Last night, just as I was getting ready for bed with my book, The First Bad Man: A Novel by Miranda July, a weird thought came to me: there are a lot of weird yet wonderful publishing terms which I love. Some are terms from my days as an editor in the non-lexical reference department at Oxford University Press and others are more recent from my job as an online publishing project manager.

So I thought I’d compile a top ten of my favourite publishing terms, some of these might be peculiar to OUP and not industry-wide but most I think are industry-wide.

1. Belly Band

This is something that annoys me as a consumer (as it keeps falling off), but amused me as a publisher. A few years into my full-time editorial career at OUP, our department was treated to a new Publishing Director who came from ‘outside’ (i.e. not an internal job change) and she was big into belly bands. We hadn’t thought of wrapping our reference books in belly bands before she came along. She also had bright hair and a little dog.


The yellow bit is the belly band

The yellow bit is the belly band

2. Blad

I love blads (not the sort of blads that google throws up). We used to make blads for our hopeful big sellers. My first ever blad was for The Oxford Companion to Western Art by Hugh Brigstocke (an author, who incidentally, famously declared loudly over the phone to my boss that he’d have a naked body on the front cover of his book ‘over my dead body’). If you look at the link above you will see that he did not carry out that threat.

I’ve found a definition for ‘blad’:

BLAD is an acronym that doesn’t really have a consensus about what it stands for – most agree that it means Book Layout And Design, but it could also be Basic Layout And Design (also applies to websites), or even Book Layout Art Document.

That describes it well. I’d call it a mini-book. It is a marketing tool used to promote a forthcoming book to the market. It is usually about 8-12 pages long and contains the front cover, some quotes, some content and marketing blurb.

3. Blurb

Blurb is the waffle on the front, back and flaps of a book jacket. Part of my job as editor was to write book blurb. This was my favourite part of the job. I loved the power this afforded me. I could use words and phrases such as: indispensable, ground-breaking, path-breaking, unique, a must for all train spotters.

This was one of my books

This was one of my books

4. Flaps

The flaps are the flappy bits on a book jacket but it just sounds ever-so-slightly rude to me. When writing book blurb, there are certain bits of information that has to go on the flaps. One also musn’t get the front flap and the back flap confused.

5. Title Verso

Doesn’t that sound so beautifully archaic? This term is still used today. The Title Verso page is the page on the ‘left-hand side’ (verso) of the title (title) page. It contains the legal information that all books need to carry: author name, title, publisher, year, ISBN, copyright of material, library of congress cataloging data, etc. It’s the page nobody reads. It’s the page that an editor absolutely has to get correct.

6. Pub 1

I suspect that this might be an OUP only term. Other publishers probably have their own term for this document. This is (or was in 2003, things might have changed since then) a one-page Excel spreadsheet that contains the costings and print run information of a forthcoming book. Someone important needs to sign this to say ‘yes, go ahead, print 20,000 copies please and price at £12.99’.  The book will not be printed until this is signed. It was often difficult to find someone important to sign a Pub 1s on a Friday as most someone importants worked from home on a Friday. I remember once having to go almost to the top and ask the big boss of Academic Publishing to sign my very insignificant Pub 1 for a reprint of about 100 copies of a particular book. Luckily, he signed it (that was after asking me some quite taxing questions about the book).

7. Metadata

This isn’t an exclusively publishing term but I love it nonetheless. In online publishing the metadata is the data ‘behind the scenes’ of a book. It isn’t the data in the book but the data about the book. I know that sounds confusing and I love the fact that ‘meta-‘ is a confusing hard-to-grasp abstract prefix. I like the notion of metaphysics for the same reason. It just makes me think of clouds.

8. Format

This isn’t a term as such but more of an umbrella word to cover a number of weird and wacky terms. Book formats have odd names known to those who work in publishing such as folio, crown, demy, royal, imperial, a-format and b-format. I might be mixing book cover formats with paper formats, I’m not sure. Where can I find a production editor?


This definitely is an OUP-specific term. My first ever publishing meeting was a combined reference and dictionaries meeting (I worked alongside the people who made all the little baby dictionaries borne out of OED). ODWE was mentioned in that meeting. ODWE (pronounced ‘odd-wee’) is an acronym for Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors but I didn’t know that at the time. At that meeting someone also mentioned a need to reprint COD and POD. It was a few weeks until I understood what on earth they had been talking about. It was also a while until I worked out what the ‘mini German’ was (or I might be making that up).

This is 'Odd-Wee' and actually a very valuable reference book to me now

This is ‘Odd-Wee’ and actually a very valuable reference book to me now

10. Ozalids

Although this is number ten, in some ways I’ve left the best ’til last. I love ozalids. They smell vile, they feel vile and they look as if they ooze dangerous radiation. The ozalids are the final, final pre-printing proofs. They are chemical. They aren’t really proofs at all. The editor really shouldn’t change anything on the ozalids but I was often given a copy of a book’s ozalids to check nonetheless.

If I could have a number 11 it would be ‘vouchers’. The voucher proofs are the real final proofs (instead of the ozalids which come afterwards). They don’t smell so they are pleasant to check. Proofs all have names: first proofs, revisers, second revisers, vouchers, ozalids.

Nowadays I work almost exclusively online and there is no call for Pub 1s, ozalids, vouchers, blurb, blads or flaps. My working life is so much more virtual now (and arguably less interesting for the lack of ozalids).