Author Bob Hostetler

Learn the Lingo, Part 2

Did you know that a question mark and exclamation point together (like so?!) is called an interrobang?! Did you also know it’s probably not a good idea to use an interrobang in your article or book?

Now you do. You’re welcome.

Last week I tried to answer some of the questions of my clients and writer friends (yes, I have friends) about writing or publishing terms and concepts they’ve wondered about. I didn’t have space or time to answer them all, however, so I’ll return to the task today.

CMS, APA, or MLA

One writer said she’s heard these acronyms thrown around but confessed to not being sure about to what they refer. They’re all abbreviations for stylebooks (not “fashion,” or even a person’s writing style, but rather the multitudinous choices that must be made when publishing something, such as whether to capitalize pronouns referring to deity, when to spell out numbers, and so on). CMS refers to The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the general guide among Christian book publishers. APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) are used by academic and scholarly publications. And newspapers and magazine stylebooks include the AP (Associated Press), NYT (New York Times), and LAT (LA Times). And most book publishers have their own in-house stylebook that specifies style decisions in which they depart from, say, the CMS. See how simple this is?

Galley

One writer said “galley” is a term on which he’d like more clarity. “It sounds like something that should take place on a ship in the high seas,” he said. Well, yes. That’s one kind of galley; another kind is mostly synonymous with “page proofs.” That is, when a magazine or book is designed and laid out as it’s supposed to appear when in print, galleys are produced for review.

Query

One veteran author says he often tells aspiring writers, “Well, you better put together a good query letter,” at which they nod as if they understand perfectly. But do they? This definition is fairly simple. A “query” (letter or email, these days) is a short, one-page missive constructed to “query” (aka, “ask”) whether a particular agent, editor, or publisher is interested in a particular project. Easier said than done, of course, because composing a compelling hook, “nuts ‘n’ bolts” paragraph, and “why me” paragraph (the basic elements of a query, as I teach developing writers) is often hard work. But that’s why we get paid the big bucks, right? Right? Hello? Buehler?

Vanity publishers and indie publishers

One of my friends (and stop asking; I have friends, I tell you) says she’s often asked to distinguish between “vanity publisher” and “indie publisher.” The term “vanity publisher” is seldom used anymore; but in simplest terms, it’s a publisher who for a fee will produce a book for you with little or no changes. “Indie publisher” is a term that can encompass self-publishing, subsidy publishing, partnership publishing, assisted publishing, etc., for which the author may pay all or some of the expenses but may also receive design, editing, and marketing services as part of the package. The publishing landscape is so varied, however, that even that definition falls short of explaining all the various models and options included in the term “indie publishing.”

So are you more confused than ever? I hope not. But that’s sometimes the result of dipping a toe into publishing waters. Some “publishing waters” are deeper than others, of course. So before I get too out of my depth, I’ll let that suffice and offer the opportunity for commenters to ask for new (or further) explanations.

Leave a Comment

Learn the Lingo

The opening scene of the Meredith Wilson musical The Music Man begins on a train, as a bunch of salesmen debate the best sales techniques. One salesman, however, insists repeatedly, “You gotta know the territory.” That applies not only to selling “the noggins, and the piggins, and the firkins,” but …

Read More

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Many years ago, when Hector was a pup (look it up), I made the fateful decision to start writing full-time. Sounds like a dream, no? Well, in some ways, it was. But several things made that transition possible. First, I had already enjoyed some success as an author, having published …

Read More

Can Silence Make You a Better Writer?

Decades ago, when I was barely out of diapers, I started taking annual (sometimes twice-yearly) prayer retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani in the hills of central Kentucky. It’s a silent Trappist monastery, and it’s been a boon to my prayer life. A lifeline, sometimes. It’s also been a boon …

Read More

Don’t Know Much About Editors

A literary agent is not an editor–or a publicist. That may seem obvious to some, since the words are all spelled quite differently. But I occasionally get a submission from an aspiring writer who wants me to act as one or the other. I have been an editor (of both …

Read More

What I Learned from Editors

I’ve been writing for publication since my teen years, when the world was young and the Garden of Eden’s discount fruit stand was still in business. As you might imagine, I’ve worked with more than a few editors over the years (and even been an editor myself). Though some writers …

Read More

Old School Tools Rule (Sometimes)

I use modern technology a lot. Some digital tools make the writing life a whole lot easier, from word processing’s track changes to email and Dropbox and voice dictation and more. But I still cling to a few old-school tools that newer technologies haven’t replaced. Here are three I have …

Read More

Prayers of a Literary Agent

I prayed about becoming a literary agent. My friend and agent, Steve Laube, had asked me to consider it. So I told him I’d pray and think on it. Doggone it, I did; and just over three years ago I joined The Steve Laube Agency as not only a client …

Read More

What’s in a Name?

Years ago I was reading a book by Louis L’Amour, a favorite author of mine. I don’t remember which book it was (I haven’t yet read them all, but I’ve read many of them), but I do recall being confused throughout. Why? I’m so glad you asked. Because three of …

Read More