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The Language of Publishing

August 2013

by Linda Carlson

Welcome to the penultimate installment of our printing and publishing glossary. This month, we explain SASEset-offsnipeSTOP, and dozens of other sometimes confusing terms, including technical language and jargon. If you’ve missed the issues with A through R, check Independent Articles at ibpa-online.org. Coming soon: the rest of the alphabet, and then the glossary as a whole.



Saddle-stitched: Paperback publications with a limited number of pages can be stapled with either a wire or preformed staples, a binding method called saddle-stitching. Magazines and catalogs of 100 pages or less are often saddle-stitched. Because saddle-stitched publications have no spine, many retailers do not stock them unless display materials are provided (as they sometimes are with children’s paperbacks, for example).

Sans serif: Fonts, such as Helvetica and Arial, designed without (sans) finishing strokes (serifs) crossing or projecting from the main line or stroke in a letter.

SASE: Self-addressed, stamped envelope, usually required with an author’s submission to a publisher so the publisher can return unwanted materials at the author’s expense.

Scanning: Creates digital images of illustrations, photographic prints, or text. Images can be saved in many formats, including JPG for Website use, TIF for insertion in material to be printed, and PDF for facsimile editions, often of out-of-print books for which no digital files exist.

Score: A line impressed into the pages of perfect bound books during the bindery process to make the pages easier to fold. Some pages are scored a fraction of an inch away from and parallel to the spine to allow covers to bend more easily.

Screening: The prepress process that breaks a continuous tone image such as a photograph into dots for print reproduction.

Second cover: Books are sometimes produced with different covers, usually because a large quantity of the press run will be distributed by a single customer. When a book is being used as a giveaway, the second cover may include a phrase such as “This copy compliments of . . . ” If a bulk buyer has licensed book content for a certain market, the second cover might incorporate the buyer’s name in the title: “The XYZ Company Guide to . . . ” A different front cover also creates the option for different text on the inside front cover, inside back and back cover. (It’s possible that second-covering a book might create the need for a different ISBN, to distinguish this version from the trade version.)

Secondary leading: Vertical space added above and below text elements such as quotations or bulleted lists.

Self cover: A cover printed on the same paper, usually a text stock, as the book or booklet within it.

Self-publishing: The process an author follows to arrange, manage, and finance the editing, copyediting, design, production, marketing, distribution, and sales of a book. Contrast with vanity or subsidy publishing, which is author-financed, but not usually author-managed.

Separations: See Color separation.

Serif: The strokes used on serif type fonts such as Bodoni, Garamond, and Old English. Also see Sans serif.

Set-off: The same as “offset” when used to describe the transfer of ink from one printed sheet to the back of the next sheet going through the press, creating an unacceptable product. Causes include paper that does not absorb ink well, ink that is not absorbed well, and even humidity in the press area. (“Offset” in this context is not the same as offset lithography, or printing, although set-off, or offset, is more common with offset lithography.)

Share of audience: An advertising term referring to the estimated percentage of households or individuals watching or listening to a particular program compared to the number of broadcast sets in use when the program was aired. The higher the share of audience, the higher the cost of advertising for that program.

Share of market: Used to indicate market dominance, this is a percentage of a market that a given product or kind of product has—for example, the percentage of iPad sales compared to sales of all e-readers, or the sales of a certain publisher’s mass market thrillers as a percentage of sales of all mass market thrillers.

Sheet-fed press: A printing press that prints on sheets of paper rather than on rolls.

Short-run printing: Printing a very limited quantity, typically 50 to 1,000 units for books. With offset printing, short-run unit costs are very high; digital presses are commonly used for short runs.

Show-through: Printing on one side of a sheet that can be seen on the reverse side, a problem caused by lightweight paper or paper that is not opaque or by ink wicking through paper.

Shrinkwrap: Packaging made of plastic film, typically provided by a book manufacturer’s bindery, that protects books through the shipping process and while they are on display. Book manufacturers quote prices for shrinkwrapping individual books or packages of books (say, the titles in a trilogy) or for “convenient,” which usually means shrinkwrapping the tallest stack that the manufacturer’s equipment can accommodate. “Convenient” is the least expensive option.

Sidebar: More typical in newspapers, magazines, and textbooks than in trade books, a sidebar is a short piece of text set off from the main text with information related to the main topic, such as a summary, example, or list.

Signature: A sheet of paper that prints multiple pages, signature also refers to the sheet when folded and trimmed into pages for one section of a book. How many pages there are in a signature depends on the size of the parent sheet and the page size. Newspapers sometimes have four-page signatures (two leaves with a page on each side of each); book signatures are usually multiples of eight and often of 32.

Simultaneous (or multiple) submission: A manuscript sent to several potential buyers at the same time. The senders may be authors submitting books to agents or publishers, or publishers submitting books or excerpts to other publishers for subsidiary rights sales.

Single title order plan (STOP): A discount plan created by the American Booksellers Association to reduce costs to retailers placing special orders for one or more copies of the same title with a publisher. STOP orders require use of the ABA STOP form.

Site license: Now often a term that refers to electronic subscriptions or one-time purchases of publications that will be accessible to a number of users in the purchaser’s organization. The publisher of reference guides might offer companies a site license for online access to a frequently updated publication, for example. Pricing may be similar to that of bulk purchases.

Slander: The oral communication of false statements that are harmful to a person’s reputation, which may lead that person to take legal action. The written counterpart is libel.

Slush pile: Unsolicited (or “over the transom”) manuscripts received by a publisher. To reduce slush, publishers can publicize their submission requirements on their Websites and specify that query letters must precede manuscript submissions.

Smart quote: See Quotation marks.

SME, subject matter editor: The title of the person who reviews a book’s content for technical accuracy.

