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There are many terms and abbreviations that we writers use that can seem bewildering to new authors; a special language gifted to only those in the know . . . Not true!  We've simply said everything wrong, and been utterly confused as newbies, until a more experienced writer took us under their wing and filled us in on the 'writer's code.' 

Here are a few of the abbreviations and words, and their subsequent meaning.


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*For Children's Book Writer's*

YA - Young Adult (referring to the targeted age group of the work, typically 14-17, complex subject matter, inbetween 25,000 to 55,000-words in length.)

MG - Middle Grade ( 8-12 or 10-14, inbetween 15,000 and 35,000-words.   Many are longer, or shorter, there is no hard and fast rule for word length in middle grade novels. )

CB - Chapter Book (2nd thru 4th grade, short, easy to read chapters with more detailed plots)

PB - Picture Book (preschool, little text, usually under 1000 words with illustrations.)

High-lo - High interest, low reading ability (material for new readers, usually adults)

*General Writing Terms*

Advance - Compensation paid to an author once the book is contracted, prior to it being published.

Bio - A brief paragraph, usually under 100 words, that tells about the writer.

Byline - Author's name that appears with published work.

Cover letter - Brief, one page letter used to introduce the work being offered.

Clips - Samples of an author's published work (a writer will often include these in a query or sales pitch to an editor.  The clips are usually from newspapers or magazines.)

Dummy - Mock-up of a book with page breaks included, illustrations and text.

Galleys - The first typeset of a manuscript before it's been divided.

Genre - A general classification of writing. ex: romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy etc.

Hardcover - Hard, cloth over cardboard bound book, with a paper dust jacket.

Kill fee - Fee for an article that was assigned to an author, but then cancelled.

Midlist - Titles that are not expected to be big sellers for a publisher, usually mainstream books.

Newbery Medal Award - Prestigious award  given annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.

On spec - When an editor expresses interest in an article or idea proposed to them by an author, and agrees to consider the piece once it's finished.

Outline - Summary of a book, usually organized chapter by chapter, in a scene by scene manner.

Query Letter - Usually a one page letter to an editor to 'pitch' your book, with the intention of grabbing their interest so that they will request to see the finished piece.

Simultaneous submission - When an author sends the same manuscript to more than one publisher at the same time.

Slush pile - The pile of unsolicited manuscripts at a publishing house.

Synopsis - A comprehensive summary of the book sent as part of a book proposal, often accompanying the query.

Trade book - A paperback or hardcover book which usually covers a special interest, and is marketed directly to the layperson.


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