Self Publishing Dictionary

This is a glossary of self publishing terms that defines everything from acronyms to publishing platforms, writing terms and marketing speak. If you have a term to add, or a better definition to share, please comment.

Self Publishing Dictionary


Acknowledgements – The section of the front or back matter where you thank people who helped bring the book to fruition. Not a requirement.

ACX – Audiobook Creation Exchange, where authors can create an audiobook.

Aggregator – A publishing aggregator publishes your book to more than one outlet. For example, is an aggregator that can get you on Kobo, Amazon, Nook, and more.

Also Boughts – The list of books by other authors that your readers have also bought. It can give you a good insight into what your readers like outside of your book. These are seen on the book pages on various sellers, especially Amazon.

Amazon – The biggest ebook and print book publisher on the internet, they sell print and ebooks. And everything else in the world.

Amazon Author Central – An Amazon site that allows you to claim your author profile on Amazon, write a bio, sync your blog and manage your books. You should sign up as soon as you publish a book on Amazon.

AMS – Short for Amazon Marketing Services. Used by authors for book ads that show on Amazon. AMS ads can boost the visibility of your book on Amazon.

Amazon Prime – A program that gives you lots of perks, like free shipping, video and the ability to borrow a book from the KOLL. The features vary depending on what country you’re in.

ARC – Stands for Advanced Reader Copy. Free book copies are given to reviewers, bloggers, etc in exchange for a fair and honest review. Some authors put together an ARC Team of readers, usually interested readers/fans from their mailing list.

ASIN – Amazon Standard Identification Number. This is a number Amazon assigns to your work to keep track of it in their system, and can be used in place of an ISBN. Google play uses their own, called a GGKEY.

Author Central – See Amazon Author Central.

Author Copy – Copies of your book you purchase at a discount and can sell yourself at in-person events, conventions etc.


Back List – Your previous published work. Having a big back list is seen as a good sales tool.

Back Matter – Material found at the back of a book, like acknowledgements, a teaser for the next book, author bio, etc.

Bar Code – The scannable code on the back of a book, used to identify it. Many printers create the bar code for you.

Barnes and Noble – A US-based bookstore that sells print and ebooks. Their ebooks are for their ereader, the Nook. Also seen as BN or B&N.

Beta Reader – A person who reads a draft of your book and offers comments. Beta reading usually happens earlier in the process than editing and beta readers are usually not professional editors.

Big Five – The five biggest US publishers – Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillian Publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon and Schuster. This chart breaks down all of their subsidiary publishing imprints.

BKnights – A Fiverr company that offers reviews and other author services.

Blog tour – A virtual book tour. The author goes from blog to blog, providing guest content, announcements, cover reveals etc. Book tours can be organized by blog tour companies for a fee.

Blurb – The summary of your book that appears on Amazon, Kobo etc. You might drive yourself crazy trying to write one. Also seen as “summary”.

Bookbub – Provides daily emails to readers featuring discounted and free ebooks. Authors pay to feature their book, and it can be difficult to be accepted for one, but often gives a great boost in sales. Bookbub is seen as the Holy Grail of marketing, as authors usually make back their investment since they have a huge database of users.

Bookfunnel – A website that allows you to upload copies of your book and to give them out in various formats to anyone you wish. It is a pay service.

Book Report – An online service that lets you analyze your sales information from Amazon. Free if you’ve made under a certain amount in royalties.

Book trailer – A video with music, images, text and sometimes even actors that give readers a taste of what your book is about.

Box set – A collection that contains more than one book. Can be more than one book from one author (ie, all books in a series) or books from multiple authors.


Calibre – A free program for managing ebooks. Calibre also features ebook creation, conversion and editing tools.

Click farm – A place where reviews and buys/borrows for books are created to inflate a book’s ranking on Amazon and other sites. Seen as extremely unethical and Amazon makes an effort to remove the reviews/borrows generated from click farms.

Cliff – Also seen as the 30 Day Cliff. Books on Amazon tend to show in more searches and rank higher in the first 30 days of their release. After 30 days, if it doesn’t have sustained sales, Amazon tends not to feature it as much.

