Writer’s Glossary, Part III: The Business of Writing

Absolute Blank

By Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

This is the third installment in the ongoing Writer’s Glossary series. Part I covered Elements of Fiction Construction and Part II covered Genres, Subgenres and Supergenres.

Background Photo: SpeakingLatino.com/Flickr (CC-by-sa).

Background Photo: SpeakingLatino.com/Flickr (CC-by-sa).



  • Hook: the opening sentence or sentences that involve a reader. A narrative hook may be found in a novel. The hook of a query letter is a single sentence that intrigues the recipient.
  • Synopsis: shares what the work is about, including the major characters and plot points (including the ending). Synopses can vary in length. Some synopses should be two or three paragraphs; some should be two or three pages. Synopses are most often used in query letters. (See: 10 Secrets Of A Synopsis That Sells)
  • Pitch: usually a single paragraph, a pitch is used to “sell” a novel to an agent or publisher. Pitches are often spoken synopses and allow for flexibility as they’re a form of verbal communication. Include the opening conflict, the journey and the opposition. Pitches come in handy at conferences and other face-to-face interactions with agents or publishers. (See: Your First Writers Conference: A Guided Tour)
  • Query: a letter (increasingly in e-mail form) asking an agent or publisher if there would be interest in reading a full manuscript. Query letters generally include a synopsis, contact information, and a brief biography, including publishing credits (if any), a.k.a. “backlist.” Every agent is different and many are strict about what to include in (and exclude from) a query. (See: The short, sweet guide to writing query letters)
  • Cover letter: accompanies a submission, including contact information and a brief biography. Summarizing this story or poem is not always necessary; check the submission guidelines of the publication. (See: Please and Thank You: The Purpose of a Cover Letter)

Word count standards:

These vary by publication but this is a basic guideline. Always check on the expectation of word count with the publication. For example, Toasted Cheese has a maximum word count of 500 words for flash, 5000 words for fiction.

  • Micro-Fiction: up to 100 words
  • Flash Fiction: 100 – 1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000 – 7,500 words
  • Novellette: 7,500 – 20,000 words
  • Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 -110,000
  • Epics: Over 110,000 words


(See: Five Quick Tips for Getting Your Story Published )

  • Page Counts: industry standard preferred length is 250 words per page (ex: a 400-page novel = 100,000 words)
  • Simultaneous submission: a single piece sent to several publications at once
  • Multiple submission: more than one piece sent to a single publication at once
  • Slush pile: a collection of unsolicited manuscripts
  • Lede/lead: the introductory sentence; this term is most often used in journalism
  • Byline: a printed line giving the author’s name
  • WIP: Work-in-progress
  • Manuscript: the raw copy
  • (Un)solicited manuscript: When someone asks you for your manuscript, either via your query or other means, it becomes a “solicited manuscript.” Otherwise, it is “unsolicited.”
  • Partial: A portion of a manuscript. The length varies. Standard is up to 25 pages or perhaps up to 10,000 words, likely less. Partials are usually requested or you will be given other indication as to what the length of your partial should be.
  • Pseudonym: a false name under which an author’s work is published/credited


