Understanding Publishing Terms

Writing a novel is very different from getting it published. Before I really tried to get published, I never realised just how different these two things were. Writing is a creative process–it’s fun, cathartic, addictive. Getting published is a minefield of rejections on a steep learning curve.

For me, trying to get published has been akin to starting a small business–so many hours invested, lots of set up costs (laptops, memberships to writing associations, paper, ink toners, contests, postage, books in your genre), with no guarantee of any of it paying off.

What’s more, just like any business, there are the terms that those in the industry use. I didn’t know any of these until I became a finalist in the Golden Heart®, attended the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in 2012, and met so many people in the industry.

So, here’s a little cheat sheet of the expressions and acronyms I’ve learned over the years. I’ve included the pronunciation when necessary 😎

Agent – a professional who represents your work and is paid a commission based on your sales. It’s very hard to get one as they are in big demand due to the fact a lot of big publishers don’t read work unless they come from an agent. However, sometimes, writers can sell a book before they find an agent to represent them!

Alpha Man – a hero who is assertive, stubborn, take-charge type

Arc – the journey your plot or characters go through from the beginning to the end of the story

ARC – [arc] – advance reader’s copy (before the final version of a book is released, the publisher sends the author a box of books to check for the last time, as well as send to readers so that there can be reviews of the book before it is released)

Back-loading – putting the interesting part of the sentence at the end

Beta Heroes – male characters who are nice, sensitive guys

Beta Readers – people who read your work and give you feedback from a reader’s perspective

Blurb – a positive review quote from fellow authors that you see on the covers of books

Closed Door – the kind of love scene that ends before you get to the good stuff :-p  They kiss, and then the next scene is after the loving

Copyediting – checking that your writing is ready to print (eg. spelling mistakes, consistent use of punctuation, details about your characters like names or hair colour)

CP – critique partner (a fellow writer that you swap manuscripts with for critiquing as well as brainstorming and plotting)


                                      Here’s my amazing CP, Heather Ashby

CST – contemporary single title (a genre of romance, usually with a male and female point of view and where the love story is central to the plot)

Deep POV – writing in the third person but from the perspective of a particular character. The non-dialogue sentences are often written like the character’s own thoughts.

Erotica – definitions differ but I like the definition by bestselling author, Sorcha Grace (2013) in The Huffington Post – a genre where there’s explicit sex, more than two people in the relationship and there isn’t always an HEA

Erotic Fiction – definitions differ but I like the definition by bestselling author, Sorcha Grace (2013) in The Huffington Post – a genre where there’s explicit sex but the love story is usually between two people and there’s an HEA

Firebirds, The – the 2012 Golden Heart® Contest finalists (each year, the class of finalists chooses a name for themselves)

Firebirds logo

This is our pin – we put this on our conference name tags

GH – The Golden Heart® Contest (the most prestigious US writing contest in the romance genre for unpublished writers)


Yay, this was me on the jumbotron at the 2012 GH award show!

GMC – goal, motivation, conflict (something to consider when writing your book)

HEA – [H-E-A] – happily ever after

Head Hopping – when the point of view changes from one character to another in the same scene

Heat Level – how hot your love scenes are

Hook – a little cliffhanger or other interesting way to end a chapter so that the readers want to turn the page and keep reading

Hybrid Author – a writer who is both traditionally and independently published

Internet Presence – how well you show up on a web search

Line Editing – checking that your writing reads well (eg. tightening your dialogue and pacing)

Ms – [em-es] – manuscript

New Adult – a genre where the main female characters are older than high school but not older than 24 years old

NSRE – novel with strong romantic elements (a novel with a love story but it is not the main purpose of the story)

NWS – new writers’ scheme (a service of getting manuscripts critiqued as an unpublished member of the RNA)

Predators & Editors – an excellent website to find out if agents/editors/publishers can be trusted or not

POD – [pod] – print on demand (some books are sold for e-readers but could be printed on paperback on demand)

POV – [P-O-V] – point of view (refers to which character the story is narrated from)

RNA – Romantic Novelists’ Association (the British version of the RWA)

RWA – Romance Writers of America but also Romance Writers of Australia

WIP – work in progress (the manuscript the author is currently working on)

WF – women’s fiction (stories that may or may not have a love story in them, but the central character is a woman)

YA – young adult (a genre where the characters are in their teens)

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