Talking the Talk: Publishing Terms and Jargon

"It’s all pounds, shillings, and pence to me, darling." —Absolutely Fabulous

Just like most industries, book publishing has its own peculiar jargon—a language that may be confusing to first-time authors. To minimize confusion and miscommunication during your book’s production, here's a list of some of the more common terms you might come across:

General Terms

  • Back matter: The text that occurs after the last chapter in the book (or the main body of text). Back matter often comprises such parts as the index, endnotes, author biography, bibliography, etc. The pages are numbered with Arabic numerals.
  • CIP: Cataloging in Publication information is the bibliographic information supplied by the Library of Congress. Librarians use this information when adding new titles to their collections.
  • Galley/ARC: Often used interchangeably, these two terms refer to advance printed copies of a book that are used for review and publicity purposes before publication. (ARC stands for “Advance Readers’ Copy.”) These advance editions typically come out five months before the publication date.
  • Front matter: The text that occurs before the first chapter in the book (or the main body of text). Front matter often comprises such parts as the dedication, acknowledgments, table of contents, etc. The pages are numbered with Roman numerals.
  • Imprint: The company name under which your book is being published (e.g., Greenleaf Book Group Press, Penguin Classics, etc.).
  • ISBN: The International Standard Book Number is a unique thirteen-digit number assigned to every book and obtained from the R. R. Bowker company. This is the number most often used to order a book or keep track of it in the supply chain.
  • LCCN: The Library of Congress Control Number is the Library of Congress’s system of uniquely numbering books. Librarians use this information to access the book’s correct cataloging data.
  • Trim: This is the physical dimension (measured in width and length) of your book after the printer has cut it to the desired size. Common trim sizes include 6x9, 5.5x8.5, 5.5x8, and 5x8—in the United States, they're always measured in inches.