Cockygate – A 2018 scandal that erupted when a romance author trademarked both the word mark (using a font she didn’t have the rights to) and the actual word “cocky”. She sent out cease and desist letters (herself) to authors using the term in their book titles, pushing them to take it down or be sued. An appeal against the trademark was filed, as trademarking a word could have major ramifications. The Romance Writers of America had a team of lawyers involved, and the case was settled with the trademark being removed. Do NOT trademark words. You aren’t that special.

Copyediting – A copy editor checks for mistakes, inconsistencies, checks grammar, spelling and punctuation, pays attention to continuity errors, fact checking, and more.

Cover reveal – An event where an author will have an online announcement, blog post, Facebook party etc to reveal their book cover to their readers.

Cream paper – Off-white coloured paper used in printing soft and hardcover books. Amazon/KDP Print cream paper (55lb) tends to be darker than Lulu cream paper (60lb).

Createspace – An Amazon-owned print book publishing platform that shut down in August 2018. They moved all of their print publishing to KDP Print.

Cross Promotion – When two or more authors get together to promote their work to each others’ readers. Can be done with Instafreebie promotions, mailing list offerings etc. Usually done within the same genre.


Developmental Editor – An editor whose job is to work on the structure, tone and content. Often engaged early in the process.

Draft2Digital (D2D) – A publishing aggregator that gets your ebook to Kobo, Amazon, Nook, Apple and more. Often referred to as D2D.

DRM – Digital Rights Management. This is a form of protection put on an ebook file so it can’t be shared. DRM is very easy to break, so many self published authors don’t enable DRM when they publish.


epub – An ebook file format that allows the ebook to be read on a compatible reader or tablet. Most non-Kindle readers use epub files.

Erotica – A book, novella etc dealing primarily with sexually arousing situations and plots that usually focus on the sexual journey of the characters. Erotica books are often hidden from the regular search on many platforms (see Erotica Dungeon).

Erotica Dungeon – aka the Dungeon. A term used (jokingly/seriously lol) about how Amazon deals with erotic novels. They hide them from search, making them more difficult to find. Users have dubbed this the ‘dungeon’. Often non erotica novels end up in the dungeon, which can negatively affect sales if the book is not an erotica novel.

Erotic Romance – Also seen as ERom, these novels focus on a romantic relationship as well as with focus on the sexual relationship, both of which are integral parts of the story.


Fiverr – A site where you can get almost anything (from graphics to cover design) done for five dollars (or more depending on add-ons). There are often lots of promos available via Fiverr, not all of them legit.

Front Matter – Material that appear before the book begins, such as the copyright page, title page, dedication, introduction etc.


Goodreads – A site for readers to keep track of their books, their reading habits, and to review and rate books. Amazon owns the site. Authors can claim their author profile.

Goodreads Giveaway – A pay program (that used to be free) where US readers can enter to win copies of print books or ebooks. The cheapest package is $119. You are responsible for delivery of the books. (No longer worth it, in my opinion).

Google Play – Where Google/Android users get their books. Authors currently have to sign up for a wait list to get an account.

Google Play Pricing – Google Play automatically discounts your book by a certain percentage, so authors often increase the price on Google so it sells for the same amount as other platforms.

So if you want it to be 2.99, you list it for 3.93. The pricing changes are as follows (generally):

To sell for = list it at

0.99 = no change
1.99 = 2.40
2.99 = 3.93
3.99 = 4.99
4.99 = 6.48
5.99 = 7.78
6.99 = 8.32


HEA – Happily Ever After. The type of ending that is required in romance novels. Novels with romance elements without a HEA are better termed love stories.

HFN – Happy For Now. A romance ending where the characters are happy at the moment, but things could change if circumstances do.

Hybrid author – An author that both self publishes and is traditionally published. They often have an agent.


Indie Author HavenA forum for writers that self publish.

IngramSpark – A pay service to self publish your book.

Instafreebie – A site that allows you to offer a free sample or book to readers. The books are searchable and discoverable on the Instafreebie site if you want them to be. Instafreebie has rebranded as Prolific Works but as of Sep 2018 the change hasn’t taken place yet.

