Glossary of publishing terms

This is a new resource that will keep being extended, so do drop back and see what’s new. Alternatively, feel free to leave a suggest for the glossary (if there’s a term you’ve never quite understood or something you’ve recently learned and want to share) using the form below or on the contact page.

Barcode: You don’t need this inside your book, but may wish to include it on your cover. It encodes your ISBN in a format recognisable by computer scanners, for example in a shop or distribution centre. Do not pay for a barcode! There are plenty of services that will generate one for you free of charge – ask me for more info. And both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark can include a barcode for you as part of your cover file template. 

Colophon: A logo for your imprint which goes in the copyright page and on the spine. It’s not a requirement, but a nice extra. Get this professionally done if you use one. 

Contents: A page near the start of your book, which helps readers navigate to specific sections of your book. It isn’t mandatory in print books, but your ebook must include one, even if your chapters are simple numbers rather than names. 

Copyright information: A page at the front of your book, and an absolute requirement. You can start with the most basic information, such as © Jo Bloggs 2023 or you can have extended information including your ISBNs, a disclaimer (usually a good idea), any book registration information, or information about your book’s production such as the typography. It’s good practice (ahem) to credit your team, too, so allow space for your editor and book designer(s).

Cover template: When your book is finished, your cover designer will need a cover template from your printing service to ensure your cover files meet their requirements. You can generate these using your book specifications; Amazon KDP’s is here: and IngramSpark’s is here: 

CSS & html: The code used to make ebooks both function properly and look pretty. These codes also lurk behind every web page on the internet – albeit at a much more advanced level. 

Disclaimer: The paragraph or two in your copyright notice asserting, for example, that no characters or places bear resemblance to actual people or places, or that you cannot take responsibility for medical advice, etc. Make sure this is accurate: don’t use a fiction disclaimer if you’re writing a biography, for example. 

End matter: After your main text, you can include further information about yourself in the form of an author bio, about your other books, and any other relevant information. This can include a bibliography/reference list, an index, and, for example, historical notes. Sometimes authors prefer to put their acknowledgements here rather than at the start of the book. 

Epigraph: A short quote at the start of your book, or sometimes as a chapter opener, that in some way reflect the tone or theme of your text. It should include a credit. 

Epub: The most widely-used format for ebooks. It’s a simple, zipped file containing text files made up of css and html to produce a consistent design across the book. It can include hyperlinks and graphics, and will often be very slightly difference from a print layout to make use of the extra reader features – such as being able to change the font size, margin size, and even the font itself. 

Front matter: This is the content at the start of your book. It comprises (usually) a half-title page, title page, copyright notice, and dedication. It can also include extras like acknowledgements, an epigraph, maps, a table of contents, a list of illustrations, etc… The possibilities are endless. Be aware that in ebooks, you can have a short sample available – if you have a lot of front matter, this will eat into your readers’ sample!

Half-title: The title of your book, usually excluding any subtitle, in a medium-size font on the very first page of your book. 

Imprint: The name under which you publish your books. This can be your own name – Joe Bloggs – or a company name, such as My Wonderful Books. It isn’t a legal entity, although you can take steps to incorporate if you wish.

Index: A resource at the back of your book detailing key themes and topics that a reader might wish to reference quickly, in alphabetical order. It can be very basic; a good index should be prepared by someone with the relevant skills and experience. Not usually used in fiction. 

IngramSpark: A self-publishing platform that can be used alongside or in place of Amazon KDP. There are many pros and cons to both services. 

ISBN: International Standard Book Number. A unique identifier for every print book put on sale, in a 13-digit format, usually starting 978. Opinions vary on how many ISBNs you need, but usually it’s one for a paperback, one for a hardback, one for ebook (some people have one for Kindle and one for all other ebooks). You will also need a new set of ISBNs if you make substantial differences to a new edition of your book. 

Kindle: Amazon’s own e-reading system, often used as a shorthand for any ebook. The Kindle can refer to the device (of which there are many), the ebook itself, or any of the file formats used to publish your ebook on Amazon. You may see .kpf – this is the current format, accepted only by Amazon, whilst .mobi is an old format. You cannot use mobi files to publish any more but you should get one from your book formatter, as it’s a handy way to check that your file basically works (though it may not look exactly the same) and it’s also commonly used in giveaways or other instances where your target readers may not be getting the book from Amazon, but they want to load it in their Kindle device or app. Kindle also accept epubs, but other ebook retailers do not accept kpf or mobi. 

Kobo: An ebook provider, which sells ebooks through its apps and devices, similar to Amazon. They use epub files rather than proprietary formats. 

Margin: The white space around the text of your book. There is a minimum margin for all standard books, but make them larger – white space improves your reading experience. 

ms: Short for manuscript, used mainly in informal communication.

Proofreading marks: These are the red squiggles that you’ll see when you get your proofread manuscript back from your proofreader. The marks are known as BSI and are widely recognised by editors, proofreaders, and typesetters. 

Recto: The right-hand page (your right, as you look at the book spread). A book always conventionally has its title, half-title, and other supplementary pages (such as a dedication) on the recto, with a blank facing page.

Running heads: The text along the top of your pages. Usually this will be the author name on the verso and the book title on the recto, or the book title on the verso and the chapter title, if you have them, on the recto.

Self-publishing: Making your book available to readers without getting a traditional publishing deal. You will usually pay a service provider, or a series of providers, to get your book to a professional standard, although it is of course possible to do it all yourself for free. 

Spread: The conventional two-page layout of a book.

Title Page: A display page on the third page of your book (after the half-title and a blank), always on the recto side. It will often complement your cover typography and may include the book title, subtitle, author name and any imprint logo. 

Verso: The left-hand page (your left, as you look at the book spread).


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