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Oct. 28, 2021

"What Publishing Terms Do I Need to Know?"

"What Publishing Terms Do I Need to Know?"

EP006. Join author and self-publishing coach, Lanette Pottle, each week to get your burning questions answered. On this week’s episode, she helps you build your publishing vocabulary by sharing terms frequently used by editors and project vendors....

The conversation continues over at the She Gets Published Community. Join us there!


Hey, hey my soon-to-be-published author friend! Welcome to episode 6. Today I wanted to chat with you about publishing terms. I remember my first time dipping my toe into the self-publishing world and feeling slightly intimidated by the lingo. Sometimes it was hard even to frame a question because I didn't have the language to do it. Fortunately, I had really patient mentors and understanding designers and editors who took the time to help explain and educate me through the process. I hope you have that same experience but I know from stories I’ve heard, that’s not always the case. 


In keeping with our short episode format,  we won’t cover every term you might run into but I’m sharing the most important ones for you to know as you get started.

Are you ready? Let’s dive in… and Let’s start with printers. Terms you’ll commonly hear related to printers are off-set and print on demand. 

Offset is the style of printing that the Big Five and traditional publishing houses use. Think of it as the option best used for large, bulk orders or highly customized specialty books. It’s the way of traditional publishing. Probably the most important thing to remember about offset printing at this point is that books are printed before they are actually sold. 

Print On-demand (POD) is a style of printing where books are not printed until purchased -- either by you, as the author, or by your readers. Additionally, you don’t have to order in bulk. 

Now let’s talk about some terms you’ll need to know as it relates specifically to your book.

Trim -- it sounds like something decorative, right, like trimming your Christmas tree, but it;s actually referring to where the paper gets trimmed. (Huge sheets of paper are used in the printing process and have to be trimmed down to size.)  When someone asks you the trim size of your book, they’re talking about the size. 6x9 is a pretty common trim size for non-fiction and we’ll talk more about this in a future episode but for now, just remember Trim = Book Size. 

Front & Back Matter -- again, kind of a funny sounding thing… makes me think of grey matter or something about the brain but what this is referring to are the pages at the front and the back of your book that aren’t actually part of the main manuscript -- things like the title page, copyright page and dedications and acknowledgment pages and table of contents.  It could also include things like a how to work with me page or an author bio page. Look at any book you have and it will be easy to tell which would be considered front and back matter. 

Next, let’s talk about Binding -- think of this like cracker crumbs are to your meatloaf recipe… it's what holds things together.  There are a lot of different kinds of bindings out there in the Universe but the one you’ll most be focused on in publishing your first non-fiction book is called ‘Perfect Binding.' This isn’t a boastful or egotistical claim. This binding is for a paperback book and it refers to the process that’s used to cut and bind the pages perfectly together with a particular type of adhesive.

Lastly in this section for today, ISBN - This goes on the back cover of your book. It’s a multi-digit number that essentially catalogs every book on the market. Each number is unique like a fingerprint. A quick note here that we’ll talk about more in the future is that you’ll need a separate ISBN number for each version of your book -- so for instance if you were to publish the same title in hardcover, paperback, and a digital version you’d need three different ISBN numbers -- one for each format. 

The last term I’m going to share today on this episode is Trade Discount. 

This becomes important when you are pricing and deciding where to place your books. 

A Trade Discount doesn’t have anything to do with you physically trading anything, It’s about Book Sellers receiving discounts to purchase and carry your books. On smaller scales, this is sometimes talked about as wholesale pricing. The discount is what provides the seller a profit margin. As the publisher of your books, you can set this where you want but your decisions here impact whether particular sellers will pick up your title. -- It’s just one of a handful of considerations but an important one. And in case you’re wondering, the typical trade discount is 55%.

Alright. Hopefully, you're leaving this episode feeling empowered and not like your brain is going to explode. You may not remember all of this right away but I’d be willing to bet when it comes up in a conversation it will come back to you… and maybe even better than random trivia does when you’re watching a game of jeopardy. 

Now, onto this week’s challenge. Each week I leave you with an activity related to the episode but this week it’s something a little bit different. I want you to ask me a question about anything self-publishing-related. All you have to do is go to the podcast website, click on the tab to the right of your screen that says ASK A QUESTION, and leave a 60-second voice message with yours. And who knows, your voice and question may be featured on a future episode. Go to and ask a question.