Publishing Business Vocabulary

Words and phrases used in book publishing, with definitions and sample sentences. Free for students of business English who need to learn business vocabulary. Business English for ESL learners.

It's no secret that the publishing business has a lot of jargon. Whether you're talking to an editor about your latest manuscript or a sales rep about your latest book, there's a good chance you'll hear a lot of words and phrases that you don't necessarily use in your everyday life.


But don't worry, we're here to help. Here are some common publishing business vocabulary words, and what they mean:

Advance: An advance is the money that a publisher gives an author before the book is published. This money is typically given in two installments: one when the author signs the book contract, and the other when the manuscript is turned in.

Agent: An agent is a professional who represents authors and their books to publishers. Agents typically work on commission, meaning they only get paid if they sell the book.

Book proposal: A book proposal is a document that an author uses to pitch their book to a publisher. A typical book proposal includes an overview of the book, information about the author, and sample chapters.

Editor: An editor is a professional who works with authors to improve their manuscript. Editors typically work for publishing houses, but some authors choose to hire their own editor to work on their book.

Manuscript: A manuscript is a book that has been written but has not yet been published.

Publisher: A publisher is a company that produces and sells books.

Rights: Rights are the legal entitlements that an author has to their book. Typically, an author will sell the copyright of their book to a publisher, but they may retain the rights to produce derivative works, such as a movie or stage play based on their book.


You've devoted hours, days, months—even years—to writing and editing your novel or nonfiction book. With all that time invested, it's natural to want recognition for your hard work and dedication. Take your writing one step further and tackle the publishing process. These terms will help you.