Let’s be honest, getting acclimated to the writing and publishing world can be intimidating. There’s already such an enormous established community, who wants to look like an uninformed noob by asking dumb questions? The good news is that there are a ton of great writing communities out there who are very welcoming and supportive for new writers. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of writing groups that seem to be built on pretentiousness and snobbery.
So that’s where we come in. Being founded by two self-published authors, we are well aware how overwhelming things can be. With that in mind, let us offer some beginner guidance to the writing world.
Some of these may seem pretty simple and straight-forward, and if so, then that’s great! That means you might already be beyond the beginner classification. And if you don’t already know some of these, then that’s exactly what this is for!
Bibliophile – By definition, this is simply someone who loves books and all things book related. Slap a hashtag in front of it when posting on social media to bring more attention to your material.
Blog Tour – A marketing plan for newly released books that occurs on multiple websites. These are usually scheduled the week of a new release. The schedule and plan for a blog tour can vary, but typically consist of at least some of the following elements: a cover reveal blitz, author interviews, sneak peeks and excerpts from the book, reviews of the new release, and possibly other behind-the-scenes-type information such as inspiration for the story, character profiles, soundtrack for the story, and so on. The creativity of these articles are only limited by the imaginations of the authors.
Blurb – Short synopsis that typically appears on the back cover of a book. Also used as a brief summary for news releases, social media posts, and other forms of publicity. The blurb should reflect the overall tone of the story, as well as the point of view that the story is narrated.
Book Launch – An event planned around the release date of a book. Normally scheduled on the actual release, or it may be planned a few days before, in order to give loyal readers a chance to get a copy before it officially hits the streets for the general public. Usually, a portion of the event will be used to sell and sign copies of the book. There may be time scheduled for a reading from the book and/or a question & answer session with the author. Sometimes there are giveaways (always a nice touch), and sometimes cake is involved. (Pro tip: cake should always be involved.)
Bookstagram – Most frequently used as a hashtag on the Instagram social media platform to describe bookish posts. Just like with bibliophile, use this term in hashtag form to expand your audience and bring extra sets of eyes to your material.
Booktube – Similar to bookstagram, this term is mostly used to describe bookish videos on the YouTube streaming platform. It can also be used as a hashtag to broaden your audience.
Call for submissions – An open request from a publisher/agent to receive and review new material. Magazines, journals, websites and publishers will look for submissions for upcoming issues or anthologies. Authors will generally search for calls for submissions for specific genres, to match the style they like to work with.
Cover Reveal – There’s nothing tricky about this, as it’s exactly what you would expect it to be. This is an event that generally occurs on social media platforms and blogs to reveal the cover art for an upcoming book. A cover reveal will typically include some combination of the back cover blurb, the release date, as well as a pre-order link (when available). The more people that will assist with a cover reveal, the more hype an author can generate regarding the release of their story.
Dialogue Tag – the indicator at the end of speech that shows who is speaking. Newer writers tend to be more illustrative with their dialogue tags for fear of repetition, or because they want to get a point across of how the dialogue is being delivered. However, one of the most common pieces of advice for beginning writers is to stick with standard he/she said/asked. If written properly, the text should speak for itself and convey the emotion behind it. Adding extra description to the dialogue tag often turns into passive writing. (More on that in a moment.) In terms of the repetition of said/asked, the dialogue tag is not the important part of the story, it’s merely an indicator of who is speaking. Reader’s brains should be given the character that’s speaking, and then let them interpret what’s on the page, how things are being said, and what characters are feeling. Also consider the action that’s being used with the dialogue. People don’t tend to bark or growl when they use words. Those are sounds that animals make, and if a person is making those sounds, they probably aren’t speaking intelligible words at the same time.
Hero – The main character of a story. Let me clarify real quick, given the amount of superhero stories that are released each day/week/month/year, this doesn’t mean a superhero. Any main character in the literary world is referred to as the hero of the story.
Info-Dump – When the author provides a lot of back story in a small chunk of narrative text and/or dialogue. When done well, this would be similar to a montage in the film world, providing a lot of context in a short amount of time. When done poorly, it’s a boring way to provide information to the reader.
Manuscript – An unpublished story that is still in the creative process (either in the writing or editing stages).
Passive writing – Show, don’t tell. Let your words speak for themselves. If you have an angry character, use the text to illustrate their frustration instead of simply telling the reader that the character is mad. Explore all five senses to paint a clear picture of what is being conveyed.
Proof/Proof Copy – The first physical copy of a book, before it goes to distribution. This is what the author uses to review the book one last time for errors, spelling & grammar issues, formatting problems, and anything else that would need corrected prior to mass printing.
Query – A letter that is sent to literary agents and/or publishing companies in order to obtain a contract. A query letter typically consists of a story synopsis, a brief author bio and why they would be a good fit for that particular agent/publisher, the first several pages of the story, and possibly some sales figures if the author has already released any titles independently and has an established following of readers.
Self-Published – This describes the process of publishing work without going through a traditional publishing house, literary agent, etc. The author takes on the roles and responsibilities of the editor, designer, printer, publicist, and everything else involved in the process of publishing a book.
Shelfie – This term is typically used with a hashtag in front of it, and is simply a picture of a bookshelf. Simple as that.
Traditionally Published – This describes the process of publishing work with the assistance of a traditional publishing company. This process will usually involve contracts, printing rights, professional editors, graphic designers, marketing departments, and so on.
Verb tense – One of the most important concepts for a new writer to be mindful of is also one of the most frequent mistakes. It’s easy for a writer to get sucked into the writing, and begin describing the action in real time. However, most stories are not occurring presently. They are typically told in past tense, as the book is somewhat of a review, or retelling of the action. In a true mystery/thriller/fantasy/whatever, the narrator would not be taking the time to write out the events as they’re occurring. The narrator needs to get through the story first, then rehash it for the reader – hence past tense.
This is just a small sample of writing jargon to cover some of the basics. Have you run into any other terms or phrases that have left you scratching your head? Leave a comment below and let us help clear up any lingering confusion!