ISBN – The International Standard Book Number. This is the 10 or 13 digit number that identifies a specific book. An ISBN is mapped to that specific format – so a hardcover and paperback have different ISBNs. 10 digit ISBNs were used years ago, and all ISBNs issued now are 13 digits.

ITIN – The Individual Tax Payer Identification Number used to be required for non-US people to submit a W8-BEN, but you are now allowed to use the ID number from your own country (ie. a Canadian Social Insurance Number).



KBoards – A message board for Kindle owners that had a section for self publishers. DO NOT sign up and use this board – the new owners changed the Terms of Service giving themselves the right to use anything you post – covers, text, story ideas etc. Authors are abandoning this ship like it’s sinking and infested with rats.

KDP Select – A Kindle Direct Publishing program that allows authors to list their ebook for inclusion in Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. You must be exclusive to Amazon (ebook only available there and nowhere else). You are paid for pages read by borrowers. Enrollment is on a 3-month at a time basis. You also get days to offer your book for free and days to offer it as a discount.

KENP – Acronym for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages. This is a page count Amazon gives your ebook so when it’s in the KDP Select program, they can calculate how many pages of it were read.

Keywords – Words used to describe your book. Choosing the right keywords and keyword combos, especially on Amazon, can get you into more categories and visible in more searches. Often a trial and error process.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – This is the platform for authors to publish ebooks and print with Amazon. It is free to use (Amazon takes a cut of any book you sell). They began a print program, KDP Print, in 2016.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) – Similar to KU, this program is part of Amazon Prime in the US. Prime users get access to the KOLL with their membership, allowing them to borrow 1 book per month to read. Content is the same as the KU store.

Kindle Press – Amazon’s indie publishing imprint, they publish Kindle Scout novels.

Kindle Scout – An Amazon program that allows readers to determine whether a book gets published. Chosen books get their work published by Kindle Press.

Kindle Unlimited (KU) – For $9.99 per month, subscribers get access to Kindle Unlimited books, and can read up to 10 books per month for free. As an author, you can get your book in this program by enrolling in KDP Select.

Kirkus Review – A site where you can request an editorial review of your book. Prices start at $425.

Kobo – An ereader and bookstore by Rakuten Kobo, it’s largest market is Canada.

Kobo Plus – A program you can enroll your book in if you publish via Kobo Writer’s Life. It’s similar to KDP Select, and pays you for page reads. The program currently only runs in two European countries.

Kobo Writer’s Life – The platform to publish your ebook on Kobo.

KU – Short for Kindle Unlimited.


Lightning Source – A pay service to self publish your book.

Line edit – A line edit goes over the manuscript line by line, and looks for extraneous words, run-on sentences, strange phrasing, and passages that need clarification or punching up etc, as well as characterization and details.

LitRPG – Literary Role Playing Game.

Look Inside – A free program by Amazon that allows people to see a free sample of your book, and turns on 1-click ordering.

Loss Leader – Pricing your first book in a series lower or free to encourage people to read and buy the rest. It may sell well but net you little to no royalties. – A free aggregator publishing platform that publishes print and ebooks to Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, Barnes and Noble and more. They take a cut of your royalty as a fee (as do all aggregators do). They are the only platform that offers revenue splitting between co-authors.


Mailchimp – A mailing list website that allows you up to 2000 free mailing list members without paying. Let’s you design, send and maintain an email list for free.

Mailerlite – Similar to Mailchimp, but only 1000 free members.

Mailing List – A newsletter sent out every so often by an author to announce new books, deals, events etc. Building a mailing list is seen as a common step to take when building your author brand.

Mass market paperback – A book that is pocket sized – usually around 4×7 or so. They are not very common in self publishing.

MilSF – Military Science Fiction.

Mobi – An ebook file format. Mobi files can be loaded on a Kindle. Kindle Previewer can convert epub to mobi, as can Calibre.


