A guide to sometimes mysterious publishing terms. Compiled
with the help of members of CLMP's email lists.
Subscriptions sold to libraries and institutions through
outside agendes such as Ebsco and Faxon. On an annual basis, publishers
send these agencies brief editorial descriptions plus subscription information
which the agencies publish in their catalogues at no cost. (Publishers
can also pay for larger display ads). Librarians then purchase subscriptions
through these catalogues using the agency a essentially as a middleman.
Many commercial magazines offer 15%-20% subscription discounts in return
for the convenience of the agency's services.
Books published previous to the current season that
are still in print.
Some backlist books continue to sell in significant numbers years after
publication, such as books that are used in classrooms. Others may sit
in a warehouse for years, only to start selling again when the writers
reputation grows. And yet others sit in a warehouse until remaindered,
sold to the author at/or below cost, or are recycled, or "pulped."
Many independent publishers have a commitment to keeping their books
in print, while commercial publishers pulp books as a regular practice.
Traditionally, the strength of a publishers backlist is the indicator
of both editorial and commercial success. The backlist records how well
a press has developed a coherent program and philosophy for presenting
books and authors to the public cumulatively, and it functions also
as a descriptive publishing history of that press. In the past, the
backlist served almost as an endowment for a publisher and signing an
author was seen as a longterm investment. Today, commercial publishing
is putting books out of print at a very fast rate, and their former
backlists are often a rich source for independent publishers rediscoveries
of high quality books to reprint. With the advent of eBooks and print-on-demand,
this editorial strategy may no longer be an option for independent publishers.
See also: Frontlist, Out
Subscription devices, usually standard size postcards,
which are either inserted or bound into a magazine. The card/envelope
should have a business reply mechanism and should allow individuals
to charge-or be billed for-the subscription. Magazines that do not have
the capacity to invoice should select envelopes which allow for the
easy return of personal checks. Bind-ins/blow-ins are used predominantly
to convert single-copy buyers into subscribers.
Business Reply Card/Envelope: A pre-addressed, prepaid,
first-class mailing device that statistically improves the rates of
return for renewals, direct mail and other direct response marketing
efforts (because it makes replying easier). (Information on acquiring
a BRE permit from the US Postal Service will be distributed at the workshop).
Usually a periodical's total paid readership (a combination
of individual, institutional, and agent-sold subscriptions plus average
single-copy salesthose copies actually sold, not the total sent
See also: single-copy sales
An advertisement paid for by several different sources.
Can refer to a group ad from several different publishers, a group ad
placed by a distributor on behalf of several publishers, or an ad bought
jointly by a reading venue and a publisher.
See also: Co-op money
A fee requested by a reading venue to pay for publicity
of a reading, e.g. advertisements in local newspapers, newsletters,
Co-op money also refers to fees charged publishers for inclusion in
a retailers promotional efforts (special displays, catalogues,
Based on a percentage of net sales from a specified period (i.e., the
previous 12 months), some publishers set aside "co-op pools" from which
retailers can request support for new initiatives. (AW)
See also: Co-op ad
Coding/key coding/source coding
The practice of assigning alpha-numeric codes that
allows you to identify the source of a new subscription or renewal.
There are no set rules about how to set up source codes, but the logical
approach tends to work best. For example, if you were placing an ad
for your magazine in the Threepenny Review, you would assign
a key/source code for use on the reply coupon so you can determine if
the ad successfully drew subscribers to your magazine. Your code might
best be set up by following this basic equation:
First position=source (direct mail, renewal, or in this case advertisement);
Second and third positions=date (month and year);
Fourth position=list, or in this case the magazine in which your ad
So, your code might read A398TP. It's important to remember that once
you choose a key code a format, you need to stick with it and you must
keep a record of all the codes you've used. Of course you can add a
position to track things like test offers, but the essential framework
should not be altered unless you plan to overhaul your entire tracking
See also: direct mail package;
Individuals who receive a publication regularly and
free of charge such as reviewers, funders, and board members.
