Self-Publishing Terms

to make you sound smart when talking about publishing projects

Every industry has its jargon. Since printing presses have been around for over 500 years, the industry has accumulated some terminology so that those involved with it have a common language. They become shortcuts to understanding one another.

Someone new in publishing, especially self-publishing, might encounter these terms when talking to editors, suppliers, and printers. This article will help you understand the more important terms used today. With these words, you can go confidently into a meeting with people in the publishing industry without getting lost in the jargon.

If you are in a hurry, the search bar below can help. Just type a word in the box and the website will display terms that contain it.


Binding refers to the way the pages (also known as folios) are secured. There are several types of binding such as:

Perfect Bind – the folios are glued together and attached to a cover.

Saddle-stitch – a sheet usually contains four pages back and forth, is folded, and stapled at the spine.

Saddlewire – pages are punched with holes near the spine so that a spiral wire can keep the pages together.


Pages of a book are printed on paper that is bigger than the final trim size.

When all the pages are bound, a large sharp knife trims the edges to the correct size. Sometimes a book designer will want to include an image on the cover or on the pages where the image goes all the way to the edge. When designing, the image is purposely made larger than the actual size so it “bleeds” outside the expected size. During the trimming process, the excess parts of the images are also cut so that the image fills the edge perfectly in the finished product.

Book Proof (or Galley)

A proof is a printed book so it can be checked by the author or proofreader before it is mass-produced. If there are printing issues, corrections can be made and the printer can be asked to produce another proof. Usually, a printer will allow two proofs before charging for succeeding ones.

Sometimes, say in a magazine proof, the pages are not bound. In this state, it is called a galley.

In this galley, there are twenty-four pages printed on one sheet (and the twenty-four corresponding pages behind it.) A proofreader can make marks on it already so that no unnecessary cost is used for binding.


A code made of lines that relay the ISBN and other information of the book when scanned. A barcode is usually required by larger bookstores so they can include the book in their inventory database. This is so that the database can be searched should a customer inquire. It is also used for ease at the cashier who can just scan the barcode to add it to a bill. An author does not need a barcode if it will be sold personally ( and not through a bookstore.)

In this cover design by Cassia Friello, the barcode is found in its proper place at the bottom right of the back cover.

Cover Treatment

The cover is printed on a heavier stock of paper so that it is more durable. After printing, the cover is usually treated with a very thin film. The usual choices are matte or glossy. Matte has a dull finish for more serious subjects, while glossy is shiny for more commercial applications.

In these examples, the book on the left has a matte finish, while the one on the right is glossy.

Cut Size

Book pages are printed on paper that is bigger than the final (trim) size. The size of the uncut paper is the cut size. For smaller books, printers usually use letter size (8.5" x 11”) while larger books may start as A2-sized paper.

Eight pages are printed on this cut sheet. There are also eight corresponding pages printed on the reverse side to match up with the ones here.


Editing is the process of preparing a manuscript for publication. A manuscript is checked so that the parts follow the conventional sequence. Paragraph structure, sentence structure, and the choice of words are examined for clarity. All the tiny details such as punctuations, captions, and headers are also checked for correctness and consistency. On average, a good editor can catch about 80% of issues and correct them.

Folio / Leaf

A single printed page. More commercially called a “leaf.”

Some lavishly decorated folios. The one on the lower right is the original folio from Alice in Wonderland.


This is the page that contains the following: author, copyright, name and address of the printing company and/or publisher if they are different, year printed, number of printing, edition. If the genre of the book requires certain permissions, this is the page to place it.

This is an imprint page of a religious book that, aside from the usual information, includes other permissions for the book to be printed.


Short for International Standard Book Number, it allows a book to be placed in the world database of books so it can be identified. If you are self-publishing and plan to market and sell your books yourself, you don’t need one. However if you will distribute this through other sellers, it is a requirement.

This image shows what the different numbers represent in both the 10-digit and 13-digit versions. An EAN is a European Article Number describing the product type. Sometimes it is replaced by an IAN, which is the International version. The group identifier refers to the language group. Each publisher is assigned a number and the one of your printer company is the one used. The title identifier is assigned by the publisher. The check number is calculated by the rest of the numbers and is used to test if the ISBN has been scanned accurately.


