Meeting new would be authors has shown me that many of them don’t have as clear an understanding of the vocabulary of publishing as they should have. It’s vital to understand the terms that will come into play as you move ahead with your book, and finally arrive at the actual publishing stage. And, it is a stage. There is much that comes before it – the research, writing, rewriting, editing, and more, indeed – but there is also a good bit that comes during and after publishing.
Let’s cover 15 vocabulary terms relevant to having your book published. These are true of self-publishing and traditional publishing.
- Softcover – folks think this means paperback. It does not. A softcover is not a paperback. Well, it’s lumped in with paperback books in definitions and in the minds of most people. However, to me, a true paperback is a tiny book with both a thin cardboard cover and thin paper inside. Most of the 1980s bodice rippers that I read as a teenager were paper backs.Softcover is a larger book, generally, with more substantial cover and inside material. I’ve noticed a number of new book sizes of late and I haven’t decided if they should be considered paperbacks or softcover books. And therein lies the struggle – a softcover book is so similar to a paperback that you may be forgiven for mistaking them as each other. If we ever meet in person, I will show you the difference. Oh, show and tell is so much more fun!
- Hardcover – self-explanatory. It’s a book with a hard cover. These are more expensive than softcover or paperback books. After all, that hard cover doesn’t come cheap. Does it matter if you publish your book as a softcover or a hardcover? A little. Not enough to lose sleep over.
- Page layout – Wikipedia has the best definition of page layout that I approve of: Page layout is the part of graphic design that deals in the arrangement of visual elements on a page. It generally involves organizational principles of composition to achieve specific communication objectives.I see a few hands in the back. Yes? Oh. What does that actually mean? It means you need to have a professional designer layout your pages. Your internal pages, of your book. In self-publishing you get to decide what that looks like. In traditional publishing, you don’t. Page layout is so important it does require a professional. How the reader reads your text is as important as the text itself. This also involves image placement – we believe images should be attached to the text that describes them. Sometimes that’s a tricky thing to accomplish. Hence, we ask that you not try this on your own.
- Bleed – I almost didn’t include this until I discovered The Book Designer’s post titled – Don’t Let Me Find You Bleeding in the Gutter. Who could resist sharing that? In essence, read the whole post, but here’s what is said about “bleed” as it applies to publishing, “When an image or type is intended to run off the edge of the printed page, it is said to “bleed.” Printers have their own specifications for how far the image has to extend past the edge of the paper to allow enough room for manufacturing variances. In offset printing it is standard to allow one-eighth inch for bleed. Some digital printers, due to the looser manufacturing standards of their equipment, require one-quarter of an inch for bleed.” (I meant it when I said to read the whole post – the knowledge there and the definitions blow me out of the water!)
- Font – Easy one. Right? You understand font, right? Probably not. The difference between serif and sanserif is important. The size of the font on the page is important. The type of font is extremely important – if one more amazing woman comes to me with a thoroughly feminine font that is unreadable at any point size, I will tear my hair out at the roots. And no comic sans, either. Your book coach will help you choose an appropriate font for your type of book.
- Title – Yes, this is what tells readers what your book is about. My book of compiled blog posts is called Lipsticking the Book. It is a softcover book, 7″ by 5″. However, your title doesn’t always convey enough information for the average reader to make a determination on whether or not she wants to at least look the book over. That’s why we have #7.
- Sub-title – Your sub-title sits below the title and gives the reader a bit more information about the book. In my case, the sub-title was A Little Book of Big Thoughts. Subtitles can be too much, if the author is allowed to run amok. Six to eight words should be enough. If it is not, maybe you need a new title. The combination of title and subtitle is one of the most important parts of a published book. If they do not work together, the book may fail.
- Copyright – No, not copy write. We’re talking about the protection of copy. Your copy. Your written work. It begins the moment you begin writing your book. When it’s time to publish, you or your publisher will obtain the official copyright from the U.S. copyright office and that will protect the book as long as its in print. If you choose to update your book later on, changing it substantially, you will need a new copyright.
- Copy writer – A person who writes copy. For more explanation, visit the grammarist here. This term is more for marketing and PR than writing a book.
- Foreword – I like Amy Collette’s explanation on her Unleash Your Inner Author site: “A foreword is a section at the beginning of a book, usually written by a person who is well-known by the readers in that niche.” You don’t need a foreword. Your book won’t fail if it doesn’t have a foreword. But, if you can find the right person to write the foreword, it will stand you in good stead.
- Introduction – As opposed to foreword, this is written by you. It does come at the beginning of the book, after the foreword, and it helps the reader understand why you wrote the book. Make it as personal as you are able. It sets the stage, so to speak.
- TOC – I venture to say that most of you already know what these three letters stand for: Table of Contents. This is not a simple little numbered list. It involves a good bit of page formatting. It involves a good bit of attention. And, not withstanding, the titles of each chapter that make up the TOC are an important part of the book. A good many readers will actually peruse the TOC before leafing through the book to get a flavor of the content. A well written and well formatted TOC does its author proud.
- Index – I put this in #13 purposely. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Not really. Just be aware that in a business book an index is a required form of communication. Your reader wants to know where to find that quote by the speaker you heard at last year’s whatever conference, and it better be in the index. There are great software tools today, but nothing can replace the human eye and brain. We are more likely to create a thorough index than any software tool. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. You may disagree in the comments, if you like.
- ISBN – Notice I did not say ISBN number. That would be redundant. If you are going around saying, “I got my ISBN number,” to everyone you meet, make sure I am not one of them because I will hurt you. Wikipedia tells us, “An ISBN is assigned to each edition and variation (except reprintings) of a book. For example, an e-book, a paperback and a hardcover edition of the same book would each have a different ISBN. The ISBN is 13 digits long if assigned on or after 1 January 2007, and 10 digits long if assigned before 2007. ” This number, which appears on your book cover, allows you to sell your book. Can you do so without an ISBN number? Yes. Out of the trunk of your car, I guess. If you want to put your book on Amazon or in other books stores, you need an ISBN.
- Spine – I leave you with this last, but not least, definition. The spine of your book is not just something that wraps around your pages as part of your cover. Yes, it is part of the cover but I am meeting new authors who did not understand or know that the spine is also a separate part of your book cover development. Much of the spine design comes from how many pages the book has. A book of 200 pages has a smaller width than a book of 400 pages. The overall effect of your cover includes how well the spine demonstrates its text, whether that’s the whole title, author’s name, and publisher, or just two of those (the spine should contain at least two of them, and perhaps all three). In many cases, the reader will see the spine first. Make it work.
And there you have it for today. Yes, I could go on and on and on. The vocabulary of publishing is far larger than most new authors imagine. It’s the reason you allow a talented, experienced publishing company print your book. They know how to do it. You don’t.
Book coaching helps will all of this. It helps define the mysterious and uncover the hidden. A book coach not only wants to impress you, her client, she wants to make sure the reader is served – and impressed. We’re here for you. Visit us on Twitter.