Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Devil Made Me Do It

The Devil's Publishing Dictionary Part I: A through M

Advance - a sum paid to the author's agent after contract signing, as soon as the editor puts in a payment request to accounting, which is misplaced for three weeks to three months, re-requested, routed to senior editor for approval, misplaced again or completely forgotten until agent's fourth inquiry. The author may or may not see 30% of the agreed-upon advance, less that 15% owed to the agent, within a year of signing, upon publication of the contracted work, or when the author starves to death while living under a bridge, whichever comes first.

Advance Reading Copies - prepublication edition of the book that is not for sale, generally used to generate income for reviewers who sell them on eBay; also known as ARCs.

Agent - that person an author pays 15% of their writing income. The agent in return lives in New York, makes many phone calls, eats lunch with editors, goes to industry conferences and keeps the author away from the editor.

Backlist - all of the author's books in print that are no longer in print.

Blurbs - ringing but patently false endorsements of a book by buddies of the author, the author herself coyly pretending to be another author by using a pseudonym, or carefully-edited segments of bad reviews. Also known as cover quotes.

Book Doctor - a quack hired by an author to take most of the author's money in return for poorly editing the author's manuscript.

Copy Editor - 1) an undercover, superior writer who pretends to correct grammar and spelling in a manuscript while actually teaching idiot authors how to write books; 2) someone who chews gum, wears fake tattoos, has a first name that ends in -y and is obsessed with using ellipses.

Copyright - the author's legal right to ownership of the work under federal copyright laws that protects the author's only means of income; said shaky laws should collapse at any moment.

Cover Art - the design of the book jacket, generally produced in-house by the publisher's art department, all of whom are near-sighted psychotics who never actually read the book and routinely forget to take their meds.

Earn Out - to sell enough copies to earn the advance against royalties before the publisher applies reserves against returns and zeroes out the royalties.

E-book (electronic book) - a book published in electronic format that will be illegally copied a thousand times and, no matter how well-written, will not get any respect whatsoever from most of the publishing industry.

Editor - 1) a sadomasochist; 2)) a kind but crazy person who makes a career out of working with authors to improve their manuscripts; listens to their lies, tantrums and crying fits; extends their deadlines; meets with them over mystery chicken entrees at industry cons and suffers countless bouts of depression, con crud and tinitus as a result; 3) an industry professional who drinks Maalox or Jack Daniels for lunch.

Fiction - 1) a story created by an author that is then lifted, rewritten and published by another author; 2) anything you hear when an author's lips are moving.

Galley - a bound or unbound edition of a book riddled with typesetter errors, missing characters, scenes and pages that the author begs not be sent out for publicity purposes before publication.

Genre - engaging fiction that sells well; anything a literary author spits on or an academic author calls vulgar.

Ghost Writer - 1) a writer or co-writer who is paid very little to write a book but not to take credit for it, and says nothing when the celebrity who does take credit accepts praise from critics and natters on about how difficult the book was to write, etc.; 2) a talented chump who needs money.

Instant Book - any book rushed into print whose publisher has been pleading with its very famous author for years to turn it in (see the works of Thomas Harris and Stephen King.)

Jacket - the paper cover on a book that depicts something that bears no resemblance to anything in the story.

List Position - where in the publisher's pecking order a title ranks; generally decided by celebrity status, youth and/or hair color of the author. A lead title typically will be written by a 26 year old blonde former Ms. Arkansas who has breast implants and lisps when she speaks, or Dr. Phil.

Managing Editor - editor in charge. Of what, we're just not sure.

Mass Market - a smaller, cheaper edition of a hardcover novel that represents the author's entry into publishing's ghetto (see Paperback Writer's 'Hood.)

Memoir - a personal reflection or account that, when read aloud, does not allow the author to pass a lie detector test.

Mid-list - a title or author that does not become a bestseller; an author who is dumped by a publisher and replaced by a 26 year old blonde former Ms. Arkansas who has breast implants and lisps when she speaks, or Dr. Phil.

(To be continued -- feel free to add your own entry for the dictionary in comments)


  1. Anonymous2:20 AM

    Gawd, I love it, lol!!

  2. haha this list is great!

  3. Anonymous2:39 AM

    I hate to say "how true," true. Very, very funny. Thanks for the laugh on a night when I'm writing feverishly, yet without a fever at all.

  4. Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!
    Oh mercy, I needed that laugh this morning. Must remember to avoid drinking coffee while reading thought. The company does not like replacing laptops.

  5. Two thumbs up! Waaayyyy up!

    Thanks. And as a former book reviewer:

    Book Reviewer: See entry for Dyslexic Moron.

  6. Literary critic: Someone who makes things up just to get their pretentious point across; a disillusioned English Lit. major.

  7. Jacket: May be any colour except white.
    White ( with straps) reserved for writers whose contracts have been cancelled and imprint closed.

  8. LOL! I love these! Funny, but at the same time a little scary.

  9. Anonymous12:23 PM

    If I ever get published, can I copy your genre definition and wear it on a shirt?

  10. Stepladder: What the blonde former Miss Arkansas with a lisp gets, or Dr. Phil; the tool of Satan.

  11. I am not a writer so some of these have a different meaning for me.

    Backlist- something I will find at for a dollar.
    Blurbs- something that will never warn me if the book sucks.
    Book doctor- me after I have spilled something on the book.
    Cover art- something that has nothing to do with the book but will decide if I get it.
    Ghost Writer- me closing the book to look at the front cover again and thinking this cant be right.
    Instant book- my friend just handed me the book.
    Jacket- something that will be torn, creased, used as bookmark, and then tossed away after it will not stay on the book.

    Have a great day.

  12. Anonymous8:44 PM

    Ha ha ha, I love these! It was so great!

    I almost wrote a definition for Writer's Block, but I want to see what you say first.


  13. Oh my. Just catching my breath here. This must be why my employer blocked Blogger and I can no longer read from work -- too much raucous laughter emanating from the cubes.

    And xmaggiejanex? Great list.

  14. I agree 100% with the definition for "blurbs" (because I've bought more horrid books based on wonderful blurbs) and "ebooks."

    Can't wait for part two of this excellent "The Devil's Publishing Dictionary". *lol*

  15. Anonymous11:29 PM

    PUBLISHER: n. 1)company that publishes books, usually printed by a PRINTER (see 'middleman'), profits earned on the creative work of OTHERS (see 'poor schmuck'). 2)entity that exists in the TWILIGHT ZONE, which allows them to pay nineteenth century wages for present day creative output.

  16. Anonymous3:36 PM

    I was commenting on these definitions, but I got to having too much fun, so I moved my comments here.

    Cheers --


  17. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Contemporary Fiction This week's future literary classic, which will be forgotten by next week.

  18. Anonymous11:15 PM

    This is pure genius!

  19. Anonymous3:02 AM

    Those are fun. Might I also recommend–

    royalty – consider a paperback at $6.95 sold at a 20-40% discount by major retailers, multiply by middling popularity in first run and then zero demand in second over-run that will have to be destroyed or returned to the publisher at the first-time author’s expense—now consider the 5% of the net profit that the author takes home in reward for several years of hard work and pain, and dealing with publishers and an uncaring agent—this is the royalty.

    See also things like the Rated T for Teen “copyright.”

  20. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Thanks for the nice post!

  21. Hey Lyn, just followed the link from the Sara Donati blog. This gave me a good chuckle. Awesome blog - I'm linking it up to my own


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