Sunday, May 2, 2010

Publishing Terminology

In this blog, I write about books. Many times, while writing, I make reference to or use terms common amongst publishers and collecting enthusiasts. Sometimes these terms even take slightly different meanings from person to person. In that light, here is list of the commonly used terms and how I define them.

  • Trade: a book widely available in stores or at the very least, directly from the publisher. Sometimes used to refer directly to the publisher itself, though that should be obvious from the context.
  • Limited: a book, typically (but not always) from an independent, small specialty press and produced in limited (smaller) quantities. Often these books come with special features (signed by the author, special art, etc…).
  • Numbered: limited editions in which each book in the printing is individually numbered by hand – typically fewer than 1000 copies. Designed for the collector, these books are generally produced using higher quality material and cost 2-3 times more than the trade edition.
  • Lettered: limited editions in which each book in the printing is assigned a letter from the alphabet. Typically only 26 copies are made, sometimes 52. Generally these books come with several “bonuses” such as a traycase, custom art and leather bindings and are outrageously expensive – often in excess of 10 or 20 times the trade price.
  • Trade Paper: a large format (the size of a typical hardcover) paperback. Often with an embossed cover or heavier paper that the mass-markets.
  • Mass-Markets: the grocery store rack, small paperbacks you see everywhere. These editions are cheaply produced, typically selling for $6.99-$9.99. Sometimes, within context, this term is used to describe a publishing house operating on a nation or world-wide scale and all of the books they produce. I rarely use this term in this fashion though there are many who do.
  • Book Club Editions (BCEs): The bane of book collectors. Books that are made available at a discount to members of a club, always manufactured with cheaper materials. Only very rarely have these books any value.
  • Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs): alternatively called advance reader editions, early reader editions, or proofs (though proofs are technically something different still) these are books made available to reviewers early, for the purpose of generating publicity. Often lacking a designed cover, art and/or final mistake checking.
  • Hardcover: pretty obviously, a book with a rigid outer frame.
  • Dustjacket: alternatively called dustwrappers or dustcover, this is the outer, removable paper covering of a book, typically illustrated. In regards to modern, first edition collecting, the dustjakcet may represent up to 90% of the value of the book and hence are fiercely protected.
  • Boards: the part of the book that makes a hardcover a hardcover. Modern trade hardcover boards are generally covered with paper, limited hardcover boards generally with cloth or better.
  • Slpicase: an outer rigid shell that comes available on some limited editions. It is a five sided box that allows a book to be slipped in, protecting it further from damage. The closed spine of the slipcase is typically stamped with the books name and author, just like the spine of the book itself.
  • Traycase: the royal version of the slipcase, the traycase is generally a complete closable box with a hinged top allowing the book to be placed in, face up. High end traycases are made with wood and a felt-lined interior to truly protect and display the book.
  • First edition: discounting the ARC, the first printing of any state of any book. I often use this term indiscriminately for both a US first edition and an overseas first edition, though strictly speaking, only of of these is the true first edition. Unless they both were released on the same day, which rarely happens.
  • First Printing: Many books go through multiple printings if they are selling well. While not changing editions, the publisher will just order more copies. The second batch of copies is the second printing, and so on. Identifying first printings is tricky business indeed and may be explored in a later essay. I will almost always refer to first edition, first printings as 1st/1sts.
  • Omnibus: a book that contains more than one (previously published) novel by a single author.
  • Collection: a book collecting many short stories by a single author.
  • Anthology: a book collecting many short stories by many authors.

This represent an overview of what I think is important regarding collecting and when discussing books in general. I may have left out some terms, if so – please tell me if you are confused. I will probably update this post from time to time as I think of it.

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