Written by Emily Harstone May 26th, 2016

The Published Writer’s Vocabulary: 21 Words You Need To Know

There are many words and phrases associated with publishing. To a new author, or an experienced author new to publishing, it can seem a little overwhelming at first. This article focuses on defining  the most common terms associated with publishing. The article is organized alphabetically.

If you have any questions, comments, or additional words that you want to be added to this list, please email us at support@authorspublish.com.


An advance is a signing bonus  that is paid to the author before the book is published. It is paid against future royalty earnings. So for  every dollar you receive in an advance, you have to earn a dollar from book sales before you receive any additional royalty payments. Most independent publishers do not offer advances.


A published collection of poems or other pieces writing, usually on a theme.

“Big Five”

Previously known as “The Big Six, this term refers to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, the five largest publishers in North America. All of these publishers have multiple imprints. All of these publishers and most of their imprints require agents. 


A 10-20 page collection of poetry, or less commonly fiction or creative non-fiction, by one author.

First Publication Rights

This term is most commonly used in the context of literary journals and magazines. Most publications will not publish work that has previously appeared in a different literary journal, print or online. Because of this most publishers require First Rights. These can also be called First North American Serial Rights or First Serial Rights. No matter what they are called it usually means that you are giving that publications exclusive rights to publish your poem first. After they publish work the rights revert to you, sometimes right away, sometimes after six months. Many publishers of poetry and short story manuscripts want your work to have been previously published in literary journals.


A category of artistic composition, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. Genre can refer to poetry, prose or non fiction in terms of form. Or it can be a subject matter classification referring to science fiction, mysteries, or various other established types of stories. If a  literary journal or publisher says they are not interested in genre work they are using it as a subject matter classification.


An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which a work is published, many larger publishers use imprints as a way to market specific books. For example science fiction books are usually published by a different imprint than mystery books, even if they are published by the same publisher.

Independent Publishers

A publisher that is not an imprint of the Big Five or a large media corporation. Independent Publishers can be small start ups, or large established presses like Chronicle Books. Most do not require agents in order to submit.

Literary Agent

A literary agent is someone who represents writers and their written works to publishers and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same. Many publishers require authors to submit their work through a literary agent.

Literary Journal

A magazine that publishes primarily poetry, fiction, and/or creative non fiction. Also commonly referred to as journals or reviews.


An unpublished book length work of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.


Used mostly in the context of larger journals and contests generally have volunteer readers, individuals who read a large chunk of the work submitted and who decide what part of that work they are going to pass on to the editors.


Work that has been previously published elsewhere. This includes self published work. Some publishers are particularly interested in publishing reprints as long as all the rights belong to the author. The majority of publishers only consider reprints of work that have been previously traditionally published.


Royalties at their most basic refer to the amount of money an author earns off each copy of their book that is sold.

SASE (Self Addressed and Stamped Envelope)

If you submit to a publisher, a contest, or a literary journal via the mail, most publishers require that you include a SASE (Self Addressed and Stamped Envelope) so that they can respond to your work with a rejection or acceptance letter.

Self Publishing

When you publish your own work either directly on a platform like the Kindle or when you use a vanity press.

Solicited Submissions

Submissions from authors that the publisher’s directly request. Most literary journals publish a mix of solicited and unsolicited submissions. Editor’s can solicit the work of friends or of famous or emerging writers. Most time when your work is solicited it is published.

Submission Manager

An online program that handles submissions electronically. The most common one is submittable. Both literary journals and manuscript publishers use submission managers.

Traditional Publisher

A publisher who never charges you any fees, and who pays the author for their rights.

Unsolicited Submissions

The bulk of submissions to most journals are unsolicited. They are the submissions sent through submission managers, post, or emails to literary journals. If a manuscript publisher says they do not accept unsolicited submissions, you can not submit to them unless someone at the publisher has explicitly asked to see your work, or you have an agent who can submit your work for you.

Vanity Publisher/ Press

Also known as assisted publishing. Any publisher that charges you in order to publish your work is a vanity publisher.



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