Smyth sewn: Refers to signatures sewn with thread before binding, usually binding as casebound books.

Snipe: A very short promotional message, often shown across the top of a book cover or in the top right corner, and usually designed to appear as if it’s been added to a finished piece. Examples include award medallions. A snipe printed only in black can be easily changed when the book cover is reprinted. Also see Violator.

Social media: Opt-in electronic media such as blogs and Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest that publishers and authors can use to post material about books and invite comments. Social media typically constitute an important part of an author’s platform.

Softcover: Paperback.

Soft proof: An electronically transmitted proof, usually a PDF. Electronic proofs cannot accurately display color as it will be printed.

Solid type: Type set with no extra leading, such as 12 on 12, or 12/12.

Spec: Specification, as in “job specs.” Specs that describe how a book is to be typeset and printed deal with fonts, typefaces, leading, ink colors, paper stock, and binding. As in “on spec”: speculation; a term used to characterize a manuscript submitted to a publisher when the publisher has made no commitment to it. See Kill fee.

Special character: Any type character other than the letters, digits, and punctuation marks common in the language of a book. A publisher’s and author’s style sheet should include a special character list featuring, for example, accents and symbols.

Special sales: A publisher’s sales through nontraditional channels, such as nonbook wholesalers and retailers and organizations that buy in bulk to distribute copies to members, employees, or customers. Such sales sometimes involve second covers for a title.

Specialty retailers: In publishing terms, any nonbookstore retailer; for example, a gift shop, baby boutique, museum store, or ethnic grocery.

Specialty wholesale: The wholesalers and distributors that supply specialty retailers.

Spine: The back of a bound book. In a paperback, the thickness of the cover stock and the bulk of the book block as determined by the PPI determine the width of the spine, and thus the maximum height of type and graphics that can appear on it.

Spiral wire binding: Corkscrew or spring coil wire inserted in holes punched in the binding edge of a book. Because of the potential for damage, booksellers seldom inventory wire-bound books that are not shrinkwrapped or boxed. And because a wire-bound book lacks a spine, it will provide no information to readers when displayed spine-out in a bookstore.

Split fountain: In offset printing, a technique for simultaneously printing two colors from the same ink fountain. A full spectrum of color can be achieved at a one-color cost, but the press must be washed more often, possibly increasing costs. See Gradient.

Spot coating: Varnish or another finish applied to only part of a page, typically a front cover, to enhance a graphic element such as an image or title.

Spot color: A color other than black used for certain elements of a book’s text, such as subheads or line art introducing each chapter.

Spread: See Chokes and spreads.

Stamping: Pressing a design, such as a simulated award sticker, into a book cover using foil or ink with a die.

Standing order: A purchase order for each successive issue of a publication, or each new edition or title from a publisher, until the publisher is notified otherwise.

Steampunk: A subgenre of science fiction and speculative fiction that became popular in the 1980s. Goodreads.com says the term “denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions.”

Stet: A proofreading instruction directing that a change or a correction mark should be ignored and the text should be left as it was.

Stock photos, stock art: Images available free or for a fee from companies that license use of their own photos or images acquired from photographers and illustrators. Organizations other than stock art companies (for example, museums and libraries) also license images. Stock images can be purchased on an exclusive basis, so that other books or printed pieces cannot use the same image in a given medium and/or for a certain time period, which is important for publishers who don’t want a photo on a book cover seen on other books, in magazines, or in advertisements. Fees for exclusive use are higher. Fees usually also depend on how a photo will be used, and in how many copies. For example, fees for a history book with a press run of 5,000 will likely be less than fees for an image to be used in a television commercial.

Stock transfer: The shipment of copies at a publisher’s request by its fulfillment agent to a destination such as the venue of an author event or to the publisher. Returning the publisher’s property to it at the termination of a fulfillment agreement is not a stock transfer.

Stroke menu: Desktop publishing programs such as InDesign allow type to be made bolder, or darker and heavier, by increasing the width of the stroke of each character. Outline type can be created by selecting a color for the stroke that contrasts with the body of the character. See Sans serif and Serif.

Style: The spellings, punctuation, abbreviations, format for citations, and so on that are used consistently throughout a publication. Examples include the serial comma (or not) and the capitalization (or not) of job titles. A Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press, provides the “house style” for many publishers. The stylebook published by the Associated Press is used by many newspapers and should be followed for press releases.

Styles: In desktop publishing software, Styles are used to “tag” paragraphs or other elements of text with information that defines them. A novel might have one Style for chapter titles, one for paragraphs after breaks within chapters, and one for body text. A nonfiction book might also have Styles for subheads, quotations, footnotes, references, bibliography, index, and more. Styles should be used to define font, type size, color, indents, line spacing, rules, and paragraph spacing.

Style sheet: The elements specific to a manuscript (see Style) compiled for reference during writing and copyediting, to ensure consistency and accuracy.

Subhead: A secondary heading or title, often used to announce topics in the chapters of a nonfiction work.

Subsidiary rights: See Rights.

Subsidy publisher: A firm that gets a fee to print, and possibly also provide publishing services for, a title. Firms that promote themselves as “self-publishing companies” or “author services companies” offer subsidy publishing, often along with other book manufacturing and distribution services. Examples include Lulu, iUniverse, CreateSpace, and Lightning Source. The publishing programs some booksellers offer in conjunction with their Espresso Book Machine imprints are also subsidy publishing. Some subsidy publishers are better described as vanity presses.

Subtitle: An additional title for a book, usually explanatory. One of the sources used in creating this glossary was IBPA member Pete Masterson’s Book Design and Production, subtitled A Guide for Authors and Publishers.

Linda Carlson (info@lindacarlson.com) writes for the Independent from Seattle.

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