One-Minute Book Reviews

August 21, 2011

40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded

Filed under: Humor,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you. I asked experts on Twitter to decode common publishing terms and attach the hashtag #pubcode. Here are some of their answers:

“absorbing”: “makes a great coaster” @DonLinn Don Linn, publishing consultant

“accessible”: “not too many big words” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“acclaimed”: “poorly selling” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

breakout book”: “Hail Mary pass” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

brilliantly defies categorization”: “even the author has no clue what he’s turned in” @james_meader James Meader, publicity director of Picador USA

“captures the times we live in”: “captures the times we were living in two years ago” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“classroom-friendly”: “kids won’t read it unless they have to” @LindaWonder, Linda White, book promoter at Wonder Communications

“continues in the proud tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien”: “this book has a dwarf in it” @jasonpinter Jason Pinter, author of the Zeke Bartholomew series for young readers

“definitive”: “could have used an editor” @kalenski, “Book Babe Extraordinaire”

“an eBook original”: “still no proofreading and bad formatting” @mikecane Mike Cane, writer and digital book advocate

“edgy”: “contains no adult voices of reason” @wmpreston William Preston, English teacher

“epic”: “very long” @sheilaoflanagan Sheila O’Flanagan, novelist (Stand by Me)

“erotic”: “porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“ethnic literature”: “stuff written by nonwhite people” @elprofe316 Rich Villar, executive director of Acentos

“frothy romp”: “funny book by lady” “Funny = funny book by a man” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“gripping”: “I turned the pages fast but didn’t read them” @sarahw Sarah Weinman, news editor of Publishers Marketplace

“gritty street tale”: “Black author from the hood. Run.” @DuchessCadbury, graduate student in literature

“I’ve been a fan of Author X for a long time”: “I slept with them regrettably, in MFA school.” @Weegee Kevin Smokler, vice-president of marketing for Byliner.

“lapidary prose”: “I did not know what half of these words meant” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“literary”: “plotless” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“long-awaited”: “late” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

“luminous” or “lyrical”: “not much happens” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“magisterial”: “long” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“meticulously researched”: “overloaded with footnotes” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“memoir”: “nonfiction until proven otherwise” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“the next Elmore Leonard”: “This book has criminals or Detroit or maybe Florida in it” @bryonq Bryon Quertermous, fiction writer

novella”: “short story with large font” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“a real tear-jerker”: “writing so bad it makes you cry” @DrewSGoodman Drew Goodman, writer and social media analyst

“ripped from the headlines”: “no original plot line” @jdeval Jacqueline Deval, author (Publicize Your Book!) and book publicist

“rollicking”: “chaotic” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“sensual”: “soft porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“stunning”: “major character dies” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“provocative”: “about race/religion” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“promising debut”: “many flaws, but not unforgivably bad” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“unflinching”: “has a lot of bad words” @isabelkaplan Isabel Kaplan, novelist (Hancock Park)

“visionary”: “can’t be proved wrong yet” @IsabelAnders Isabel Anders, author (Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples)

voice of a generation”: “instantly dated” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“weighty”: “I had to lug this dense historical monster all over town and I still can’t bring myself to finish it” @emilynussbaum Emily Nussbaum, writer for New York magazine and other publicatons

“wildly imaginative”: “wrote book high on mescaline” @simonm223 Simon McNeil, novelist

“a writer to watch”: “as opposed to one you are actually going to want to read” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

You’ll find more publishing buzzwords decoded in the sequel to this post at http://bit.ly/pubcode2.

You can follow Jan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

37 Comments »

  1. LOVE this list! I was thinking about “Regency” — shamelessly pilfered from Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. :)

    Comment by Jennifer Froelich — August 23, 2011 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  2. List is spot-on. Remember when “splendid” was the adjective du jour? “limns” — reviewed by the NYT
    “uneven” — feel free to skip and skim
    sometimes I just want to say “trust me,” it’s either good or it’s not.

    Comment by patebooks — August 23, 2011 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks, Nancy and Jennifer. Your translations are right on the money, too. Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 23, 2011 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  4. [...] The Universal Translator is applied to book reviews for the first time: Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you. [...]

    Pingback by dustbury.com » Blurbese waxing — August 24, 2011 @ 9:28 am | Reply

  5. Love this post! Thanks.

    Comment by Ilana DeBare — August 24, 2011 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Ilana. Many more hilarious #pubcode tweets have turned up on Twitter since Sunday, so I’m going to do a follow-up to this and add some of them, probably over the weekend. Jan

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 24, 2011 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  6. This is hysterical. I think “award-winning” means the same as “acclaimed.”

    Diane Farr, award-winning author of frothy romps

    Comment by Diane Farr — August 24, 2011 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

    • Diane,
      Oddly, I just thinking that nobody on Twitter has tried to decode “award-winning” (or to translate the meaning of specific award). You may still see that one :).
      Jan

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 24, 2011 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  7. [...] bibliophile malcontents, Janice broke down the language of reviewing in her recent post titled 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded. Some descriptions – such as “accessible” meaning not too many big words – [...]

    Pingback by An awesome guide to reviewing awesome things - Read up on it Blog for Australian Non-Fiction Books — August 25, 2011 @ 9:58 am | Reply

  8. [...] And we leave you with the true meaning of common publishing buzzwords… [...]

    Pingback by Sterling Editing » Written on the internet — August 26, 2011 @ 9:36 am | Reply

  9. [...] found this Devil’s Dictionary of publishing terms dangerously amusing.  Hat-tip: Kelley at Sterling Editing.  Here are some [...]