In the context of publication, Metadata refers to the information about a book. The most basic are title, author, publisher, and price. Some metadata can include the cover image, author’s biography, author’s image, ISBN, genre, synopsis, publication date, and keywords.

Minimum Order Quantity

This is the smallest number of copies a printing will accept.

When finding a printing company, ask what is their minimum order quantity. SimplePublish ties up with a printing company that allows as little as 50 copies. Amazon's On-Demand has no minimum order quantity.

Paper stock

Stock refers to the type and thickness of the paper. Some book designers prefer a cream-colored stock for the classic look, while some prefer white paper for more academic books. Some also prefer to print on newsprint, which is gray and thinner and good for producing cheaper copies.

The thickness of the paper is measured as grams per square meter or gsm for short. It is the weight in grams of a paper that is one square meter. This means the higher the number, the thicker the paper. For books, the usual stock is 80 or 90 gsm. If a book is printed in full color, especially with images, a higher gsm is needed so that the ink doesn’t show behind the page. Sometimes, for full-color books, the pages are treated and look glossy so that the colored ink appears better.


The more conventional way of publishing is for a printing company to produce a large run of books. Printing many copies in one run can spread setup costs over a larger number of books and there are savings because of the economies of scale. The one issue with this system is that it leaves a publisher with a lot of inventory, which needs space to be stored. Also, the publisher’s money is tied up in the inventory instead of using it for another project.

Recently the print-on-demand concept has addressed this issue. The term print-on-demand usually refers to printers who accept a low number of copies to be printed. In some places, there are printing companies where you can print-while-you-wait. However, there is none of this yet in the Philippines; the ones who do small-batch printing still require at least a week before delivery.

The Amazon system is a true print-on-demand model because they don’t print books unless someone orders them. For self-publishers, the best that can be done is to have many small batches printed and only when needed.

Amazon offers On-Demand Printing so that your book is always in stock, and yet never carrying any inventory.


This is the process when a book proof or galley is scrutinized for issues before mass-producing a publication. Unlike editing, a proofreader focuses more on the correctness of the print and colors on the cover and all the pages. Just like editing, a good proofreader can on average catch 80% of issues and correct them.

In this example, a proofreader is going over a book proof (that is already bound.)

Recto / Verso

The right page of an opened book that is read left-to-right. It is also the “front” side of a page that is printed back-to-back. The etymology comes from the Latin “rectum,” which means correct; it refers to the “correct” side of a page.

The left page of an opened book that is read left-to-right. It is also called the “back” side of a page that is printed back-to-back. It comes from the Latin “verso,” which means reverse or back.

As explained by the images, the verso and recto pages depend on how the language uses pages to read left-to-right, or right-to-left.


In the conventional publishing model, a publisher procures the right to print a work of an author. The publisher then assumes all the risks in printing, marketing, and selling the publication. In exchange for the rights, a publisher pays the author royalties. The usual rate is from 5% to 15% of sales. Basically, it is just Royalties = Selling Price x Royalty Rate.

Amazon offers a much higher royalty rate, like as much as 60%, but uses a different way of computing for royalties. The cost of printing the book is taken from the royalties of the author. The formula would be Royalties = (Selling Price x Royalty Rate) – Cost of Printing.

Amazon can wire your royalties to a bank in the USA or UK. Elsewhere, Amazon sends a check in the currency of the company where you sell your books.

Trim size

This term refers to the size of the book. The usual way of printing books is on paper that is larger than the final size. When the pages are printed and collated, that is when a large blade trims it to size – thus the term trim size.

While you can choose any size for your book, there are conventional sizes for types of books.

Get free consultation by contacting us now.

It's a no-commitment and risk-free step towards self-publishing your new book.

Just simple language at SimplePublish

Just simple language at SimplePublish

While the publishing industry might be littered with jargon, we at SimplePublish are sensitive to know you may be hesitant to discuss your project because you may not know certain things inherent to publishing. Worry not; we were also once like you navigating the once-mysterious water of self-publishing. In that context, we always assume our customers have many questions. So ask away. Express your ideas in whatever way you can, and having been in your place once, we will most likely know what you are saying.