NA – Stands for New Adult. Books about characters in their early to mid-20s, just starting out in life. Geared to that same age group, but popular with readers of all ages, and seen most often in romance. Since many outlets don’t have a New Adult category, they’re often included with Young Adult (YA) books.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. A site where you can join in to write your own 50,000 words novel in the 30 days of November. Participants are Nanoers or Wrimos, depending on your preference.

NCX – Navigation Control XML File. It’s a file in your epub that tells an ereader how to display your book, and is usually generated automatically by the epub creation program.

Netgalley – A service that promotes upcoming books, usually by getting them reviews by bloggers, journalists, booksellers etc. It is not cheap to get your book on Netgalley.

Nook – The ereader sold by Barnes and Noble which is exclusive to them. Not common outside of the US.


Organic – Refers to mailing list subscribers that were not gained through a promotion – they found your list on their own because they like your stuff.

Overdrive – The ebook distribution system that some libraries use. Some ereaders (Kobo Aura One, for instance) have Overdrive integration which allows you to take out library ebooks directly from your reader if your library is part of Overdrive.


PA – Post-Apocalyptic. Books that occur in a place that suffered some sort of cataclysmic event.

Page Flip – A Kindle feature that lets a reader “pin” their current page and flip ahead to another page. There has been issue with flipped pages not being counted as read in KDP Select, but it is apparently corrected.

Page reads – Refers to how many pages a reader will read in a KU/KOLL book. Payments are based on pages read.

Pantser – A term that originated at the National Novel Writing Month forums, it refers to a writer that writes “by the seat of their pants” without outlines and notes. The alternatives are Plotser or Plotter.

Permafree – Selling a book for free permanently. The thought is if you have a series, the first book being free will encourage people to read it and hopefully continue on to purchase the rest of the series.

Platform – A publishing platform is a company that provides the means necessary to put a print or ebook out for sale to the public. You can be on one platform (for instance, KDP) or multiple ones.

Plotter – A writer who relies on plot outlines, character profiles and careful planning when writing.

Plotser – A writer who uses a combo of outlines and writing by the seat of their pants. A portmanteau of plotter and pantser.

PNR – Stands for Paranormal Romance.

Point five books – .5 books are usually shorter novellas or short stories that fall between the main novels in a series – they will be number 1.5, 2.5 etc. Amazon doesn’t include .5 books in the series pages sadly, but they are commonly found on Goodreads.

Prawn – A term referring to self published writers that don’t earn a lot of money each month. The terms were expanded by another person as follows:

1 figure/month: krill
2 figures/month: plankton
3 figures/month: prawn (500+ = lobster)
4 figures/month: trout (5000+ = rainbow trout)
5 figures/month: salmon
5 figures/month over 50k: dolphin

Pre-order – To order a book before it’s on sale. You receive the book on its release day. As an author it allows you to drum up sales previous to the release.

Premade – Short for a premade book cover. They sell for less than a custom made cover, but there is usually no customization allowed outside of title/name.

Price match – When a platform (usually Amazon) matches the price of your book to a (usually) lower price found on another platform. Commonly sought by authors when they price their book free at some platforms in hopes Amazon will price match it to free there as well – Amazon doesn’t allow you to set your book to free on your own unless you’re in the KDP Select program.

Prolific Works – Formerly known as Instafreebie. Instafreebie – A site that allows you to offer a free sample or book to readers. The books are searchable and discoverable on the site if you want them to be. Instafreebie has rebranded as Prolific Works in 2018, and as of September the change hasn’t made it to their website yet.

Promos – Short for promotion. Buying featured status for your book somewhere. Most promos send out a list of discounted or free books to their mailing list subscribers. Bookbub has millions of subscribers, so finding a good promotional site that will accept your book is a good way to get more readers.

Promoted Post – A paid Facebook option to boost the visibility of a post. It often doesn’t result in much more attention gained.

Pronoun – A self publishing service that shut down in 2017.

Proof Copy – A copy an author goes over to check for errors. Amazon proof copies are stamped on the cover with the word “PROOF” so they can’t be sold.

Proofreading – A proofreader checks the printed book against the official edited manuscript to make sure everything is correct.



Rafflecopter – A site that helps you run an online giveaway by automating a lot of the process.

