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  Here are a few essential publishing terms, and some abbreviations used in AR&E reports on literary agents. In the matter of contractual terms, nothing here is meant as legal advice, merely as a tool to help you design the correct questions.



AAA - Association of Authors Agents (U.K.)

AAR - Association of Authors Representatives (U.S.)

BKS - The Bookseller
A weekly British trade magazine.

BOMC - Book of The Month Club

Fk't - or just Frankfurt or just 'the fair' - all refer to the Frankfurt Book Fair
Held annually the first weekend in October, and without doubt the most important venue for the sale of international rights. If it's hot at Frankfurt, the buzz lasts at least until publication.

LONDON - the annual June fair held in Britain for the sale of international rights. This was started later than Frankfurt, but is increasingly important. Nowadays all publishing turns up.

LMP - Literary Marketplace
An annual guide to who's who in the book business. It's the industry bible for locating anyone connected with the trade and can be found in virtually every us public library and many others. And these days there is, of course, an online version.

NYT - The New York Times
America's newspaper of record. See the PW entry for why it matters in this context.

The Bookseller - A weekly British trade magazine.

PW - Publishers Weekly
This one's what it says it is, a weekly magazine about the book business. Invaluable and read by everyone in the trade, but skewed more to the publisher's point of view than that of the author. Reviews in PW are crucial, however. And its bestseller list is second in importance only to that of the Sunday NYT.

QPBC - Quality Paperback Book Club

Q&Q - Quill and Quire
A monthly Canadian trade publication.


Some houses have been known since almost forever by their initialsÖ

S&S - Simon and Schuster

FS&G- Farrar Straus and Giroux

NAL - New American Library

NEL - New English Library

HBG - Hatchette Book Group owned by Hachette Livre, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French Lagardère Group.

The Big Five - Hachette Book Group, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.

(While we're on the subject of publishers, a note about the dear departed. Our reports often make reference to publishers who are defunct, swallowed up in the great rush to conglomerate. In some cases, they have become an imprint with the house that bought them out - Scribners at S&S is an example - in others there's nothing left but the memory. Our records go back long enough so that we know where most of the bodies are buried. And we tell you.) 


Roughly defined, that which belongs to you as author, i.e. The control of a piece of written work is vested in the creator. (Under present copyright law you need do nothing to assert those rights, they are yours automatically.) There are, however, a number of subsets which you need to understand before you consider signing any of them away:

Volume rights -
permission to publish the manuscript in book form. Either hardcover, paperback or both. And these days, of course, e-books, i.e. electronic publishing rights, are included in all contracts. Old contracts where they are not specifically cited remain a gray area under various kinds of litigation and speculation - we will add to neither because we don't know any more than you do.

Dramatic rights -
permission to adapt the work for performance. Depending on how the contract is written this refers to film, legitimate stage, tv, or any combination thereof. The rights to produce audio tapes are usually dealt with separately.

Electronic rights -
the whole bag of tricks relating to the internet and what's generally called new media. Very complex and still evolving.

First serial rights -
permission given (for a price - usually fairly juicy) to a newspaper or magazine to publish excerpts from the work prior to its volume publication.

Second serial rights -
permission given (usually a lot more cheaply) to a newspaper or magazine to publish excerpts after volume publication.

Foreign rights -
the right to publish the book in countries other than that of the primary publisher. Sometimes, but with less accuracy, referred to as translation rights. An author with a US primary publisher sells the English or Canadian rights as a foreign deal, not one involving translation.

World rights -
as used in book publishing this refers to the sale to the primary publisher of an interest in all the subsidiary rights mentioned above and possibly a few more. The share-out depends on the contract, but traditionally it has been along 60/40 lines, with the lion's share going to the lion - in this case, the publisher. A good agent can, of course, cut a different deal. The best agents seldom sell world rights unless they are talking a mega buck advance and are using the sale of world rights to sweeten an already very sweet pot.


Advance -
a fixed sum paid to the writer. Theoretically designed to allow the writer to live during the period the book is being written, revised, and ultimately published. Equally theoretically, it is exactly what it says, an advance against the royalties the book will earn after copies go on sale. Advances above certain minimum amounts usually involve staged payouts over a period of a year or more. So much on signing, so much on completion, so much on finishing the revisions, so much on pub day, six months after pub day, et cetera.

Except in rare (thank God) instances the advance is not repayable. If the book bombs, in monetary terms the publisher takes the hit, not the author. If it does not bomb it reaches that happy state known as.

Earning out -
enough copies of the book are sold so that the agreed royalties cover the amount of the advance. In general terms, the author is paid no further sums until the advance has been earned out. The specifics, however, are more complicated.

Contracts can be and are written that permit certain subsidiary earnings to be passed through to the author before the advance is earned out. Also bear in mind that the publisher does not require a book to earn out the advance paid to the author before the book shows a profit on the publisher's books. Their accountants are more subtle than that.

Escalators -
bonuses paid to the author based on the work meeting certain performance goals. Used to be that meant a given number of weeks on the New York Times Best seller list. These days it's whatever the specific contract says it is. Frequently a number relating to the advance as explained above. It can also speak to rewards for appearances on other lists, or reference some other arcane standard of hitting a bases loaded homer. Agents, like the publisher's accountants, are very creative people.