General Terminology

Publishing has its own (often weird and obsolete) language. Here are some terms you may hear tossed around the office or status meetings.


Backlist – Books that were not released in the current season that are still in print. See also “reprint.”

Blues – Proofs for the interior of a book. Called “blues” because they used to print on blue paper

Bound galley/ARC (advance reader copy) – An advanced copy of a book sent to bookstores/reviewers, etc. to sell the book and get reviews. It looks the same as the final book, but includes marketing details and is not for retail sale. The cover may differ from the finished book, as these are printed up to a year in advance.

Half-title page – A page near the front of the book that has only the book title. Often used as filler if additional pages are needed.

Frontlist – New books released in the current, or upcoming, seasons. See also “Initial.”

Imprint – The name, or brand, under which a line of books is printed under. Imprints are most often genre-specific. Imprints are a kind of “sub-publisher” that fall under a larger publishing house.

Initial – i.e. Initial printing, or, the first printing of a book.

Insert – A small number of color pages added to the book, often featuring photographs or artwork. These print separately and are bound into the book on press.

On-sale date: The date the book is released to the public for purchase. Often shortened to OSD.

Page count – The number of pages in a book. See also “signature.”

POD – “Print on demand.” Used to print a small number of books, when a larger print run is not needed.

P&L – “profit and loss” statement. All costs for a book go onto this statement (printing, marketing, prep, etc) to determine whether the book will make a profit, and ultimately exist.

Prep – Initial work that goes into a book to “prepare” it to print. Printers (and some publishers) have a designated prep department to set books up to print correctly on press.

Press – The printing press, or where it actually prints. “Go to press” means a book is ready to print; “on press” is when books are actually printing.

Proofs – the final review of a book before it prints. Can be a physical copy (often staple-bound pages to check formatting, margins, etc.), or digital.

Reprint – A printing of a book beyond the first printing. When the first printing sells off, the book “goes back to reprint” if it continues to sell and more are needed.

Signature – A group of pages within a book. When books are printed, there are multiple pages on one sheet, which are then folded and bound into the book. Most printers print in 8- or 16-page signatures, so books will only have a total page count in these intervals.

Specs – the specifications of a book.

Strippable – Paperback books with a barcode on the inside front cover. If these books don’t sell in stores, booksellers can return them by tearing off the front cover (stripping) and returning only the cover to save on shipping costs. The remainder of the book is destroyed, as it cannot be sold without the cover.

Title page – Often the first page of the book, this page includes the title, author name, and imprint/publisher.

TOC – Table of contents

TK – shorthand for “to come.” (i.e. author is late with the manuscript, new delivery date tk)

Warehouse date – The date books are needed in the warehouse for release. This is often a month before books go on sale, as time is needed for the warehouse to ship books to stores before it is available to the public. Often shorted to WHD.