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Glossary of Children's Writing Terms Featured

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Glossary of Children’s Writing Terms

ADVANCE: money paid to author by publisher once book is under contract. ½ of advance is generally paid upon signing of the contract, ½ upon delivery of final manuscript. Advances are paid against future royalties (see below), so the author won’t receive any additional payments until the royalty earnings have surpassed the amount of the advance.

BACKLIST: books from previous seasons that are still in print. In children’s publishing, a book can remain on a publisher’s backlist for 50 years.

COPYRIGHT: designates ownership of the book. Most publishers will copyright the text in the name of the author, meaning that when the work goes out of print all rights revert back to the author and the book can be sold to another publisher.

FLAT FEE: also called “work-for-hire.” The author or illustrator is paid one lump sum for their work, and receives no royalties.

FRONTLIST: the books being published in the current season, and featured in the publisher’s current catalog.

HARDCOVER: also called “cloth”, refers to books bound with a hard, cloth-over-cardboard cover and covered with a paper dust jacket.

INSTITUTIONAL SALES: books sold to schools and libraries. Both trade and mass market books can have institutional sales. Children’s book publishers rely on institutions for a large portion of their sales.

MASS MARKET: also called “rack-sized”, this is a paperback book smaller in trim size than trade paperback, usually with a different cover illustration than the hardcover edition, and considerably cheaper.

MASS MARKET PUBLISHERS: companies that produce paperback books inexpensively and in large quantities; their titles tend to follow trends and sell high volume in a short amount of time. Most mass market publishers are not looking for award-winning books or a strong backlist, but rather titles that fit current market needs.

NET PRICE: sometimes called “wholesale price”, this is the money the publisher actually receives from each book sale after discounts are given to book stores or buyers. Some publishers base the royalty paid to the author or illustrator on net price.

PERMISSIONS: a fee paid by anyone who wants to reprint part of your book for various uses. Some of these uses are: excerpts of your book appearing in an anthology; teachers reproducing all or part of your story for class use (often the publisher will allow teachers to use material for free); another writer using more than 50 words from your book in a published article. The publisher handles permissions for the author, and splits the proceeds, usually 50/50.

RETAIL PRICE: the cover price on the book. Most larger publishers pay royalties based on the cover price.

ROYALTIES: a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of the book. Royalties can range from 3% – 15%, depending on the type of book, amount of experience author has, etc. Authors and illustrators are both paid in royalties unless a flat fee arrangement has been made.

SASE: self-addressed, stamped envelope.

SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the leading membership organization for children’s writers.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: sales of your book, either by your publisher or your agent, to other outlets such as book clubs, foreign publishers, magazines, or movie studios. If the publisher sells the sub. rights, the proceeds are split with the author (usually 50/50). If the agent sells the rights, the author keeps all the proceeds minus the agent’s commission.

TRADE PAPERBACK: refers to a book bound with a heavy paper cover, usually the same size and with the same cover illustration as the hardcover edition, but lower in price.

TRIM SIZE: the outer dimensions of the finished book.

WORK-FOR-HIRE: see “flat fee” above.


Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at http://write4kids.com


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