    Pingback by Superhero Nation: how to write superhero novels, comic books and graphic novels » Publishing Cliches Decoded! — August 26, 2011 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  10. Very good post. Makes you think a little.
    Stephen L. Brayton
    http://www.stephenbrayton.com
    SLB.

    Comment by Stephen Brayton — August 29, 2011 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  11. This had me laughing, what a terrific way to start the morning!

    Comment by Angela K Roe — August 30, 2011 @ 9:13 am | Reply

  12. [...] veterans to decode other euphemisms and to attach the hashtag #pubcode on Twitter. I collected 40 of their answers, and others poured in afterward. And if many responses were tongue-in-cheek, they also pointed to a [...]

    Pingback by More Publishing Buzzwords Decoded With Wit on Twitter « One-Minute Book Reviews — August 31, 2011 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  13. You forgot one:
    “a must for young adults”: “too trite for adult readers; also, features vampire” @doonan1

    William Doonan
    http://www.williamdoonan.com

    Comment by williamdoonan — September 1, 2011 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  14. Stephen, Angela, William and others: Thanks so much for these delightful comments. I’m a bit slow in responding to them because we’ve been hit bit by Irene but they have added cheer to the week. The sequel to this post appears at http://bit.ly/pubcode2. Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 3, 2011 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  15. [...] from One Minute Book Reviews shares a growing list of tongue-in-cheek definitions for 40 Publishing Buzzwords. Too [...]

    Pingback by Mind Sieve 9/4/11 « Gloria Oliver — September 5, 2011 @ 7:42 am | Reply

  16. [...] believe that my sister pointed this post out to me: 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded.  Mostly they’re a little bit amusing, but this one I really liked: [...]

    Pingback by Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded « Cowbels — September 9, 2011 @ 3:07 am | Reply

  17. [...] Harayda has compiled a list of 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Cliches and Euphemisms Decoded in One-Minute Book [...]

    Pingback by September 2011 | — September 9, 2011 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  18. [...] Humor:  More Publishing Buzzwords Decoded with Wit on Twitter – Have you broken the  code? What do “labor of love” and “dazzling” really mean? And for a few more, look here. [...]

    Pingback by Book Bits #24 – Borders epilogue, Maurice Sendak, Brooklyn book festival | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions — September 17, 2011 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  19. [...] 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded [...]

    Pingback by Sunday Reading « zunguzungu — September 18, 2011 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  20. [...] by 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded, Bill Easterly solicited contributions via Twitter to an AidSpeak Dictionary. In a moment of [...]

    Pingback by The AidSpeak Dictionary « Emergent Economics — September 21, 2011 @ 4:11 am | Reply

  21. [...] last weekend for “decodings of aid/development jargon” .  Inspiration was from 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded. I don’t necessarily endorse any implied viewpoint, if [...]

    Pingback by the irony in development work… « oweherhiyha — September 22, 2011 @ 5:20 am | Reply

  22. [...] when they say Y” genre – this time for editors, book publicists, and jacket copy writers:  Part 1 and Part [...]

    Pingback by Editor-speak decoded « BLT — September 23, 2011 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  23. Many thanks to the BLT (Bible*Literature*Translation) blog, which has added another definition (see its Comments section): “campy = gay” http://bit.ly/gycamp. Probably more true in the past than today but still frequently used to describe some classics.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 25, 2011 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  24. [...] uma pequena seleção dessas mensagens decodificadas. Para ver tudo, em inglês, clique aqui e aqui. Ou aguardem, que volto a publicar mais alguns em [...]

    Pingback by O mundo literário decodificado | Não me Culpem pelo Aspecto Sinistro — October 13, 2011 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  25. [...] pode ver o resultado completo em inglês aqui e aqui. Abaixo escolhi algumas pra eu mesmo traduzir: “Acessível” = “Não possui muitas [...]

    Pingback by Decifrando críticas literárias | Suruba Cultural — October 17, 2011 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  26. Dictionary: the only place where words continue being virgins.

    Comment by Octavio Tamayo — December 28, 2011 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  27. Loved this post…and the ways to say “this book stinks” without saying it quite so bluntly too!

    Comment by giascott — December 30, 2011 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  28. [...] Hemon’s prose is not “luminous” or “spare”; it doesn’t “limn” anything. It is angry, funny, and sad—and full of [...]

    Pingback by The New Classics: Enduring books, shows, moves since 2000 « generalpaperpress — February 4, 2012 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

  29. [...] bibliophile malcontents, Janice broke down the language of reviewing in her recent post titled 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded. Some descriptions – such as “accessible” meaning not too many big words – [...]

    Pingback by An awesome guide to reviewing awesome things - Boomerang Books Blog — July 28, 2012 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  30. [...] choose the heartiest foods. By the criteria of creative writing, Fountain’s novel and Power’s indeed capture our time in luminous prose by two writers who are destined to become the voice of their [...]

    Pingback by The Worst National Book Award List Since the Last National Book Award List « Commentary Magazine — October 10, 2012 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  31. [...] can read the hilarious definitions of the publishing industry buzzwords used above and many more here.  Warning: After this, dust jacket blurbs and book reviews will never be the [...]

    Pingback by Talking about Books . . . | Book Notes Plus — January 9, 2013 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  32. […] You can read the hilarious definitions of the publishing industry buzzwords used above and many more here. […]

    Pingback by First Anniversary: Favorite Posts | Book Notes Plus — October 23, 2013 @ 6:43 am | Reply

  33. […] uma pequena seleção dessas mensagens decodificadas. Para ver tudo, em inglês, clique aqui e aqui. Ou aguardem, que volto a publicar mais alguns em […]

    Pingback by O mundo literário decodificado | Não me Culpem pelo Aspecto Sinistro — January 20, 2014 @ 9:02 am | Reply

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