J is for Jargon


Are you ready to speak like a pro? The publishing world is full of jargon, and sometimes it’s hard to tell your slug from your synopsis! Today’s post is all about the wonderful (and terrible) jargon we use in this crazy industry. Kept short and sweet (and a bit satirical) for your enjoyment. Real definitions found in the links.

advance – (n) an increasingly rare artifact; a most preposterous leap-of-faith.

agent – (n) knight for hire. Known for extraordinarily discerning tastes in damsels, aka Novels.

alpha reader – (n) a masochist for editing.

antagonist – (n) the character everyone likes more than the protagonist.

ARC – (n) zero edition of a to-be-published book. Public beta test for typos.

archetype (n) Carl Jung’s fancy name for a trope. Positive and posh sounding.

backlist – (n) No, really, I’m a writer. Look at all of this stuff I’ve written!

backstory – (n) see back in my day, we had to trudge through the snow fifteen miles, BOTH ways.

beta reader – (n) a person who likes chasing plot holes for other people.

BIC – (n) butt-in-chair. Time-out for writers.

black moment – (n) that character might actually fail.

character arc – (n) the illusion of movement for a character, even if they don’t end up changing at all.

characterization – (n) turning words into a person readers are certain actually exists.

cliché – (n) cringe-worthy phrases or story elements that sometimes work in real life, but not on paper.

copyeditor – (n) a person who is underpaid and under-appreciated. Often confused with high school English teachers and Ursula from The Little Mermaid.


crisis – (n) the part of a book where readers start mumbling, “Oh sh*t! Oh sh*t!”

denoument – (n) the necessary cool-down after the climax of an awesome book.

external conflict – (n) the force that kicks the protagonist out of the comfort of his previous condition.

exposition – (n) the stuff most people skim.

flashback – (n) the Rick Roll of the novel.


foreshadowing – (n) a trail of breadcrumbs.

frontlist – (n) a publisher’s meal-ticket for the month.

galleys – (n) another name for an ARC, that may or may not get into the hands of readers.

hardcover – (n) proof that you’re a big name author.

head-hopping – (n) a point-of-view orgy. Also known as Whose POV is This Anyway?

hook – (n) the act of grabbing a reader by the eyeballs on page one.

imprint – (n) a wayward child of a much larger publisher. Famous rebels include Tor, Pantheon, and Del Ray, as examples.

internal conflict – (n) if a character doesn’t have it, they’re boring.

lead author – (n) a publisher’s all-star. The one they show off at cons and name-drop with aplomb.

lead time – (n) a process usually ignored or misunderstood by the indie community.

line editor (also known as content editor) – (n) the person who will actually find the needle in that haystack.

MC – (n) the main character. Usually fears the author. Is tortured mercilessly.

MS – (n) Manuscript. Official-sounding word for “that irreconcilable mess on my hard drive”.

multiple submissions – (n) “Spam us! We don’t care.” or “I like my rejections when they sound like a Gatling gun.”

NaNoWrMo (NANO) – (n) a festival of torture that takes place every November.

novella – (n) novels for the busy writer.

pen name – (n) a writer’s porn name.

pitch – (n) pick-up lines for agents.

POV – (n) the dominate voice of a book’s multiple personalities.

proofreader – An author’s final line of defense.

PublishAmerica – (n) The Wolf of a Thousand Sheepskins. To be avoided at all costs.

pull quote – (n) modern use: text from a book, displayed over an ambiguous photo. Traditional use: fancy words repeated right next to where they already are.

query – 1. (v) to do a task that never ends. 2. (n) a parchment or digital transmission in which an author dreams have been distilled.

rights – (n) a slippery slope, even if you self-publish.

SFF – (n) Science Fiction & Fantasy genre. The geekiest, nerdiest, and most awesome genre of them all. (Obviously I’m biased!)

simultaneous submissions – (n) “You should probably go ahead and submit elsewhere, too. Probability of rejection is high.”

slug – (n) refers neither to the animal or the act of punching.

slushpile(n) where good dreams go to die.

trade publisher – (n) a mythical corporate body with a staff dedicated to getting your book on the shelves of a likewise urban legend of a bookstore.

trope – (n) every book has them, in varying degrees of sin.

unsolicited manuscript – (n) kindling. Sometimes used as a doorstop.

vanity publisher (also known as subsidy publisher) – (n) a shark that cannibalizes authors and their dreams, for a fee.

WIP – (n) A body of work in various stages of completion, more often than not hidden from the eyes of the public, and perhaps even the author.

YA – (n) an umbrella category that can include any genre.

Tomorrow: K is for Kill Your Darlings!

25 thoughts on “J is for Jargon

  1. Oh my word, I loved this. I positively cackled at the definition for “multiple submissions.” And now, whenever I mention that I have a pen name, I’m afraid I’m going to say “porn name” instead. 😉


  2. I love you so much for this post. lol I cracked up at more than a few of them. I particularly like “Official-sounding word for “that irreconcilable mess on my hard drive”.” So true, so true. Hahahaha! 😀


  3. Point-of-view orgy made me laugh.
    And, finally, someone else who understand that YA is -not- a genre! Man, do I get tired of seeing that.


  4. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down… I’m not sorry. You deserved that for mentioning it in the first place.

    But really, this is brilliant, Alex! 😀 Love it!


  5. I really should have read this in an empty house. Apparently I was choking with laughter so hard on some of these my kids rushed to my aid ready to perform the Heimlich.
    And because of this, I can skip all my stomach crunches tonight.
    Brilliant. And thank you. 😛


  6. I wrote about Jargon, too, but I was more businesslike about it. I approve of the satire – wish I could do it as well as you’re doing it here.

    Found this post because a friend shared the link with me. i’m going to look for your latest now. I’m hoping I can comment on it, count this as an A to Z visit, and add the link to the page I’m building of blogs I commented on during the challenge.

    cheers! 🙂


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