Monday, April 21, 2008

A Request from Arthur

Arthur asked me to pose the following question here:

I’m scheduled to do a Q&A session at this coming weekend’s SCBWI conference in Washington, that has the following description:

“What the heck is an eff’n Gee?”: An editor answers your questions about the mysterious language of publishing.” And further description might be: "Come prepared with questions you’ve had about the publishing process: from confusing technical language you’ve heard and read, to difficult concepts you’ve struggled with in group and individual feedback. Arthur Levine will do his best to demystify and enlighten.”

What I’m looking for are some other good examples of confusing or opaque lingo that I should come prepared to discuss at this session….

Care to chime in? Leave your editorial head-scratchers in the comments and he shall answer all this weekend. (He also has been known to post his talks over at, so keep an eye out over there.)


  1. I have never yet heard an editor give a clear definition of "voice," even though they say that what they are looking for in a submission is a "compelling voice." Is it just one of those "I know it when I see it" things or can it be defined?

  2. So I've recieved my editorial critique, I've worked through my revision, the revision has been approved by my editor and the manuscript is now off to copy editing. What can I expect during the copy editing process and through to when my book hits the shelves in the fall?


    Mystified in Markham


  3. Hi, Cheryl. I have a similar question to Helene Boudreau.

    I'd like Arthur to talk about the various stages of editing... how many rounds do editors and writers go, and what constitutes the final acceptance on a manuscript? (In other words, when do writers get paid?)

  4. The "rewrite letter." What is this mysterious beast? Will I NECESSARILY get a rewrite letter, even after my book is bought? Because after you buy my book, doesn't that imply it doesn't need to be rewritten? What if I don't agree with the rewrite letter? How long will I have to wait to get it? Do famous authors get rewrite letters? Is this a reflection on my horrible, awful, sickly writing? What if ... what if ... what if ...


  5. Explain the difference in a Synopsis and a Summary.

    When Arthur Levine wants to know "WORD COUNT," what does he mean? The number calculated by a word processing application? Or 250 words /page multiplied by the number of pages in the manuscript (Courier New 12pt)?

    Define the following: Young Adult, Older Young Adult, Teen Fiction, Tween Fiction, Middle Grade, Children's Books.

  6. I recently spent some time googling "P & L statement" when it came up in an editor email. I know now, obviously, but others might wonder just what that entails.

  7. From personal experience (not with you or Mr. Levine): Is it ever OK to submit to an editor something twice? I had a work that an acquisitions editor really liked, to the point of writing an extensive editorial letter and helping me mold the work for her consideration. However, I didn't do enough--I rushed myself and the revision flopped. She rightly rejected it. Since then, I've worked with a critique group, went back to her original letter, and now have the work at the point where I think she wanted it...could I resubmit? Could someone with a similar story do the same--or is this a one-shot kinda business?

  8. PS--A problem I recently worked with in my critique group is POV. I was using an omniscient 3rd person POV, but my group found it frustrating to jump from one character to another...I'd not really thought about it until then, but I wonder what are some of the standard expectations and preferences for POV?

  9. "Trade" books vs. other in terms of writing style/ format/ sales channels.
    "Trade" vs "mass market" illustration styles.
    "no unsolicited ms" (does this eman agent only, query only, other permutation?)
    "tear sheets" for illustrators.

    Oh yes, all these terms are great fun when you're starting out! ;)

  10. The difference between proofs, galleys and ARCs

  11. There are a few segments. The problem is where people are in the process--are they starting to submit query letters; are they in the editting process; do they have galleys back?

    Anyway, here are a few areas to think about:
    1. legal stuff relating to who owns what--residuals, subsidiary rights, foreign rights, etc.
    2. the process--probably includes query letters and all those other terms that sound obvious to you, but aren't. I guess p&l's would fit here.
    3. printer and printing lingo--blues, reds, F&G's, ARCs, galleys, proofs, etc.
    4. bizarro punctuation issues that seem to rarely come up in the real world, though we use it all the time: em- and en-dashes, hyphens, ellipses

  12. What is the difference between the marketing department and the publicity department?

    David LaRochelle

    - and the first ten times I heard people talking about "effin' g's", I thought they were swearing.

  13. I need help with "too quiet." I fairly often get personal rejection letters with comments like, "lyrical writing, compelling narrative, but too quiet."

  14. I'd like to know about "print runs". I know that the numbers have a wide range but what is an average size first run for a major publisher?

    Also, is there an industry standard definition for "Graphic Novel"? If a publisher acquires the graphic novel rights to a work what does that mean?



  15. What's 'fresh'? Like the editor likes the stories, voice, etc but says it's just not fresh enough. I read books all the time with the same old plot and characters. So what makes something 'fresh'?

  16. For YEARS I thought that F&Gs were effigies, as in, "burn in effigy," which sometimes does still feel appropriate.

  17. "self-ending" took me a while to figure out. Also "stet."

  18. I think it would be useful to discuss "mass market," especially since that means different things in adult and children's publishing.

    Authors might also wonder about the lines separating editing, copyediting, and writing copy (not to mention copyrighting).

  19. At the first writer's conference I attended, I immediately knew I was in trouble not knowing the jargon. I scratched my head wondering what was:
    1. Slush? And how could it be in a pile because my mind naturally went to slushy snow or Slushies.
    2. SASE. Sassy? They want us to be sassy?
    3. Galleys? Like on a ship?
    4. SDT? Sounds like a writer's disease.
    5. Multiple and simultaneous submissions? Are they the same? Or not?
    6. Dummy your book? Huh?

  20. Hi Cheryl,
    Just stumbled onto your blog. Wish I could have attended your talk, but I am on the opposite coast.

    Btw, the old F&G acronym really got me. On my first book, my editor sent me a note asking, “would you like to see an F&G?” Of course, I didn’t know what that was so I did what any intelligent person with a computer would do…I googled it and found my answer. F&G is an acronym for “Fish and Game”. Duh.

    I wrote her back, thanking her for her comments and kindly explained that she could keep her "F&G" because I was not into fishing or gaming. She sent an F&G anyway with a note saying that she would promise never to send fish or game in the mail.

    I felt pretty stupid.

    Someone should make a list of all the publishing acronyms.