Glossary of Writing Acronyms and Terms (Updated for 2024)

word cloud of publishing terms

The number of new terms and acronyms I’ve encountered in my writing journey prompted me to start a list for easy reference. The list primarily contains terminology found in self-publishing and the craft of writing. I thought I’d share what I’ve collected to give others a quick resource to use.

The list below is a combination of both terminology and acronyms used in the craft of writing and in the self-publishing world. They are alphabetical under each category for easy reference, but I recommend using Cmd+F (MacOS) or Ctrl+F (Windows) to find the word you need quickly.

Note: Based on what I’ve learned since originally publishing this article, I’ve reorganized the definitions into a more meaningful breakdown. As I continue to grow in the industry, I’ll add new terms and concepts to the list.

(Updated 19-February-2024.)

Writing and Editing

  • Active voice – When the verb focuses on what the subject of the sentence is doing.
  • Antagonist – The principal opponent in the story, which can be a person or an antagonistic force.
  • Archetype – A character who represents a specific set of universal, recognizable behaviors or psychological functions found in all stories.
  • Betas or Beta readers – Non-professional readers who provide feedback on a book during the editing process and before publication.
  • Backstory – The history behind characters and events that have happened before this story started.
  • Call to Action – The moment when the hero is called to leave the ordinary world to take part in an otherworldly adventure (generally found in fantasy and science fiction novels).
  • Character Arc – The transformation (positive, negative, or flat) the character goes through as the story progresses.
  • Climax – The most intense crisis found in the narrative, what everything has built up to.
  • Copy Editor – An editor who focuses on style, punctuation, spelling, grammar, flow, clarity, consistency, and content errors.
  • CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) – A writer’s and editor’s reference manual for grammar usage, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, and word and numeral usage.
  • Denouement – The part of the story following the climax that wraps up any loose ends.
  • Developmental Editor – An editor who focuses on the big picture of structure, plot, pacing, character development, and overall style. This should be the first edit to make sure the story works overall.
  • Dialogue – What characters say to each other, the words spoken by the characters.
  • Draft – The complete unedited version of a text.
  • Editor – The person who edits a manuscript or manages the writing of a publication.
  • Endnote – An explanation of a point, placed at the end of a book.
  • Exposition – The character, setting, and background details readers need to understand the context of your story.
  • Footnote – An explanation of a point, placed at the bottom of a page.
  • Genre – The category/type of the story, e.g., romance, biography, science fiction.
  • GMC (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict) – Refers to the characters’ development; Goals are what they want, motivations are why they want them, and conflict is what’s in the way of achieving their goals..
  • HEA (Happily Ever After) – An ending in a romance story where the couple is together and happy.
  • HFN (Happily For Now) – An ending in a romance story where the couple is together and happy for now.
  • Hook – An element that draws the reader into the story from the very beginning.
  • House style – The editorial style preferred by a specific publisher.
  • Inciting Event – The event that kicks off the action in the story and informs the reader what the major conflict in the plot will be about.
  • Line Editor – An editor who focuses on the writing style in context to the time and setting of the book. (This edit follows the developmental edit.)
  • Logline – A single sentence that tells what the essence of your story is.
  • MacGuffin – An object that motivates the actions of characters, but has little meaning to the plot other than to move it forward. (Thanks to Ed Skinner for the suggestion!)
  • MC (Main Character) – The character who is the focus of the story and has the most growth throughout the story arc. Also called the protagonist.
  • MFA – Master of Fine Arts [degree]. (This one always throws me since in the IT world, it stands for Multi-Factor Authentication.)
  • MG (Middle Grade) – A fiction genre that appeals to readers ages eight to twelve years.
  • MS or MSS (Manuscript) – The complete text of a book prior to publishing.
  • Motif – A recurring idea or concept that develops and reinforces the theme.
  • NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – Writers produce the first draft of a 50,000-word novel in one month (November).
  • Narrative – A chronology of events that forms a story.
  • Narrative Distance – The distance between the reader and the point-of-view character, or how independent your narrator is from your POV character(s).
  • Pacing – The speed of the story or how quickly (or slowly) the story moves forward.
  • Pantser – A writer who “flies by the seat of their pants” or writes without preparing a story outline.
  • Passive Voice – When the verb focuses on what is being done to the object of the sentence.
  • Plantser – A writer who is a combination of a Pantser and Plotter because they use a basic outline before writing.
  • Plot – The plot is what happens in the story and the connected order in which those events occur.
  • Plotter – A writer who plans a detailed outline of a story or book before writing the first draft.
  • POV (Point of View) – The perspective from which a story is told.
  • PNR (Paranormal Romance) – A fiction genre that combines romance and speculative/paranormal.
  • Premise – The idea on which the author bases the story.
  • Proofreader – A person who focuses specifically on typographical errors. Proofreading is the last round of editing done after all content editing stages and before publication.
  • Protagonist – The story’s principal character.
  • Resolution – The final moments of a novel where any remaining threads of tension are resolved and a new reality is established. (Usually follows the climax.)
  • RH (Reverse Harem) – A romance story that involves multiple love interests of three or more men.
  • Scene – The basic building block of a story. A scene may have a specific POV, setting, and goal. There are two types of scenes: action (the character is trying to achieve a specific goal) and reaction (often called sequels, where the character reacts to the previous scene).
  • Setting – The background in which the story takes place. It is the time, the place, and the daily life of the characters.
  • Series – Multiple books using the same characters and/or world.
  • SF (Science Fiction) – A fiction genre often set in the future that uses established or imagined scientific principles.
  • SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) – Combines the fiction genres of science fiction and fantasy into one larger genre.
  • Story Bible – A reference guide where you keep track of all character information, setting details, and pertinent information about the world in which the story takes place. It helps keep details consistent throughout the story.
  • Structure – Refers to the framework a novel is written in, typically based on established turning points at specific moments in the novel.
  • Style sheet – A list of grammar or word use unique to the publication. Also used to describe the style and format preferred by a publication or publishing house.
  • Subplot – A secondary plot that either contrasts or occurs within the main plot of a story.
  • Symbol – An object or act representing something else. This includes ideas, concepts, moods, and emotions.
  • Synopsis – Book summary or description that is typically two- to three-paragraphs long.
  • Tension – The sense of something about to happen that keeps readers reading.
  • Theme – The central message (or life lesson) of the story conveyed through the characters and circumstances.
  • Topic – One or two words that describe the idea or subject that is being explored.
  • Trope – An idea or literary device commonly employed in a particular novel type that is recognizable by the audience.
  • UF (Urban Fantasy) – A fantasy fiction genre based in an urban setting.
  • WIP (Work in Progress) – A partially written manuscript (your current project).
  • WC (Word Count) – The number of words in a story or novel.
  • YA (Young Adult) – A fiction genre that appeals to readers ages twelve to early twenties.