Has several meanings including: the first time renewal
of a new, paid subscription and the reformation of a database for use
with new software or at a new fulfillment house.
Usually the percentage of first-time subscribers who
renew for a second year/term. Can also describe a discounted rate offered
to potential first-time renewers who initially subscribed at a reduced
rate. (A conversion rate is normally offered to "soften the blow" of
stepping up from a discounted to a full-price rate).
See also: renewal rate
Copyediting is a blanket term that describes several
different levels of textual editing that happen before the text is typeset:
mechanical, style, and substantive. Substantive editing, or major changes
to the authors wording and organization, is generally carried
out by the editor. A copyeditor generally does mechanical editing--corrections
to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The copyeditor also makes sure
that the text conforms to the house style, that is, the particular publishers
preference in issues such as serial commas or spelling out of numerals
where there is an option. Even for smaller sized publishers, it makes
sense to hire a professional copyeditor (or proofreader) since a fresh
pair of eyes will often pick up typos that have become invisible to
See also: proofreading
A pre-addressed, unpaid return envelope, usually with
a "place stamp here" box included on upper right-hand corner. Normally
used to encourage the return of invoices.
The amount paid in advance by subscribers for issues
not yet served. By law, a publisher owes this amount and must return
it if requested or if the magazine ceases publication before all the
issues are served.
Direct mail package
In commercial magazine publishing this refers to a
direct marketing effort designed to solicit new readers and is normally
comprised of a number of components including but not limited to: a
brochure outlining editorial highlights and the offer and terms ("4
issues at our spedal half-price rate of $15"); a letter, usually from
the editor-in-chief or publisher, which is typically 2-4 pages, anecdotal,
inclusive ("We're writing to you because we know you care about literature")
and persuasive; an order form which must include a source code,* offer
and terms, coupon, methods of payment, return address, additional postage
information (i.e. add $20 for airmail), etc.; an outer envelope (generally
with a window, so the label on your order form can show through) often
with teaser copy; and a business reply envelope.
*Source codes are normally printed on the mailing label and respondents
return the portion of the order form containing the label. When you
receive orders, you then have all the information you need about your
See also: Coding; BRE;
A company hired by a publisher to make the publishers
books available to the trade (i.e. bookstores and wholesalers), often
taking the place of a sales and fulfillment department for the publisher.
Like a wholesaler (whose responsibility is to the stores and libraries
it serves), a distributor takes and fills orders but also (theoretically)
creates a demand for titles by using sales representatives. In this
respect, a distributor's primary responsibility is to the publisher.
Distributors either have staff sales representatives or commissioned
sales reps that travel to bookstore accounts to sell publications. Distributors
also sell to larger accounts, such as chain bookstores and wholesalers.
Distributors charge a percentage of sales revenues for their services;
the general range is 20% to 40% of net sales (i.e., after discounts
given to bookstores). They may demand other charges, such as fees for
catalogue listing, trade show display, return processing, warehousing,
and shipping/handling. They may offer marketing services (for a higher
percentage or a fee). Payment terms can be as long as 120 days.
Distributors often ask for some kind of exclusivity in sales territory.
You can often work out a deal where you are allowed to sell directly
to Small Press Distribution, however. If there is a certain type of
venue that you feel can be better reached by someone else (comic book
stores, gift stores, etc.), by all means negotiate the freedom to sell
to those directly in your contract.
See also: Wholesaler
Usually refers to the number of copies taken by your
distributor(s). Please keep in mind that you will almost certainly sell
fewer copies than your distributor orderstherefore a "draw" should
not be figured in your paid circulation tally.
See also: Sell-through rate
A split edition.
See also: Split edition
The last issue of a given subscription term. A fundamental
of circulation record-keeping. Tracking expire information allows you
to plan timely renewals, formulate accurate print-runs, as well as to
project income and other operational essentials.
