Independent Publishing Basics, Terms, and Definitions

The process of writing a book is just the beginning of your odyssey into the realm of publishing. After you’ve polished your manuscript and had it professionally edited, you’re ready for submission. (We strongly recommend that you work with a professional editor prior to submission. The relationship between a good editor and writer will yield a manuscript that fully conveys the intent of your work. If you don’t have an editor, contact us and we can recommend reputable folks.) Now that you’re in the publishing end of the pool, it’s important to understand the language of publishing. Every industry has its own list of arcane wording and acronyms. Being able to “speak publishing” will not only save you and your publisher time, but you will be able to demystify the publishing process. While the list at the bottom of this section isn’t exhaustive, it will give you a good basis in which to communicate with your publisher.

What’s Next? Once you’re gotten all cozy with a publishing house, your manuscript is then transformed into a book. There are no little elves that make books pop out of thin air and the process can take some time dependent on the complexity of your book. After the initial review and agreed editing of your book, the book is then formatted in a print and ebook layout. Cover art and back cover text is then worked up. That process is not always quick and don’t expect a finished product in a week. Remember your creative process in writing your book? The staff of publishing houses go through the same process when creating layouts and cover art. Just as you didn’t slap words on a page, publishers don’t just throw together these publishing elements like one would make a sandwich.

After the eBook coding, cover design, interior layout, and all of the boring technical stiff of publishing is finished, your book is ready to be released into the wild. You’ll get a proof copy of your book and approve or reject the final copy. Please be careful to make sure that everything is the way you would like it or has been previously been agreed upon by you and your publisher. Going back and making changes is a costly process and there can be lag times of a few weeks between submitting changes to the distribution chain and actually seeing those changes go live. After final approval, we make your book available to as many markets as we can.

Grave Distractions Publications has always believed in the “casting one’s nets wide” to increase the visibility of your title. We accomplish this by offering titles to though retailers and distributors we’re established firm relationships with over the years. Then we’re both off to the races, so to speak. Your book can take 4 to 6 weeks to show up through our distribution chains, but important print and eBook listings, such as Amazon, are live within a few days of final proof approvals.

One of our avowed goals at Grave Distractions Publications is to provide a traditional publishing experience that is both equitable to the author and publisher. We offer royalties that are weighted heavily in the author’s favor. That being said, we expect that our authors will be fully invested in the post publication experience. We also offer a publishing model that equally shares expense items between authors and publishers. When performing traditional publishing functions, you are never asked to pay for services related to preparing the book for publication. There are no hidden charges for layout or design fees that will crop up somewhere down the line. However, our model is like that of opening a small business together with our authors. All cash expenses are paid for by royalties before profits are distributed to either author or publisher. In any business one has to pay the bills before seeing the fruit of one’s labors and our model is no different. Also all expense items are agreed upon with the author prior to incurring an expense. For example, if it was decided that we would take an ad out on a website, the cost of that ad would be cleared with book sales. While this may not be viewed as “how the guys in New York do things”, the system has worked well for us and our authors.

The bottom line is that we want authors to become involved in every step of the process. You’ve taken the care to write a book that you want the world to see. We want make books available to the public that will reward you for your efforts. If you’re an author or literary agent, please feel free to contact us at and we’ll set up a consultation.

