Mascot Blog

Important Terms to Know When Publishing Your Book

By Emily Evans-Miller

Publishing a book for the first time can feel like being thrown into the deep end without a life jacket. From the deadlines to the industry-specific terms, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. To help combat confusion, we’re outlining some key terms and concepts you’ll hear as you move through the production process, whether you’re working with Mascot or another publisher.

Publishing Terms

Digital printing — A printing process that involves printing of a digital image directly on to another media without the use of plates. While offset is generally considered to be of higher quality, digital printing is expanding and improving as new technologies emerge.

Hybrid publishing — A publishing process in which authors invest in the production of their book but work with an organization of publishing professionals that offers many of the same services as traditional publishers, including editorial, design, marketing, and distribution support.

Offset printing — A printing process that involves the use of plates rather than digital presses, usually conducted in large bulk orders called “runs.” Publishers that use offset printing (like Mascot) create the total stock of books all at once. This is the process most traditional publishing houses use, and it typically produces the highest quality books.

Print-on-demand (POD) — A printing process where the production of books occurs as orders are captured. For example, if someone places an order for your book through IngramSpark or CreateSpace (both Amazon affiliates), those services print one copy of the book to meet that demand. POD books are often lower quality, and many bookstores do not consider them for in-store placement.

Vanity press — A publisher that exists exclusively to print books (without marketing or distributing them). Vanity presses typically don’t have a selection process or submission criteria and are often print-on-demand operations.

Production Terms

Endsheets —  Endsheets are the very first and very last spreads of all hardcover books. The left hand side of the front endsheet is glued to the inside front cover, and the right hand side of the back endsheet is glued to the inside back cover.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) — An ISBN is like a book’s social security card: it’s a unique identification number that readers and retailers worldwide can use to look up where it was published.

Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) — The LCCN logs the book in the Library of Congress’s database, the United States government’s record of published books.

Landscape — A book that is horizontal and has a width longer than height. The spine on landscape books is along the short side. (e.g., 10 x 8)

Paper weight — Paper weight describes the thickness of the paper inside of a book. For a standard nonfiction or fiction title, this ranges from 45# to 60#. The higher the number, the thicker the paper.

Portrait — A book that is vertical and has a width smaller than the height. The spine on portrait books is along the long side. (e.g., 8 x 10)

Specifications (Specs) — A book’s physical properties, such as size, paper weight, format (paperback or hardcover), finish (matte, gloss, etc.), and page count. Printers generate quotes for book production based on these details.

Marketing Terms

Advanced Review Copies (ARCs or Galleys)  — Advanced, uncorrected, low-quality paperback proof copies of a book meant to be used to prime marketing and distribution outlets for an upcoming release. Usually, ARCs are printed about four months in advance of publication and are designed to give physical copies of the content before the final high quality version is ready.

Book-in-hand date (or Bound Book Date) — The date when you’ll receive finished copies of your book. This coincides with the period when books arrive at the Mascot Books warehouse for distribution. This date is different from your publication date (also called your official retail release date) and often happens about a month and a half to two months before your book is officially released.  

Electronic Press Kit (EPK) — An EPK is a specially designed document meant to gather all of the information about a book and its author in one place. EPKs usually consist of a book description, publication information, author bio, and author Q&A—very similar to a press release, but more in-depth and presented in a different format.

Marketing — Marketing is the act of increasing awareness of a book through securing reviews, media and editorial coverage, and book events and building buzz in your network. Marketing supports and creates potential opportunities for sales, which is the act of selling your book and tracking its financial performance.

Optimization — This is the process of fine-tuning your online presence, including social media page, author/book website, and retailer listings. The goal is to streamline your content and make information about your book easy to find and searchable.

Pre-Order purchase — These are orders placed before a book’s publication date. It’s important to encourage pre-orders during your pre-order window as they demonstrate demand to distributors and help secure an initial order for stock. And it’s a good way to build buzz!

Pre-Order window — The period of time (usually about one and a half to two months) between when your book is registered with distributors (usually shortly before your book-in-hand date) and your book’s publication date. Without a sufficient preorder window, there is a significant risk your listings will say “out of stock” on your publication date.  

Publication date — Your book’s publication date (also called the official retail release date) is the date that the listings for your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and with other retailers will change from “pre-order” to “in stock/available.” This date is typically one and a half to two months after your book-in-hand date to ensure distributors have enough time to onboard stock so your listings say “in stock” on your publication date.

Sales Terms

Consignment — A selling scheme often employed by bookstores and smaller retailers where an author is only paid for books that have been sold to the customer. Many independent booksellers opt for consignment instead of stocking the book outright as a way of minimizing their financial exposure and risk. Some smaller retailers may levy a consignment fee for space on their shelves.

Distributors & retailers — A distributor is a company that supplies stock to retailers at a wholesale discount—think along the lines of Ingram, American West, and Baker & Taylor, whose listings are business-facing. Retailers, however, are customer-facing businesses where readers can purchase individual copies of books, like at a Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million store. Some companies, like Amazon, function as both a retailer and a distributor.

Inventory — A bulk stock of your book stored at a fulfillment center (like Mascot’s warehouse) or a distributor. Your starting inventory is the entirety of the print run you purchased, minus the number of books you have shipped directly to you. Maintaining inventory (i.e., having inventory available to fill orders) is essential for fulfilling orders from distributors and consumers.

Wholesale discount — A percentage discount given to a retailer or distributor that orders a bulk amount of stock for the purpose of reselling. Retailers and distributors that purchase at wholesale discounts sell that stock at the price of their choosing.

What other terms have you found confusing? Tell us on social media tagging @MascotBooks and we’ll help answer your questions!

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