Formatting

  • Back Matter – Pages at the end of the book that contain things such as a bibliography, acknowledgements, links to other books written by the author.
  • Bleed – Imagery that extends beyond the edge of the paper.
  • Format – The layout aspects of a manuscript, including spacing, margins, indentations, and font.
  • Footer – Anything that gets printed int he bottom margin (like page numbers or footnotes).
  • Front Matter – The pages at the beginning of the book that support the manuscript and include things such as copyright information and table of contents.
  • Half title – The page at the beginning of the book that contains nothing but the title (no graphics).
  • Header – Anything that gets printed in the top margin (like the book title or author name).
  • Line spacing – The space between lines of text.
  • Margin – The blank space around the edge of the page.
  • Orphan – A word that gets separated from its paragraph and appears alone on the next page.
  • Rag – An uneven margin on one side of the page.
  • Recto – The front side of a page (odd page numbers). When you open a book, it’s the page on the right.
  • TOC (Table of Contents) – A section in the Front Matter of the book that lists the chapter titles and page number where the chapter begins.
  • Trim size – The finished size of a book. Popular trim sizes for fiction include 4.25×6.87 (mass market paperback), 5×8, and 6×9.
  • Verso – The back-side of a page (even page numbers). When you open a book, it’s the page on the left.
  • Widow – A word that dangles alone at the bottom of a paragraph.

