Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed

Pubrants recently blogged about co-op, which is a fine publishing tradition that bugs the hell out of everyone except B&N and Borders.

It would not have occurred to me to blog about co-op. But the comments found the topic fascinating! Which makes me wonder what other publishing terms you guys would find interesting. PPB? P&L? Advance sales? Sell-in? Earn-out? Bookscan? Refurbs?

The mind boggles. Can you really be interested in this stuff?


Literaticat said...

Co-op isn't JUST about placement in the stores. I responded to your response there.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm interested in understanding the industry somewhat. In my day job, there are an enormous amount of TLAs (three letter acronyms) and if you don't know the lingo, you can get quite lost. We have acronym lists at the end of almost every document and requirements to define the acronym the first time it's used. And that doesn't even touch on the culture of the job or the things to learn on an individual project.

As an author, I sit here and type my fingers to nubs and wander the blogs to learn about my craft (waste time). Sometimes I wonder about what it's like to be on the receiving end of the manuscripts. It's something that helps make you more human and me less afraid of the unknown.

When I get published, I'd rather be concentrating on promotion than on figuring out what the people around me are talking about.

But I've always been an info sponge. I want to know everything. I'd like to be everything, too, but there's only so much time and I have to prioritize.

Jo Treggiari said...

Not really. But that's just me. I'd rather write and leave the business of selling and promoting to the publishing houses.

Anonymous said...


I read that post over at Pubrants, and yes, I was interested. Why? Because as someone who shops at bookstores, I have often wondered who decides which books get priority, and why. It never occurred to me that this is something publishers pay for.

Publishing concepts that don't mean a thing to me as a writer (or as a reader shopping for books...) hold no interest for me. Please don't blog about them :)

Anonymous said...

Yes. Very much yes. In fact, I don't think I could accurately define any one of those terms.

Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

"...The mind boggles. Can you really be interested in this stuff?..."

Allow me to speak for everyone when I say, HELL YES!I have an agent, I've been published. I don't know half of this stuff. Do people in publishing somehow not realize that writers only know what their agents or other writers tell them? Which, is, you know, usually zilch.

Blog the heck out of these topics, I say! Expand on co-op, too if you wish. For instance, on the Pub Rants post she mentioned at a certain point the bookstore puts the books on a table w/o a co-op. Which books and authors are we talking about? James Patterson, whose books are always there or a new (maybe one book out author) that simply is hot at the moment?

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

YES - all of the above!

And thank you for all the great posts and publishing information. You're a gem! (Even if we don't know *who* the heck you are. Ha!)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind knowing what some of those mysterious terms mean. The more I know about the business, the better. Right?


Anonymous said...

Count me in. Those type of in-depth posts are some of my favorite.

Saundra Mitchell said...

I'm sincerely interested in all those, but especially sell-in and PPB!

Anonymous said...

I see this all the time in publisher's weekly - "Deals" - good deal vs. very good, etc.... What are the thresholds.

none said...

Well, I still don't know what an endcap is....


Anonymous said...

Yes! I want to know what all of those publishing terms mean. Thanks for offering to give us some definitions.

Lis'Anne Harris

Angie said...


I'd love to hear about all of those, because I have no idea what most of them are -- or I have an idea of what it is, but not how it works.

Reminder: What you find incredibly boring because you deal with it every day, we find mysterious, fascinating, and sometimes a little scary :)

To answer your actual question -- I have no idea what PPB, advance sales, sell-in, or refurbs are, and I'm a little fuzzy on the P&L/Bookscan. I'd love to hear about any of them in detail, but some short definitions would also be great!

Thanks as always for your willingness to educate.

Unknown said...

Anonymous 2:17 - That isn't publisher's weekly, it is publisher's marketplace. Yes, they are different - PW is a magazine with all sorts of publishing info, reviews, etc. PM is more like - classified ads, and book deal listings.

It is just the way that particular publication classifies things, it has no bearing on what the real world thinks of the words "good" or "nice". There is a key at the bottom:

"nice deal"
$1 - $49,000

"very nice deal"

"good deal"
$100,000 - $250,000

"significant deal"
$251,000 - $499,000

"major deal"
$500,000 and up

Sherry Thomas said...

P&L absolutely. Anna Genoese did a great series on them but now they are behind a paywall.

Anonymous said...

Definitely interested in hearing about this stuff! I'm also curious about the actual definitions of contract stuff -- like when is a manuscript technically "accepted." And what is this rumor about some foreign rights markets being negligible because of the piracy?

Anita said...

Yes, please educate!

Unknown said...

I'm here via Pubrants, just to say that I find the workings of publishing interesting enough to read blogs about! Other people's professional tactics and jargon are interesting, like the lab tests and cop banter in an episode of CSI.

(That, and a fiction writer should know everything. Or at least be able to convincingly pretend they know everything. You never know when a job field will be relevant to a story!)

Unknown said...

I definitely enjoyed the post and would like to see more similar posts. As someone, who is interested in the publishing world and trying to break into it, knowing this type of information is crucial (and interesting!).

TheWriterStuff said...

Knowledge is power.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if anyone has heard the nasty rumor that Borders is soon belly up? I have a signing scheduled in the future. Anybody?


Anonymous said...

Definitely interested in a dictionary of terms! I would find it very valuable! :-)

Julie Butcher said...

I would love to know the difference between earning out and making a profit(the publishers profit). I've been told that a large advance on the first book that doesn't earn out could keep later books from being published. What time frame is there for the earn out? What would be considered good?