Books published in the current season. Commercial publishers
often make the distinction between frontlist and midlist, frontlist
being books that are featured in the front of the catalogue. Commercial
frontlist books are those deemed as most salesworthy, and receive more
publicity attention and budget than midlist books. Independent publishers,
which usually publish fewer books per season, generally do not make
a distinction between front- and midlist. (EW)
See also: Midlist; Backlist
List broker/list rental
A list broker is an agent that manages and rents subscriber
and membership lists and usually works for a large list brokerage agency.
Many magazines with lists of more than 5000 will rent names on the commercial
market - whether or not the publication is considered "commercial."
List rental is the term applied to purchasing another publication's
subscriber list, or part thereof, for one-time use. Many of the best
lists for literary magazines and independent presses are too small to
be on the commercial market. You can often trade or rent lists directly
Large publishers often distinguish between their leading
titlesthose current titles that receive the bulk of the publishers
promotional effortsand current or new titles for which the publishers
expect lower sales volume and, accordingly, allocate less promotional
push or advertising. The term "midlist author" refers to an
authoroften a writer of serious literary fictionwho has
published to nominal sales success, but to whom a publisher is unlikely
to devote the marketing dollars that would go to a possible bestseller.
In recent years, some midlist authors have found it difficult to sell
new projects to the commercial houses, and have turned to independent
publishers with more satisfactory results. (EW)
See also: Frontlist
Out of print
An out of print (OP) title is one that will never be
reprinted with the same ISBN. A book that will be replaced by a new
edition is declared out of print.
A paperbound book, also called "softcover."
Paperbacks come in two types: trade and mass market. Trade paperbacks
are the higher end model, printed on better quality paper and larger
in size. A common trim size for trade paperbacks is 6" x 9".
Mass market books are smaller, generally around 4" x 7", and
are often printed on lower grade stock.
While large commercial trade presses usually release their books in
hardcover first, independents increasingly go straight to paperback
because they tie up less capital in inventory. However, going straight
to paperback has its downsides: It is often harder to attract review
attention for a paperback original; and you cut out the option of selling
the right to reprint the book in paperback.
An added incentive to subscribe, renew, or donate.
Always something concrete like a back issue, tote bag, or t-shirt.
Reading of text after typesetting but before printing.
A compositors proofreader compares the typeset pages to the original
manuscripta smart practice even when an author supplies the manuscript
on disk, since weird coding errors often occur. (One annoying thing
about QuarkXpress is that it strips out formatting when you flow in
text.) Editors and authors read for stray typographical errors and sometimes
make more substantive changes.
Compositors generally charge a fee for "authors alterations"
for any editorial changes. However, in this age of desktop publishing,
many publishers are setting their own pages, making it cheap and easy
to produce round after round of page proofs. If you cant do your
own typesetting, see if you can make a deal with your typesetter that
includes one round of corrections. Some typesetters are willing to give
you the computer file with your page proofs so that you can enter the
It is wise to give your authors only one crack at page proofs and give
them a strict, tight deadline (a week should be enough); authors can
get cold feet at the end and make disastrous last minute changes.
For the publisher who has typeset her own book, the first time changes
will cost money is after the disk has been sent to the printer or service
bureau to be made into film. When you make changes on the blueline proof
(that arent correction of printers errors), you will be
charged for a new piece of film on each page you make an authors
alteration (or AA). Therefore, make sure to mark any printers
errors clearly with the letters "PE." In the digital age,
broken type and weird blots are becoming a thing of the past, but check
carefully for them anyway, as well as cropping problems and anything
else that diverges from your vision of the book.