Publishing

  • ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) – Audiobooks on Amazon; A marketplace for professional narrators, authors, agents, publishers and rights holders to connect and create audiobooks.
  • Anthology – A collection of stories compiled together, usually with a loose theme or commonality.
  • ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) – Amazon’s unique identifier for each book they sell.
  • ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) – Free copy of the book given by a publisher to media, librarians, or other readers before official publication.
  • Backlist – Can refer to unpublished, but completed works, as well as published works still in print.
  • BF (BookFunnel) – An author service that specialized in eBook and audio distribution, sending ARCs and creating tools for indie authors.
  • “Big Five” – The big five retailers are Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Press, Google Play Books, and Kobo.
  • BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) – A globally accepted system for categorizing books using nine-character alphanumeric codes. (Amazon’s categories match closely to the BISAC list.) You can find the current list here.
  • Bowker (R.R. Bowker) – A private company that issues ISBNs in the U.S. The owner of the ISBN is listed as the publisher of the book.
  • Copyright – The legal right granted to an author or publisher for ownership of a written work.
  • D2D (Draft2Digital) – A digital publishing service that will format and upload an author’s book to each individual publishing retailers. It also includes print on demand services.
  • DRM (Digital Rights Management) – Protects the copyrights for digital media, including eBooks. (See this article for more information.)
  • Drop Cap – A style where the first letter of the word beginning a paragraph is enlarged enough to drop down into the first few lines of the paragraph.
  • eBook – A book formatted for reading electronically on eBook readers or applications.
  • ePub (Electronic Publication) – A widely supported electronic book format used by eReaders such as Nook, Kobo, and Apple’s Books app.
  • Exclusive – Refers to publishing your ebooks through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program (KDP Select). This program requires exclusivity, meaning you cannot publish your ebook with any other retailer.
  • FKBT (Free Kindle Books and Tips) – A website that provides tips to maximize your Kindle experience, author interviews, links to special and discounted Kindle books, etc.
  • HC (Hard Cover) – A book that has a hard, durable cover.
  • Indie – An independent writer not associated with a major publishing house who maintains creative control.
  • ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – A unique 13-digit number used globally that helps identify your book for libraries and booksellers, both online and on the street. A separate ISBN is required for each edition and format of the book. (ISBN source in the U.S. is Bowker.)
  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) – Amazon’s basic self-publishing platform for authors of both print and electronic books.
  • KDPS (Kindle Direct Publishing Select) – Amazon’s higher tier self-publishing platform for eBooks, similar to KDP, but with more benefits and restrictions. Authors enroll eBooks in the Kindle Unlimited program, which provides promotional and tracking tools, and pays authors royalties based on pages read by members. However, the eBook must sell exclusively on KDP Select and free content is limited to 10% of the book, including the author’s website.
  • KENP or KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) – A formula using standard formatting settings and rules to calculate the number of pages in a Kindle eBook.
  • Kobo Plus – A subscription service where readers borrow books to read. Kobo pays authors by calculated minutes and there is no exclusivity requirement (authors can also publish elsewhere).
  • KU (Kindle Unlimited) – A subscription service where readers borrow books to read. Amazon pays Authors/Publishers by pages read.
  • Mobi (MobiPocket Reader) – Amazon Kindle’s specific ebook format. (Obsolete. Amazon is moving to the ePub format.)
  • Niche – A specific market defined by a particular interest or subject.
  • OP or OOP (Out of Print) – When a publisher has no copies of a book on hand and does not intend to reprint it.
  • Omnibus – A collection of works by a single author or on a single subject. Often used to refer to books in a series and can be a partial or complete collection.
  • POD (Print on Demand) – A publisher doesn’t print the book until a purchaser orders a copy.
  • Pseudonym – A name other than an author’s legal name used to publish articles, stories, or books. (Also referred to as a “pen name.”)
  • Royalties – A percentage of revenues paid by the publisher to the author.
  • Trad (Traditional Publishing) – The original publishing method (before self-publishing caught on) where an author submits a manuscript to a publishing house who buys the rights to the book and pays the author royalties on the book sales.
  • Vanity Press – A publisher who will publish a book but does not finance it. The author handles the full financing of the book and rarely keeps the copyright to that book.
  • Wide – Refers to selling your ebooks through various retailers and not exclusively to one particular vendor.
  • Zon or The Zon – Refers to Amazon.