Rank – How your book ranks against others in sales and page reads. The lower the number, the better the rank.

Reader magnet – An offering to attract a reader to your books – usually a free book, like a prequel or book 1 in a series, or a starter library.

Royalties – The money you make from the sale of your book. Most publishing programs take a small cut of each ebook or print book sale to cover their costs, and you receive the rest. This is your royalty.


Scrivener – A writing program that allows for lots of planning and plotting and exports to epub.

Series – A collection of books featuring the same characters. Series are seen as easier to market than standalone books.

SF – Stands for Science Fiction

Sigil – A free program that allows you to create and edit epub files.

Smashwords – An ebook only self publishing platform. It doesn’t publish to Amazon.

Stacked promos – When you book a bunch of promos to run concurrently or one after the other. Many authors do this when they get a Bookbub feature.

Standalone – A novel that is not part of a series.

Starter library – Some authors offer a collection of their ebooks to people who subscribe to their newsletters. They usually include the first books in their series or related short stories or novellas.

Steamy – Term for romances with more sex, but that doesn’t fall into erotica territory. It may run close to erotic romance.

Sticky – To have a book selling well and at a good chart position for an extended period of time. It is “stuck” on the charts. This is a good thing, you want your book to be sticky.

Street team – A team of people put together by an author, usually from mailing list members, who will be ARC readers, and sometimes assist with getting the word out about a new release on social media etc.

Sweet/clean – Terms used for romance books that are not racy and don’t contain sex. The preferred term is sweet, since “clean” indicates that books with sex are somehow “dirty”.


Tail – The length of time your sales stay high or good after a promo. A long tail is good, it means people are continuing to buy your book or your other books long after the promo is over.

TOC – Table of Contents. All ebooks must have a Table of Contents so readers can navigate within the book with their ereader.

Trade paperback – A book that is larger than a mass market (pocket) size. They vary between 5×8 and 6×9. Traditionally they were softcover versions of the hardcover book, and the same size as the hardcover (which are usually 6×9).

Traditionally Published – An author published by a publishing house or indie press.

Trim Size – The size of a print book. Common trim sizes are trade paperback (from 5×8″ to 6×9″) and mass market paperback (4 1/4 x 7″).


Urban – Largely written for and by African Americans, it focuses on city life and socio-economic issues, street life, and the darker side of city life.

UF – Urban Fantasy. Set in the city, but focusing on fantasy elements/characters etc.


Vanity Press – A company that will charge an author money to publish their book. Don’t go with a vanity press.

Vellum – A Mac-based program which allows you to create ebooks.

Verified Purchase – A designation used on Amazon to show that a reviewer actually bought the book in question. KU/KOLL borrows do NOT show as verified purchases.


W-8BEN – A tax form for non-US authors to fill out and send to the platform that informs the publishing platform how much in royalties to withhold for US taxes – your country’s treaty may indicate there be no withholding or a percentage less than the standard 30%.

Wide – A term used by authors to indicate they aren’t exclusive to Amazon and sell their ebooks elsewhere as well. Also seen as “going wide” when an author says they may take their books out of KDP Select to sell on other platforms.

Withholding – Money that a publishing program withholds from the author to pay US taxes. If you are non-US, and your country has a tax treaty with the US that covers royalties, your withholding may be less than the 30% the US takes. In order to stop the withholding, there are US tax forms to send in or an online tax interview to fill out. See W-8BEN.

WordPress – A blogging/website platform. Two versions exist, the free .com site and the self-hosted .org. The .com has pay packages to allow use of a domain name as well.

Wraparound – A print book cover that is one file – a front, spine, and back cover.

Write to market – When an author researches popular genres and what’s selling, and then writes a book in a related sub-genre that is currently underserved, in hopes their book will become a bestseller. Other authors may write what they like and worry about how to market it after (um, hi lol).

Writer Sanctum – A new (Sep 2018) message forum for self publishing authors to ask questions, get feedback etc.



YA – Stands for Young Adult. Books aimed at teenage readers, but enjoyed by all age groups. They often feature teenage characters.


Comment if you have anything to add!



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