For readers: demystifying author-speak lingo

writer mugIf you follow your favorite authors on FB, their blogs, or Twitter you might hear them toss around words like HEA, SWAG, WIP, pantsing. What does it all mean? For those not familiar with author jargon–I’m here to help!

Author Lingo Glossary

ARC – Advanced Review Copy. An early pre-published version of an author’s book that is sent out for review.

Ebook – An electronic book that is read on some sort of computer device as opposed to print. Ebook does not mean self-published. An ebook can be published by Random House or HarperCollins, by an established ebook publisher such as Ellora’s Cave or Loose Id–or can be self-published. Ebook only refers to the electronic format.

HEA – Happily Ever After. The ending of a romance when the hero and heroine end up together forever.

HFN – Happy For Now. The hero and heroine of a romance end up together, and it’s happy, but their future is not set in stone.

Indie—Independently published. Typically used to describe one who is self-published. Some people use this term to refer to e-book publishing houses as well.

K—the number of words in thousands that an author has written. If an author says she “did 3K,” she hasn’t run a race, she’s written 3,000 words on her manuscript.  K is a metric term meaning 1,000 (Kilo).

M/M—A romance between two males. In general, this is a romance between two gay men that is targeted to a heterosexual female audience.

M/F/M, M/M/F – A ménage a trois. M stands for male, F for female. The order of the M & Fs is significant. M/F/M indicates the men have sex only with the female. M/M/F indicates there is sexual activity between the males as well as with the female.

NaNo, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Every November writers can sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words during that month. That’s a lot of writing!

New Adult – Fiction that is aimed at adults in their early 20s. The characters are about that age and face the issues that adults that age deal with. Not to be confused with Young Adult, which features teenagers.

Novel – a work of fiction that is at least 50,000 words (and generally longer. A typical novel would be about 70-80K).

Novelette—A story that is between 7,500 word and 20K. Less than 7,500 words would be a short story.

Novella—A short novel, ranging from 20,000 words to about 50,000 words (although some people put the upper limit at 40K).

Pantser—One who does not plan out their story in advance before writing. Stands for writing by the seat of one’s pants.

Plotter—One who does plan out a story in advance. Often in great detail.

POV—Point of View. The perspective of the story though the eyes of one character.  POV does shift from chapter to chapter or scene to scene, but in general it is considered poor writing to shift POV within a scene. Sometimes inexperienced writers shift POV without realizing they are doing it.

Smexy—A romance that is considered to be “smart” and “sexy.”

SWAG. An author’s promotional items. Stands for Stuff We All Get.

WIP – Work in Progress. The story the author is writing.

YA – Fiction targeted to a “young adult” audience and/or is written with young adult characters. Young adult is a euphemism for adolescent, although many adults read YA. Twilight is YA novel. Fifty Shades of Grey is not.

Finally, I’d like to demystify word count/book length. Authors frequently talk about the length of their books in terms of how many words it is. But how many pages is that? The problem is that the number of pages varies depending on the physical dimensions of a print book, the font size, and leading (space between the lines).  A paperback, large trade paperback, and hardback will all have different pages lengths. And an ebook? There is no page length. So word count is a more accurate measure of book length. But readers think in terms of pages. So how do you get a gauge of length?

By converting word length to manuscript pages or how the work would appear on 8 ½ by 11 inch paper. One manuscript page holds 250 words. So divide the number of words by 250 to get the number of pages.

10K ÷ 250 = 40 pages (novelette)

30K ÷250= 120 pages (novella)

50K ÷ 250 = 200 pages (novel)

What other author terms you would like demystified?



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20 Responses to For readers: demystifying author-speak lingo

  1. angel says:

    I just wanted to stop by with school starting and all that goes with it I have been AWOL from all my favorite Blogs just wanted to say Hi and see how you guys where doing Have a awesome week

  2. Casey McKay says:

    Where was this when I first started writing and joined all these little writer groups and didn’t know how to crack the code??

    I will also admit I had no idea what Smexy meant until about a month ago.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      When I started, I had no idea what SWAG was. I even signed up to receive some from an author so I could find out. I got bookmarks and postcards! However I still didn’t know what the acronym stood for.

  3. S.J. Maylee says:

    I remember starting out too and wondering for weeks what 1k meant. Gosh, I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I still don’t, lol. Great post, Cara.

  4. Kira Shayde says:

    Excellent post!

  5. Tonya says:

    ARC has always meant Advanced Reader’s Copy in my neck of the woods, but I think either works. This is an awesome post!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re right. I goofed. That is actually what I meant to say, but my fingers typed something different. I changed it.

  6. Laurel Lasky says:

    Thanks for explaining. I one know how to count the words in my WIP. I understand I need at least 22,000 to be published right one I have about 6 K. It takes discipline to sit and write every day . Well I’ll keep trucking.

  7. Great idea for a post. Funny the things that become second nature over time. We do have our own lingo.

  8. Etta Stark says:

    I heard a new one the other day on FB when people were talking about BBW heroines in books. Following some googling, I am fairly confident they were talking about plus-size heroines. (Big beautiful women).

    I like these ‘about stuff’ posts you write. You’re basically doing Erotic Writing for Dummies.

    As for the page counts, my 30,000 word book comes up as 99 pages on Amazon so that’s a bit different from your 125 page estimate. And my books are all dialogue and teeny paragraphs so you’d think they’d come out longer. (Maybe I only use very short words.)

    Also, I think you mean ‘HFN’ for Happy for now.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      BBW. That would have been another good one to add.

      The length of words, sentences and paragraphs do affect page length, so my lengths are only a “guesstimate.” I’m not sure how Amazon estimates pages–I don’t know that it is by manuscript pages. But I know what my word count is and how many pages I get when I print out a hard copy. It does differ a little on Amazon.

      HFN! Another oops. Do you know how many times I read this over? I suck at proofreading.

  9. Can someone tell me what #BYNR means on twitter? I’ve always wanted to know… lol. Thanks for demystifying author speak – some new ones here for me, too 🙂

  10. Yay! I must be an author because I knew all but two: smexy and HFN. May I point out that pantsing has a whole other meaning than pantser LOL

    Pantsing: debagging, also known as kegging, dacking, downtrouting/downtrailing, jocking, trunking or pantsing/de-pantsing, is the pulling down of a person’s trousers against their wishes, typically as a practical joke, but in other instances as a sexual fetish.

    I am definitely a pantser who usually writes in a frenzy often 10-15 K in a 2 day period. Then I have to go back and figure out what I did.

    Pantsing migh be fun if done in the right location and by the write sexy person. I think a hero or two of mine has pants’d their heroine when it was spanking time.

    Great post, Cara!

  11. Sue Lyndon says:

    Great post. This would have been so helpful to me when I was just starting out writing. We do sort of have our own language going on, don’t we? 🙂

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