My Favorite--And Least Favorite--Publishing Words and Phrases (Joy Preble)

Dead, stuffed deer in rowboat.**
Publishing is filled with catch phrases, a new language you learn as you go along. Your publicist may talk about consumer-facing ads versus trade-facing versus media-facing. Your editor says she’s crazy busy in the ‘run up’ to a trade show. At first you just nod your head and pretend. Then you figure it out.

Some of my least favorite publishing phrases include the long list of euphemisms for “Sorry. I don’t want to represent you/acquire your book/give you whatever it is you’ve just politely asked for.”

These include such gems as:

“I wish I had better news.”
(Yeah, me too.)

“This is not a good fit for our list.”
(And why? C’mon. Tell me why.)

“I just wasn’t as immersed as I want to be.”
(So bored, then? Okay. I actually get this one. Some books don’t immerse me, either. But if you could tell me why…)

“Despite our best efforts…”
(So that means you didn’t pitch me for that event, right?)

“I’m afraid I don’t think I’ll be able to take this on.”
(All those qualifiers don’t make me feel any better.)

I could go on, but you get the picture, right?

But then there are the wonderful words!

Emails from your editor or agent or publicist with the heading GOOD NEWS!

Follow up emails that say, “No really! It’s amazing news and here’s why!”

Phone calls from your agent that begin, “So how are you? How’s the dog?” Because she never calls you just to chat. That’s not how it works. And if it’s bad news, she’d have used one of the above in an email. So this generic chit chat means she’s about to tell you SOMETHING REALLY AWESOME!

Reviews from Kirkus that use words like “Satisfying” “Fun” “Thrilling” or anything that basically doesn’t imply that you suck. If there’s a sentence you can pull and use without ellipses, all the better!

(This one is always good.)

What are your favorite and least favorite words and phrases?

**Please note that the picture of stuffed Bambi in a rowboat has nothing to do with this post, but if you can mentally create a metaphor for its inclusion then, "Congratulations!" If not, "Despite my best efforts, I wish I had better news."


  1. I thought "despite our best efforts" meant they DID pitch it, but whomever they pitched it to said no.

    But who knows, really?

    1. yes, you are probably right. But sometimes I wonder!

  2. YES! A review blurb with no ellipses.

  3. HA! I loved and related to all of this!


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