Marketing

  • A+ Content – Images, text, and tables you can add to your book page on Amazon to enhance the book’s appeal.
  • AA or AMS (Amazon Advertising formerly AMS) – The services and tools provided by Amazon which allow vendors to run ads on the Amazon platform.
  • Ad copy – The written words you use in advertisements, e.g., descriptions, hooks, reader quotes, etc.
  • ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sale) – A key metric that shows how well your ad campaigns are working by comparing how much you spent on ads to your number of sales.
  • “Also boughts” – Books suggested by Amazon for you to read based on a current book you are considering on their store site. The section is labeled “Readers who read this book also bought… “
  • Amazon dungeon – This refers to Amazon rejecting your ads based on the spam-like words, images, or other content. The result is that Amazon won’t promote your book in its free advertising venues, such as also-boughts and suggested reading.
  • Automatic Targeting Ads – Amazon ads that let Amazon’s algorithm determine the targeted audience based on the product selected. These ads use the metadata from your book’s sales page (title, subtitle, keywords, blurb, and categories) to determine the audience.
  • BB (BookBub) – A free service focused on helping readers discover new books. BookBub is selective about the books it promotes to their mailing list.
  • BBFD (BookBub Featured Deal) – A deal to showcase a book to BookBub’s mailing list, which ranges between 200k and two million readers depending on the genre.
  • BBNRFD (BookBub New Release Featured Deal) – A newsletter that comes out every Tuesday showcasing the week’s hottest releases picked by the BB editorial team.
  • Bid – The highest amount you will pay for a single click on an ad.
  • Blurb – The promotional description of a book that is usually present on the cover of the book.
  • BR (Book Report) – A tool for analyzing your Amazon data by measuring book performance.
  • Comp titles (Comparative titles) – Books in the market that are most like your story, used to determine how to market to the audience reading them.
  • CR (Conversion Rate) – Shows how often your clicks turn into a sale; the lower, the better.
  • CPM (Cost Per Mille) – Shows how much 1,000 impressions (ad displays) will cost you.
  • CPC (Cost Per Click) – Shows how much a single click costs you.
  • CTR (Click-through Rate) – How often someone clicks on your ad, typically counted as a percentage.
  • Frequency – Shows the number of times a user saw your ad.
  • Campaign – In advertising, this is usually a higher level in the ad structure that holds groups of ads. Each hierarchy level holds different settings and those settings vary by platform. (Amazon campaigns hold the overall budget, where the overall budget is set at a lower level on Facebook ads.)
  • Custom Text Campaigns – Amazon ads that allow the author to use customized ad copy while advertising one product. (Compared to Standard Ad Campaigns.)
  • Daily budget – The maximum amount you allow to be spent in one day on an ad.
  • IMP (Impressions) – When a site displays an ad regardless of whether the reader views the ad.
  • Keyword – A word or phrase relative to your book that helps readers find your book via the platform’s algorithms. Within ads, these can include ASINs, other book titles, author names, etc.
  • MC (MailChimp) – An email marketing service to manage mailing lists, newsletters, etc. (Note: MC is also used to refer to Main Character, so pay attention to context.)
  • ML (MailerLite) – An email marketing service provider.
  • Mailing List – A list of contacts whom the author regularly distributes content and information. Usually managed by a marketing service such as MailChimp or MailerLite.
  • Manual Targeting Ads – Amazon ads that allow you to set the search parameters you wish to target. You can choose keywords (or keyword phrases), other books, or categories.
  • Niche – A specific market defined by a particular interest or subject.
  • NL (newsletter) – A regular publication that connects authors to their readers via an email subscription list. Typical contents include personal updates and upcoming events, such as book launches or tours.
  • Newsletter swap – Where authors with similar readerships agree to promote each other’s books in their respective newsletters.
  • Organic – Used to describe how an author increased the number of recipients on their mailing list. Growing one’s list organically means people signed up for it on their own directly from book links, websites, events, or other fan-based means rather than via newsletter swaps or giveaway events. Organic growth is preferred because it shows readers are actively seeking information from you rather than just signing up for a freebie.
  • Pitch – The summary of the story in a few brief sentences. It doesn’t tell the complete story, just enough to draw the reader in and leave them wanting more.
  • Platform – A writer’s methods for reaching a target audience that includes websites, social media, author pages, etc.
  • PPC (Pay Per Click) – An advertising model where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks one of their ads. Success is measured by comparing click conversion ratios.
  • Result Rate – Percentage of people who saw the ad and went where you wanted. This measures the interest of the users.)
  • RM (Reader Magnet) – Refers to an offering by an author in order to attract readers and build a following. In the self-publishing world, this usually means giving something (a short story, the first book of a series, etc.) away for free to readers on the author’s mailing list.
  • Standard Ad Campaigns – Amazon ads that allow you to advertise multiple products and create different ad groups, but don’t allow any custom text.
  • Subs – Newsletter subscribers

Technology

  • AI-Assisted – Content created by a human, but edited, refined or error-checked by AI-based tools. (Using AI tools to brainstorm and generate ideas counts as “assisted” as long as the human creates the content.)
  • AI-Generated – Content created by AI-based tools (even if edited later by a human); Ineligible for copyright.
  • iOS – The operating system on an Apple iPad or iPhone.
  • MacOS – The operating system on an Apple computer or laptop.
  • Regular Expressions (RegEx) – Refers to a method of matching patterns in text. It gives you a very technical and precise way to search for characters/words within your manuscript.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – Refers to optimizing your website, web pages, and other content to improve visibility on search engine results.

That’s my list so far. I’m sure I will add to it as my journey continues.

What terms have you come across that were new to you or that you’ve had to research? Let me know in the comments.


Tracked Updates:

  • 2024-02-19: Added a few more terms throughout each section.
  • 2024-01-11: Added more marketing and technology terms.
  • 2023-12-13: Added technology section; Updated publishing section with Big Five and Kobo Plus info.
  • 2023-06-01: Added marketing terms related to Amazon Ads; Updated publishing section with wide versus exclusive definitions.

Happy Writing!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ed Skinner

    McGuffin – Something that drives the characters but is otherwise insignificant. Ex: The microfilm in the statue in North by Northwest. Here’s a wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

    1. Lancy McCall

      Nice one! I’m definitely adding it to the list. Thanks for sharing, Ed.

Leave a Reply