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dumps, blads, and gaylords: publishing sales speak gets demystified

When I was a kid I loved having a secret language so my friends and I could speak "in code" when adults were around. As a grownup I still get to do that . . . with the  mysteries of sales speak! For instance, I wrote this email to someone in my office the other day—nothing special, just a brief status report. They printed it out and brought it over, wearing a look of utter bafflement. (This kind of thing gives me a little giggle during a long workday.)

Hi  ________,
I heard from the account. They saw the ARC and think it could be part of a coop opportunity for an endcap or MOD. Not for POG or WIGIG. Or we could put in a dump. They still want to see the dummy though. Of course we have to watch out, these guys might screw up the laydown and of course there is always the chance that they'll come back in a gaylord, then we'll have to remainder. I checked the stock and found we're OS! I can't sell what I don't have!


Well, I've been doing this for (ahem) 20 some-odd years so I guess I speak the language, but I have to remember that we are all not bilingual when it comes to sales speak. So you're in luck today! I will share this hard-won and very valuable knowledge with you. Excellent for conversational tidbits (you must be fun at parties if you need this kind of material), or trot some of these out at work and you'll probably be able to take my job. Because as with most things, all you have to do is talk the talk.

ARC (Advance reading copy)
This is the poorly reproduced, un-copyedited version of the book that gets bound into a paperback version (also known as a bound galley, for back when printed pages came back from the typesetter as galleys . . . am I dating myself?). Seems like big publishers do a lot of these that end up as landfill, but on a highly anticipated book they are greatly desired by booksellers and librarians, and they're often sent out for early reviews. You can spot them in highly decorative and complicated stacking patterns at trade shows. 

BEA (Book Expo America)
The big annual trade show for the publishing industry. It used to be publishers would set up booths (spending a lot of $$$) to promote their big fall releases and meet retailers, wholesalers, media, and more. Now the industry is trying to figure out how to promote electronic books and whatever else is next. Sometimes famous authors do appearances but there's far less costume-wearing hoopla than there used to be. The Dummies man costume, for example, is a show favorite. Fun fact: His triangular head is so big that it has space inside for a fan in order to cool the unlucky wearer's sweaty head.

This is a code designated by the industry to standardize what category books fall into. Every book needs one, and it takes some creativity to come up with the rights ones (each book can have three). Sometimes buyers decide what to buy based on the BISAC category so you don't want to choose incorrectly. Here's a sample: 


COOKING / Regional & Ethnic / American / Western States. 

Isn't that fun?

I just like to say it: Blad blad blad. Not short for bladder. It might be an abbreviation for "book layout and design." This is an excerpt of several pages from an illustrated book that we use to show potential buyers what a book is all about before it's completed. 

This term—borrowed from the mass marketers who sell things like razors and Chapstick—are long, vertical strips of plastic with little clips on them that can hold small books. They are a merchandising tool to get books into places that don't have a lot of space or for a product you want to merchandise as an impulse item. Like the Tide "To-Go" sticks that are never actually on your shopping list but you end up grabbing while waiting in the register line.

COOP ($$$)
These are promotional funds that publishers use to promote particular titles in any kind of retail environment (including online). Coop can buy a spot on a promotional table such as "Chick Lit" or "Holiday Cookbooks" or on a (bonus term coming up!) bullnose, which is the shelving between the registers at a book chain, or in a holiday catalog, or to make posters, or whatever. Whether or not the promotion works to sell books, the publisher hopes that spending the coop will get the kind of promotion for their book that it'll stand out from the zillions of others. It's a part of the marketing budget that's driven by sales—usually the amount that can be spent is some percentage of the account's sales for the previous year.

You talking to me? No . . . don't get all offended, jeez. This is just a blank book that has the page count and size of the soon-to-be-finished book so you can see how it bulks or use it as sales material.


Tee hee. This is a term for the corrugated displays that you find a lot in grocery stores for cookbooks, kids' books, and bestsellers. One usually holds 12 to 15 books in a cardboard display with promotional art and copy on it. They're great, but editors get all bent out of shape when you talk about selling their books in dumps.

These are the most basic of in-store placement—they're just shelving units on which you can buy dedicated space for your book. So maybe a store is doing a feature on juicer books. You'd want to get your book Juicy Drinks on that endcap. For sure.

Also a hilarious name for a mundane thing: Giant bins in which mass marketers send back their unsold inventory. We don't like it when they do that.

For really big bestsellers, or books that have state secrets in them or other juicy tidbits, accounts have to agree that the book will not be available in their stores (including online) until a certain date. That's the laydown date. Sometimes they have to sign a contract agreeing to that. 

Short for "modular," this is promotional space that usually holds product for holidays or other themes.

This is the holy grail of mass market placement. Short for "planogram," it's an assigned space on mass market book shelves that is only changed out every three months or so. Once a book gets on POG, you should have good sales and assured space for three months. That is, if the book sells well. POG sales are measured daily and watched very closely. It is not easy to get a book on POG. Usually it will already be a bestseller in other accounts or written by someone famous.

Abbreviation for "stock-keeping unit" and pronounced "skew," this term gets thrown around in mass retailers, grocery stores, and warehouse clubs for any product they carry. Product sales are measured by SKU.

This term seems to have fallen out of use, but it's a good one, don't you agree? It's the "cool" stuff you give to buyers to get them to pay attention to your books, like a frying pan with a logo stamped on it, or a little gnome on a patch of astroturf (yes, that's a real one), or other promotional stuff. 

Respectively: out of stock, out of stock indefinitely, and out of print. OS is self-explanatory: "I don't have any copies right now to ship to you because we grossly underestimated how many people would want to buy a book on artisanal potato chips and we didn't print enough. But more are coming soon!" OSI means, "Wow, I am so relieved that we sold all of those books, because it sure didn't look like we would ever sell out and now that we have we're not sure we want to reprint, so it's out of stock indefinitely." OP means it is gone, buh-bye, ne'er to be reprinted, try to find it on eBay.

If I never hear this term again it won't be too soon, but you should know: "P-book" is a print book. You heard right: What we used to call a "book." As opposed to an e-book.

A sad word for publishers (and authors). It means there's a lot of inventory left on hand of a particular title and it isn't likely to sell (or it went out to accounts but was returned due to poor sales). There are customers who deal with purchasing just remainders, at very low prices.

Just one retailer in the UK uses this term but I like it so much I have to share: At WH Smith stores, "WIGIG" is a holiday promotion for big books at great prices, stacked up high and "when it's gone, it's gone."

I have a few very secret and special terms that I will not share with the public at large because I need to keep some mystery about what I do here. We call that "job security."

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