Your story is worth publishing.

Get inspiring self-publishing lessons, tips, and secrets every Wednesday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Join 3,655+ future authors

AuthorSimon Villeneuve

35+ Self-Publishing Terms Every Aspiring Author Should Know

I knew self-publishing was going to be tough, but there was one thing I never expected: all the jargon, acronyms, and technical terms.

If you’re jumping head-first into self-publishing like I did, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. But remember—self-publishing is a journey. You will learn by doing, not just learning to do. Count this year as a commitment to trying, exploring, and not giving up.

self-publishing terms

This week, I wanted to round up a list of the most common self-publishing terms that you’ll likely run into at various stages in your self-publishing journey. It’s my hope that you can bookmark this list as use it as a reference-point when you come across an unfamiliar self-publishing term.

Note: If you’re like most aspiring self-published authors, you need accountability and support. Consider registering for BookWorthy, our step-by-step course that will help you pull that story out of your heart and publish a physical book that people will read.

Creating your book

  • Audiobook: an digital recording of a reading of a book, typically a novel.
  • Ebook: an electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device
  • Synopsis:  A brief summary of your book
  • Barcode: a machine-readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on and identifying your book
  • Copyright: the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same
  • Page Count: the total number of pages in your book
  • Title: the primary name of your book
  • Subtitle: the secondary title of your book, intended to give additional information about it’s content
  • Premise: see Title above; a proposition which forms the basis for your book
  • Promise: see Subtitle above; declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen
  • Ghostwriter: a person whose job it is to write material for someone else who is the named author; also known as a Heavy Editor
  • Heavy Editor: see Ghostwriter
  • Copyeditor: a person whose job it is to by checking your book content for consistency and accuracy; also known as a Line Editor
  • Line Editor: a person whose job it is to catches grammatical errors in each sentence of a book.
  • Editor: a person who is in charge of and determines the final content of a text
  • Formatting: arranging and organizing your book’s content into an easily readable format

Publishing your book

  • Traditional Publishing: Traditional publishing refers to the established system of getting a book deal with a traditional publisher; also known as Trade Publishing
  • Self-publishing: the process of publishing your work independently and at your own expense
  • Vanity Publishing: a method of publishing in which authors pay to have their books self-published; also known as vanity press or subsidy publisher
  • Royalty: the money paid to an author for each copy of a book sold
  • Rights: an author’s legal entitlement to own their work and the royalties it produces
  • Bowker: the official ISBN Agency for the United States and its territories and Australia; see ISBN
  • KDP: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing; a self-service website that allows anyone to publish both ebooks and paperback books for free
  • ISBN: International Standard Book Number, a ten-digit number assigned to every book before publication
  • LCCN: Library of Congress Control Number, a unique number assigned to your book when it’s accepted into the Library of Congress
  • Offset Printing: a book printing method that uses plates, usually made from aluminum, to transfer an image onto a rubber “blanket”, and then roll that image onto a sheet of paper. It’s called offset because the ink is not transferred directly onto the paper.
  • POD: Print on demand, a printing method where your book is printed on-demand when customers purchase it. You don’t pay for the product until after you’ve actually sold it, so there’s no need to buy in bulk or hold any inventory yourself.
  • EPUB: Electronic Publication, an ebook file format that uses the “.epub” file extension
  • PDF: Portable Document Format, a file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted.
  • Author Copy: copies of your paperback book that can be purchased at printing cost.

Selling your book

  • Keywords: the words a reader uses to search for your book.
  • Metadata: a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.
  • MSRP: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, the price at which the manufacturer recommends you sell your book at; also known as List Price
  • Trade Discount: a discount on the retail price of your book, decided by the publisher, retailer, or wholesaler
  • Retailer: the person or business that sells your book, typically in small quantities at high prices
  • Wholesaler: the person or business that sells your book, typically in large quantities at low prices
  • Distributor: an agent who supplies your books to retailers or wholesalers

Expanded Distribution: a KDP program that allows authors to distribute their book to bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions.

About the Author

Simon Villeneuve

Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of He's also a marketing consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.