A writers glossary
© Lynda Archard September 26, 2000
Advance: Money paid to an author by a publisher prior to publication. The amount varies widely depending on the publisher, the author's reputation and the type of book. Advances are often paid in instalments as the work progresses to publication. The money is later recovered from the author's royalties.
By-line: The name of the author on a published article or feature.
Clips: Samples of an author's previous published work.
Cover Letter: An introduction letter to accompany a manuscript, usually one page, to explain what the manuscript is about or a reminder of an agreement between author and publisher.
Electronic Submission: Manuscript or proposal submission to an editor through e-mail or manuscript submitted on a computer disk.
Genre/Category: A classification of writing subject - crime and suspense, romance, science fiction etc. sometimes called categories instead of genre.
Kill Fee: An amount paid to an author when an article has been requested but not used. The usual amount is half the original agreement and you should ask the editor before submitting it elsewhere.
Mass Market: Books that are expected to appeal to a majority of people instead of special interest groups.
Multiple Submissions: Submitting more than one manuscript at a time. This will usually apply to fillers, poems and short articles.
On Spec: An article written after an editor has shown an interest in the idea and would like to see the result without committing to buy.
Over the transom: Manuscripts that have arrived unsolicited at an editor or publisher's office.
Payment on Acceptance: Payment is sent to the author as soon as the editor accepts a piece.
Payment on Publication: Payment is made after the work appears in print.
Pen Name/Pseudonym: A name used by an author for publication such as if the author wishes to remain anonymous or not use his/her real name.
Public Domain: Work that has never been copyrighted or has had its copyright expire.
Query: A request letter to an editor asking if s/he is interested in a certain topic or idea. It should introduce the idea, outline how it will be written (keeping in mind the magazine style), detail who will be interviewed, specify the writer's qualifications for writing it, and list previous publications by the author.
SSAE or SASE: Stamped self-addressed envelope. SSAE's are required with all manuscripts for an editor to reply, return the copy or to send payment or guidelines. The SSAE should be large enough and with the right postage to return the manuscript if it is rejected.
Simultaneous Submissions: Submitting a work to several publishers at the same time. Some publishers accept simultaneous submissions, others will not. The author should always state when a manuscript is being submitted to more than one publisher, a telephone call to ask before posting will save your time and money.
Slush Pile: A pile of unsolicited manuscripts that have arrived at an editor or publisher's office. These manuscripts will usually be read with less interest, or enthusiasm than requested pieces.
Subsidy/Vanity Publisher: A publisher that requires an author to pay for the publication of his or her work. Unlike other publishers, they have their money and do not promote your book for commission. Use if you want to do your own marketing and selling.
Synopsis: A brief summary of an article or feature. The synopsis could be from one paragraph to briefly explain an article to several pages for a book proposal. The synopsis is more detailed than an outline. A book synopsis will include chapter headings and a short paragraph outlining each chapter.
Unsolicited Manuscript: A manuscript sent to an editor or publisher without a requested.
Work-for-hire: A piece of writing that is written as a request from an editor or publisher's in his/her style. All rights often belong to the publication with the writer giving up the copyright. Additional income from if it is resold is paid to the publication and not the author.
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