  • Copyright: the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.; as a verb “copyright” means “to secure a copyright.” Copyright is automatically created with the creation of the work. (See: Automatically Yours: Introduction to Copyright)
  • First Rights: the right to be first to publish the material in either a particular medium or a particular location
  • FNASR: “First North American Serial Rights.” When submitting a piece for publication, the author sells or gives the publication the right to be the first in North America to publish the material once. Unless the author grants other rights or licenses as well, all copyright to that material reverts to the author.
  • First American rights: the right to publish a piece first within the United States
  • First Canadian rights: the right to publish a piece first within Canada
  • First British rights: the right to publish a piece first within Britain
  • First Australian rights: the right to publish a piece first within Australia
  • First World English rights: The right to be the first in the entire English-speaking world to publish the piece including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US (including FNASR)
  • One-time rights: the publication is purchasing the right to print the piece once and only once (not necessarily first)
  • Reprint Rights, or Second Serial rights: the right to print as a reprint
  • Nonexclusive Reprint Rights: the right to sell reprint rights to the same piece to more than one publication, even at the same time
  • Anthology Rights: the right to publish a piece in a collection or anthology, often as a reprint
  • Translation Rights: the right to print the piece in a non-English language
  • Excerpt Rights: the right to use excerpts from the piece in other instances (example: an educational environment, such as a standardized test)
  • First Electronic Rights or First World Electronic Rights: the right to be the first to publish the piece on the Internet, via e-mail, as a downloadable file or program, on CD or tape, etc. FER/FWER are negotiated separately from other First Rights like FNASR.
  • Archival Rights: the right to archive or make archived works available on the Web
  • All Rights: the author remains nominally the copyright holder but without economic rights left to exploit including reprints, anthologizing, electronic publishing and further sales without further remuneration
  • Moral Rights: include the right of attribution and the right to the integrity of the work; generally, moral rights cannot be assigned to another party like economic rights can, but they can be waived
  • Work for Hire rights: “work for hire” rights apply to writing done within the scope of employment (such as a newspaper journalist or textbook writer) wherein the actual copyright belongs to the employer
  • Exclusive rights: the publisher asks that the piece not appear anywhere else while they are exercising their right to it, usually a set period of time
  • Nonexclusive rights: the piece may be displayed, published, copied, transmitted, etc. elsewhere while under right.


  • Print Run: a batch of copies of a book, produced by the same single set-up of the print equipment
  • Lead time: the time between the undertaking and completion of a project. For example, the lead time on a newspaper article would be from the assignment of the story until the print deadline.
  • Advance: payment given in anticipation of the completion of a project
  • Royalty: a percentage of sales given to the creator of the work (i.e. the author)
  • Self-publication: the publication of material by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher, vanity presses, or print on demand (POD). Many authors began or continued their literary careers as self-publishers.
  • Vanity Press (a.k.a. “subsidy” or “joint venture” presses): appealing to the “vanity” of authors, these publishers make the majority of their money from fees charged authors rather than from sales, paying little to no attention to quality of the work or of the published product
  • POD: Print on Demand, a form of technology that allows small print runs of media. Unlike vanity presses, POD publishers generally have connections to booksellers and have a reputation for creating quality finished products but also pay little attention to the quality of the content. Sales and fees are both sources of income for POD publishers. (See: Publishing and Print-on-Demand: What POD is, what it isn’t, and when it might be right for you)
  • ARC: Advance Review Copy; a type of galley
  • Galley: an unformatted version of a manuscript, usually distributed for review purposes
  • ISBN: International Standard Book Number. Defined by ISBN.org as a way to “establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.”


  • Sell-through: the percentage ratio of the number of copies produced/sold to the number of copies returned to the publisher for credit. Basically supply and demand.
  • Modeled: A book is “modeled” when it remains available in a store, typically on the shelf. “In line” generally refers to a store’s available stock, including their warehouses or possibly other locations. So while the book might not have a full table of copies near the door, a single copy available for purchase on a shelf in its genre section means it’s “modeled.”
  • Remainder: a book no longer selling well, reduced for sale by the publisher, distributor or bookseller and marked in a distinctive way (usually with a felt marker slashmark on the page edges near the spine)
  • Stripped book: a mass market paperback stripped of its cover and meant to be pulped or recycled. The covers are returned to the publisher as evidence that the book has been destroyed although “stripped books” may not always be pulped
  • Chapbook: a small, pocket-sized book, usually with a flexible cover (of cloth or paper). Most often chapbooks are collections of poetry although they may also contain short stories or other creative media, usually with a unifying theme.
  • Zine: a small circulation publication usually created by hand instead of by a press; cost of creation usually exceeds profit. (See: Been There, Zine That)

Final Poll Results

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