka fancy gibberish)

HHI: Herfindahl-Hirschman Index is a common measure of market concentration and is used to determine market competitiveness, often pre- and post-M&A transactions. The closer a market is to a monopoly, the higher the market's concentration (and the lower its competition).

Guppi: measures the merged firm's incentive to raise price unilaterally post-merger (in the absence of merger-induced efficiencies, entry, and repositioning). There is a GUPPI for each product sold by the merging firms. (aka gibberish)

Sports Terms:

farm teams: a team or club whose role is to provide experience and training for young players, with an agreement that any successful players can move on to a higher level at a given point.

Law/Trail Terms:

addendum: an addition to a finished document, such as a contract. The most common addendum is an attachment or exhibit at the end of such a document.

subsume: To bring a specific occurrence within a broad rule. When a court subsumes a case, it decides that it fits within an established analytical framework. From there, the court plugs each relevant fact of the case into the broad rule and obtains its holding.

deposition: a witness's sworn out-of-court testimony. It is used to gather information as part of the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial. The witness being deposed is called the "deponent."

impeached/impeachment: (court lingo)

Unfamiliar/Infrequently used words:

enjambments: a literary device refers to the practice of running lines of poetry from one to the next using no punctuation to indicate a stop

albeit: although

parochial: having a limited or narrow outlook or scope.

"this worldview seems incredibly naïve and parochial"

ethnocentric: evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture.

ad hoc: when necessary or needed OR created or done for a particular purpose as necessary.

posit: assume as a fact; put forward as a basis of argument OR put in position; place OR a statement which is made on the assumption that it will prove to be true

potshot: a shot aimed unexpectedly or at random at someone or something with no chance of self-defense OR a criticism, especially a random or unfounded one OR a shot at a game bird or other animal purely to kill it for food, without regard to the rules of the sport

bifurcate: divide into two branches or forks OR forked; branched.

arbiter: a person who settles a dispute or has ultimate authority in a matter OR a person whose views or actions have great influence over trends in social behavior.

"an arbiter of taste"

eponymous: giving their name to something OR named after a particular person

defenestrate: throw (someone) out of a window OR remove or dismiss (someone) from a position of power or authority

maven: an expert or connoisseur.

pulchritude: beauty

pure-play: a company that focuses exclusively on a particular product or service in order to obtain a large market share OR a company that operates only on the internet.

For a more extensive list that's not limited to terms from the hearing, absolutely check out this list of Commonly Used Terms. Anyway, I hope any of this was helpful for you! I drop a new blog post every Monday. Thanks for stopping by!

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