See also: copyediting
The rate of subscribers renewing annually. For example,
if you're a quarterly you would look to the ratio of renewing subscribers
to your total number of expires over the four issues. If a total of
4000 subscribers were up for renewal in a 12 month period and 3000 renewal,
your renewal rate would be 75%. When publishers talk about renewal rates,
they will often separate first-time renewals(conversions) from long-term
renewals because conversion rates are typically much, much lower. In
a year of many marketing campaigns, conversion rates can truly skew
See also: conversion rate
A group of sequential letters, - with each letter in
the sequence called an effortencouraging paid subscribers to renew.
Ideally, each series is comprised of four to seven efforts mailed at
regular intervals, which vary depending on frequency. Typically, a renewal
series will begin no later than three months prior to expire and include
at least one post-expire effort. Coded response mechanisms and BREs
are also essential component.
A response mechanism for direct response promotions.
Provides a summary of the offer ("4 issues for $24"), allows respondent
to fill in name and address information, and lists payment options ("check
enclosed, bill me later, Visa/Mastercard", etc.). Your return address
information should also be clearly listed.
The percentage of magazines actually sold through retail
outlets. For example, if your distributor sends various bookstores 100
magazines, and 20 are returned at the end of the selling cycles, your
sell-through rate is 80%.
Those publications sold through retail outlets, either
through a distributor or directly. Can also include bulk single copy
sales to conferences and meetings.
See also: sell-through rate
A subscription offer that allows new or renewing subscribers
to send no money up front. With soft offers, one issue will often be
served, or "graced," prior to cancellation for non-payment. Also known
as a "bill me" offer. (Use only if capable of accurate and comprehensive
Publication of both hardcover and paperback editions
of a single book at the same time. Publishers often do a small run of
hardcovers to sell to libraries. Also called "dual edition."
See also: Dual edition
The practice of comparing the results of one offer
or "creative" against another. For example, in a direct mail effort
you might offer your standard half-price subscription rate to 5000 Utne
Reader subscribers and compare that offer with a slightly cheaper
rate offered to another 5000 Utne readers. (It's advised to also offer
your standard rate to a control group of 5000). Or, you could test a
premium (perhaps a back issue) to one subset of renewals or test a more
hard-hitting letter against your standard renewal. Testing is the best
(if not the only) way to determine your most effective offers, copy,
The practice of assigning codes to all marketing materials
and determining the success of your efforts by looking at net responses
and rates of return.
See also: coding
The sum total of a magazine's potential audience -
usually devised by combining the paid circulations of similar magazines.
The assumed universe for literary magazines is in the 750,000 - 1,000,000
range. This said, by marketing to this universe through traditional
methods, a decent rate of return would be anything greater than 1%.
Therefore, if you sent a subscription offer to your entire universe
of 750,000 and your rate of return was 1%, theoretically you would gain
7500 new subscribers. So while a "potential readership" of 750,000 to
1,000,000 sounds impressive, the true potential gains from this universe
are far more modest.
UPC Universal Product Code
A bar code that allows your publication to be identified
and processed in the retail marketplace. No magazine should be without
a UPC. Most distributors and retail managers won't even consider taking
on a magazine without a UPC on the front cover. To order a UPC, call
the UPC authorizing agent at (212) 996-6000 or the Uniform
Code Council. Fees for the codes vary but should be no more than
$50. UPCs can be printed directly on to a magazine cover, or preprinted
labels can be purchased.
Orders for subscriptions with no known source (i.e.
a letter or email requesting a subscription from an individual who has
never subscribed in the past and makes no mention of why he/she is subscribing
now). Considered an indicator of a magazine's word-of-mouth popularity
or lack thereof.
A company that sells books to bookstores, libraries,
and other types of retail outlets. Wholesalers do not actively create
a demand for your books. If you have a distributor, your distributor
will most likely be selling to the major wholesalers, such as Ingram
and Baker and Taylor. All independent
literary publishers should be carried by Small
Press Distribution, the only not-for-profit book wholesaler, which
carries literary titles only.
See also: Distributor
AK - Allan Kornblum, Coffee
AW - Angela Weaser, Dalkey
EW - Ed Williams, Scrivenery
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