Thank you,

kriswaldherr said...

Yes, yes. Would love to see more definitions. Though I think I'm aware of most of them, I'm sure a few have slipped past me during my twenty plus years working in publishing in NYC (which included a sojourn reading -- ugh -- slush).

BTW, I just discovered your blog via Pub Rants and have been reading through your archives. I must say that this is the darkest, snarkiest, funniest take on publishing I've read in a long time -- as well as the most accurate. Bravo!

Madison said...

I would be interested in learning about EVERYTHING! I love this industry and I want to know all I can about it. :)

Anonymous said...

F&G is always a good one.

Jolie said...

"I'd rather write and leave the business of selling and promoting to the publishing houses."

Pshaw. Authors can't take that attitude these days if they actually want their books to sell.

Yes, I want to know as much as possible so that I can do my very best at promoting my books, and so that I am better equipped to collaborate with my agent/editor/publisher/publicist/etc. Please, tell all! Some of the terms you mentioned are familiar to me, but others like P&L don't ring a bell.

Pepper Smith said...

Why, of course. The more we know about the business, the easier it is to understand what's going on.

By the way, I love your shield of arms with slush monster rampant. Nicely done.

Allison Brennan said...

Personally, I think it's important for authors to understand the business and what everything means. A successful businessman wouldn't do his own taxes, but he would be wise to know exactly what each line item means because in the end, if he's audited, he's the one paying. But while understanding the terms and how they apply to publishing as a whole and to your specific career is one thing; obsessing over it quite another. You'll hear contradictory information about sell-through and earn out depending on the source and the format. So get a good agent and anytime you hear something you're nervous about or think doesn't make sense, ask.

Anonymous said...

Two of may favorite anecdotes about children's books have to do with children using publishing jargon.

1) I have a friend who was a first grade teacher and a part-time children's book seller. Consequently her students learned some of the book-world jargon naturally. The mother of a first grader phoned my friend one evening, upset about the profanity her child was learning in the classroom. She said her child kept referring to having read an "f&g" in class.

2) Another friend of mine knew she'd served on the ALA Notable Children's Book Committee long enough when her three year old asked her: "Does Peggy Rathman have a spring book?"

Jo Treggiari said...

I should maybe have elaborated a little when I initially posted on not being particularly interested in a lot of publishing industry jargon but that's only because I know a lot of it already from working in the music industry for more than 25 years.
In no way did I mean to promote ignorance in the business side of things as being a good thing. I think that no matter how great a relationship you have with your editor and agent, it is never smart or safe to not know the business you are in- from contracts on up.
I guess I commented without thinking it through.

Anonymous said...

and POG, too please

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hey EA-- another crazy busy week???

I'll be good and not pick any fights in the comboxes this time, I promise! =)

Helen DeWitt said...

Well, there are things I don't get that I wish I got.

A while back a publisher offered $500K+ for a deal. They had treated me like the scum of the earth when they published my first book, so I was not wildly keen. Everyone told me, yes, but the reason they treated you like the scum of the earth is that you had no agent. If you have an agent it won't be like that, they will have nice manners, you will get paid, it will be completely different. I hired an agent.

What happened was, the agent and agency staff immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started treating me like the scum of the earth. The agent did haul ass into negotiations, yes, but neither the agent nor anyone else at the agency would do anything I actually asked them to do, and meanwhile, bizarrely, my editor seemed to think that having a power lunch with my agent constituted being nice to me. He could still stand me up for meetings we had arranged, because he had been nice to my agent.

At the time I hadn't spent much time online, knew nothing about nice deals, very nice deals, major deals, whatever. I had assumed that the deal must just be a crap deal. $500K+ seemed like a lot of money to me, but that was just my ignorance. The reason everyone was treating me like a piece of shit was that, by publishing standards, a deal for upwards of half a million dollars was crap. Much later, obviously, I found Publshers Marketplace and discovered that, um, K? Not only was this not a crap deal, this was, by publishing standards, the top deal for which they bother to have a category.

So what I wonder, obviously, is what a writer has to do not to be treated like a piece of shit. If a major deal is not enough, what does it take? Does an agent want a million-dollar deal to treat the client with professional courtesy? Two million? Three million? It would be nice to know.

Richard said...

I'd like an answer to Helen DeWitt's comment too. There are lots of people in any rank and file who are SOBs and DOBs.

I guess if one is getting 500K they are still seen as peons, and are expected to kowtow to those who think in terms of medieval dominance rather than civilized & cooperative decency. Is the cash supposed to make it worth tolerating? Can one go to another pubhouse and indicate their wish for a similar deal without the crap?

Anonymous said...


"Not really. But that's just me. I'd rather write and leave the business of selling and promoting to the publishing houses."

Then chances are you will continually be in mid-list hell or eventually get dropped all together.

Just recently I was reading a blog post by a YA author who was whining and moaning about using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Other authors commented along the same vein.

I was flabbergasted at the ignorance, arrogance and plain stupidity. Just about *every* successful author I have read uses at least one if not all of these sites to promote their books and get in touch with the fans. All of them are FREE ADVERTISING, therefore I do not understand why authors are not taking advantage of these sites.

I was also flabbergasted that one could supposedly write good contemporary YA and not use these various means of communication. Every teen I know uses them and many younger adults do too. If you don't understand teenagers of today and what they use, then you don't understand their mindset to write good YA books.

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