Common Publishing Terms

  • 300 DPI: Images and photographs are not only measured by length and width, but by resolution or Dots Per Inch (DPI). Think of each image as being made up of single points of color. The more points you have in an image, the higher the resolution. Most of what you see on the web are images that are somewhere in the 72 to 150 DPI range. While these images can be used for eBook publication (if you hold the rights or permission to use an image), images for print editions require at least a resolution of 300 DPI. Large images can be shrunk down to create a higher resolution from a lower resolution source file. For example if your original is 72 DPI, but is 3000 by 5000 pixies, you can shrink the image for a higher resolution. This method will result in a smaller print size and the image maybe too small for publication. There’s no magical way to make a small low resolution image fit for print, so if you’re going to have images in your book make sure they’re of a proper resolution. Well there are a few magical ways to make lower resolution images higher resolution, but you're not going to get a quality image calling on the magic of Merlin's beard.
  • Alpha (or Beta) Readers:  These terms can be slightly interchangeable, but the gist is that an Alpha or Beta reader is someone you've let read your book before sending off your final manuscript. Technically speaking, an Alpha Reader get your first draft. Usually you owe, or will owe, this person a few beers for looking at your unpolished work. A good Alpha Reader is someone who really doesn't care for you as a person and is willing to give a brutally honest opinion of your work. A Beta Reader is someone who gets your polished manuscript before you send it off to an editor. Both sets of readers need to give you an overall impression of your book, look for continuity issues, factual errors, and basically anything about your book that looks hinky. Once again, don't get your mother to be an Alpha or Beta Reader. She'll love anything you write and will probably not give you an objective opinion. 
  • Bar Codes: A book's bar code is exactly the same thing as you see on items in your local grocery store. In the case of a book, the book's ISBN and pricing information is embedded in the bar code instead of a box of cereal's Universal Product Code and pricing information (UPC). Here's a world of caution, if a website, cover designer, or anyone else is going to charge you to create a bar code, they're ripping you off. There are tons of free tools online that can create high resolution bar codes with pricing and ISBN information embedded in those little lines.
  • Billing Cycle, Billing Terms, or Credit Terms: This is an accounting term that refers to once a publisher cuts an invoice to a vendor or distributor, how long that vendor has to pay up. Usually billing terms are worked out between publishers and vendor before a sale is made. This gives the vendor time to sell books in order to cover the price of the invoice. It's a standard practice in business to offer credit terms and it's not uncommon for publishers to offer 60 to 90 day terms to their vendors. This trickles down to authors who generally have to wait until vendor invoices are paid to see their cut of book sales.
  • BISAC Subject Heading: The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has created a more or less industry standard for applying topics to books. We use this system and the majority of our vendors do as well.
  • Bleed: The amount of printing that goes beyond the edge of a page before that page is trimmed. Most printers require some bleed on covers and interiors of books. So if your publisher says, “We can’t have that element out that far on a page”, it’s because of printer’s bleed requirements.
  • Brick and Mortar: Traditional retail stores that sell books.
  • Color Shift: What you see on screen is not always what you get when it comes to printing a book. Different presses interpret colors of their own accord. Usually the difference between what you see on a calibrated monitor and what pops out of a press is minimal. However, there can be differences and a proof copy of your book should show anycolor variations..
  • Content Editor, Copy Editor, Line Editor: Once again there are differing definitions of these different types of Editors, but here's the broad strokes. A Content Editor is the first Editor in the process who is interested in how your story flows, factual errors in your text, unresolved plot lines, etc. A Copy Editor is someone who generally proofreads, checks the syntax, word usage, and flow of your text. A Line Editor is more interested in polishing your verbiage and making sure your language has a constant flow and tone. If you're speaking with an editor, make sure exactly what you're getting for contracting that person. The definitions of these different types of editors aren't set in stone and many editors perform multiple tasks.
  • Copyright: This is a huge ball of wax that this article will not do justice . Basically, a copyright is a legal term that identifies your work as belonging to you. We suggest that you check out the US Copyright Office’s website for more information about copyright basics. Remember that anything you write has an inherent copyright, but registering that copyright with the Copyright Office will assist you in legal proceedings should someone use your works without your permission. Also remember that anything (text, photos, etc) found on line were created by someone and you’ll need permission to use that work by the creator.
  • CYMK: A color specification system that uses four basic colors: cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K). The CYMK color system is generally used in full color printing. The vast majority of images seen online or taken by digital cameras are part of the RGB (red, green, and blue) color system and have to be converted to CYMK should a printer require that system.
  • Distributors: These are businesses that sell books at wholesale to retail outlets. Here’s how the traditional supply system works. Publishers sell books to distributors. Distributors sell books to retailers. Retailers sell books to the end consumer. In the digital marketplace, in some instances the need for distributors as diminished over the years as publishers are selling their books directly to retail outlets.
  • ePub: The most common file format for eBooks. Like the old VHS and Beta video formats, eBooks have different file formatting options. ePub is currently the most ubiquitous format and a number of online marketplaces utilize eBooks created with it.
  • Gross Profit: The total earnings for a good or service without consideration of cost. For example if your book retails at $10 and you sell 100 in a month, your gross profit is $1000.
  • ISBN: International Standard Book Number. Every print book has to have an ISBN per the gods of publishing. There’s no way around registering an ISBN for a print book and there are a number of brokers that deal in individual ISBNs and bulk ISBN sales.
  • Layout: How elements of a book look on a page. This generally refers to the internal design of a book.
  • Leading: (Pronounced like the metal and not someone who directs the efforts of others...) Leading is the spacing between lines of print. The term comes from a time when type was hand set and strips of lead were used to separate lines of text.
  • MOBI: Amazon Kindle’s eBook format. For some reason Amazon decided to create their own eBook format and all books found on for the Kindle use their proprietary formatting.
  • Net Profit: The amount of money made on a good or service after expenses are applied. For example: a book is sold for $10 and the cost of printing and delivery is $4.50. The net profit is $5.50.
  • Orphan: A single line of a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page. This can also be known as a widow. Having a orphan or widow on a page is generally a no-no and should be avoided if all possible.
  • Perfect Binding or Perfect Bound: Most of the soft cover books you see on shelves use glue to stick the cover stock to the pages and the pages to each other.
  • Print on Demand: This is a printing/inventory model that is rapidly taking over the publishing industry. Print houses store a digital file of your book and when an order is placed, a book is printed and delivered to the customer. Print on demand offers a vast flexibility for publishers and does away with the need of warehousing tons of books. In most print on demand models, the cost of printing is covered by the purchase price of the book.
  • Proof: Refers to a pre-publication copy of a book. Proofs can either be physical or digital copies of your book. Dependent on your project, digital proofs can be just fine to work from. However, if you’re book has images you might be better off seeing how the digital images translated into print.
  • RGB Color: See CYMK above.
  • Royalties: An author or publisher’s compensation for selling a book. This can also be called residuals. Usually an author or publisher makes a percentage of net profits on each of their titles sold.
  • Trim or Trim Size:  The actual size of a publication or book after the bleed is cut.

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An Independent Publisher of Books and eBooks that Matter. View this page for contact information.