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11 Common Publishing Terms All Writers Should Know

Here's a list of common publishing lingo that you should know before sending your query off to agents. (And if you don't know what a query is, this list will definitely help you.)

If you're a writer looking to write, sell or publish a book, there are many basic terms that you need to know. Heck, if you don't know certain industry terms, you may even have trouble interpreting advice-driven articles on writing designed to help you. Here's a list of common publishing lingo that you should know before sending your query off to agents. (And if you don't know what a query is, this list will definitely help you.)

Grammar Rules

11 Common Publishing Terms All Writers Should Know

# MANUSCRIPT (MS): Your completed book.

# MIDDLE GRADE (MG): Books for ages 9–12. Examples include Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White and the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Boyce and Will Osborne.

# NARRATIVE NONFICTION: True stories written in a narrative that reads like a novel’s; also called creative nonfiction. Examples include The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Sloot and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

# NEW ADULT: Books featuring protagonists ages 18–29, usually focusing on the first struggles of adulthood, such as finding love and getting a job.

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# PLATFORM: Your author presence that allows you to market your expertise and/or book directly to your audience. Examples include a website, a broad-reaching social media network (Twitter, Facebook), speaking engagements and more.

# PROPOSAL: A detailed package used to pitch a nonfiction book; includes a table of contents, a market analysis, fully written sample chapters and more. (Turn to Page 32 for more on how to make your nonfiction book proposal as strong as possible.)

# QUERY: A one-page letter to an agent or editor that explains what your book is about and who you are. (Turn to Page 28 for query letter dos and don’ts, plus a real-life example of a query letter that led to agent representation.)

# SAMPLE CHAPTERS: Completed chapters of your ms or proposed book. For a novel, these should be the first chapters of the book. For nonfiction, you may choose those that best represent the style and tone of your project.

[How Long Should Novel Chapters Be? Click here to find out.]

# SYNOPSIS: A short (usually one-page) front-to-back summary of your work.

# UPMARKET: Literary fiction with commercial appeal, particularly women’s fiction.

# YOUNG ADULT (YA): Books for ages 13–17. Examples include The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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