TAA debunks the top 7 myths regarding textbook costs

TAA myths coverStudents’ purchase of used textbooks, and more recently, the theft of new textbooks via downloads at file sharing websites, is based on misinformation about how textbook publishing works, how professors choose textbooks, the business practices of book resellers, and the motivations of authors who write textbooks.

TAA recently interviewed publishers, professors and authors as a way to set straight the top myths regarding textbook costs.

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Textbooks-to-trade shift not always easy

The trade book market can be lucrative, so it’s no wonder some indexingtextbook authors have their hands dipped into both pots. But how can a textbook author “cross over” to trade? Most literary agents agree that being academically published gives trade book-author wannabes extra credibility, but the question is, does the textbook author have what it takes to write for the trade book market. [Read more…]

Tips on selecting the right publisher for your textbook

Q: “I’m shopping a project around to a number of different publishers, but I’m having trouble figuring out exactly why I should choose one publisher over another, should more than one of them be interested. Assuming that each publisher makes approximately the same offer, and that my project fits in well with each publisher’s list, what other factors should I take into consideration? Does anyone have any personal experience (or warnings) that they would like to share? I’m particularly interested in hearing about people’s experiences with Cengage (formerly Thomson Brooks/Cole), Freeman, and Wiley, in the science/math college textbook divisions. It would also be very helpful to have any advice regarding questions I could ask of the editors to determine which publisher would be best to work with.”

A: Rebecca Plante, PhD, Associate Professor, Sociology Department, Ithaca College:

“I don’t have any specific knowledge of the science/math text market, but I have some general ideas.

1. Is there a publisher particularly known as the place to go to for books on [your specialty/subject here]? For example, if adopters know Wiley as a great source of books on X, your book would be more easily part of the adopter’s search. [Read more…]

How to cut the clutter from your writing

Q: “What techniques do you use to cut clutter, wordiness, jargon, etc. from your writing?”

A: Kim Pawlak, Associate Executive Director, TAA:

“I write my first draft without worrying about how long it is, and then I go through it again as if it has to be only X number of words. When you only have so much space to work with, it helps you weed out unnecessary words, phrases — and even paragraphs.” [Read more…]

What to consider when recycling content from writing project to writing project

Q: “A general question: You are writing a book — in one chapter, you wish to include information that you have used in another book with another publisher. What is the rule of thumb — if there is one — about how much information can be used and/or the level of changes necessary?”

A: Richard Hull, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy:

“There are several considerations against recycling material from one book in another. First, it robs you are your first publisher of a potential sale. If you lead the reader to whatever you think important in the second book that is found in the first, but don’t ‘give it away,’ you might find the reader buys the first book to get all of what he or she finds sketched in the second. Consider including in your second book only a minimal indication of what you showed so brilliantly in the first, in hopes that the engaged reader will want to know the full story. You might even interest your first book’s publisher in publishing the second one as a second, companion volume to the first. [Read more…]

Textbook succession planning: What is a reasonable royalty rate for the original author?

Q: “What is a reasonable royalty rate for an author whose name will remain on a (successful) textbook, but who wants to stop doing the revisions? What sort of language in the revisions clause can protect your heirs?”

A: Zick Rubin, The Law Office of Zick Rubin, Publishing/Copyright/Trademark:

“This is a very important item. Here is a formula that is sometimes proposed by authors and that is sometimes acceptable to publishers for a successful textbook: 75 percent of the royalties (i.e., the contractual rate) in the first edition in which the author does not take part, 50 percent of the royalties for the second such edition, and 25 percent of the royalties for the third and subsequent such editions. [Read more…]

Can you claim royalties on workbook giveaways?

Q: Years ago, when we wrote our first high school textbooks and workbooks, these items were sold to the schools and we received royalties on each component. Then as publishers began giving away more and more items to secure a big adoption (or a state listing), they began giving away ancillaries. Now they even give away some student books. [Read more…]

Author’s questionnaire: What it is and what you need to know

Your Working EnvironmentQ: “What is an “author’s questionnaire’?”

A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide:

“An Author’s Questionnaire usually comes from the marketing department to develop leads for reviewers of, contributors to, and especially adopters of your text. I suggest filling it in as completely as possible to make your contacts, colleagues, affiliations, and achievements known to the people who will attempt to market and sell your title. Also include any press–news articles about you (and keep sending them). List your upcoming opportunities to promote your book, such as guest lectures, keynote addresses, interviews in the broadcast media, academic conventions, teleseminars or webinars, etc. [Read more…]

How to convert your nonfiction book into a textbook

Q: “I have been contacted about converting my nonfiction book into a textbook. I believe that the book as it is, could very well be used in the classroom. Could you tell me how I can go about either publishing the book as is for classroom use, or converting it into a textbook?”

A: Ron Pynn:

“Let me start by noting that I would think your publisher has the rights to your present book, so that any plans to convert it into a text will require the present publisher to agree to the plan or publish it themselves as a text. Be sure you don’t violate the terms of your agreement with the publisher. [Read more…]

Definition of ‘camera-ready copy’ & how it could affect your contract negotiations

Q: “The contract that has been offered on a book based on my dissertation specifies ‘camera-ready copy.’ What does this mean?”

A: Michael Lennie, Authoring Attorney and Literary Agent, Lennie Literary and Authors’ Attorneys:

“The best answer is that you should ask your publisher what it means, since it might have a different meaning to your publisher than it does to other publishers. This information may be on your publisher’s website or in print form available from your publisher. Generally, camera-ready copy is the final layout of a page (or in your [Read more…]