Attendees participate in contract negotiation role-playing exercise

2014 TAA Conference attendees participate in contract negotiation role-playing exercise during Stephen Gillen’s “Legal Update” session.

How to negotiate royalties for a textbook test bank

Q: “I am in the process of negotiating my second contract to write a test bank. The first contract was for a flat fee. I wrote a total of 490 multiple choice, true/false and fill in questions for a 14 chapter criminal justice book. The book was going into its 3rd edition and I think it is a big seller. [Read more…]

Tips & tricks for negotiating your first textbook contract

Contract ReviewThe most important things to negotiate in a first contract are the amount of the advance, the royalty rate and who will control which rights, said Jeff Herman, owner of the Herman Literary Agency in New York.

Keep in mind when negotiating the advance how the publisher calculates it, Herman said: “It will tell you how far they’re willing to go.” To calculate how much of an advance it will offer, the publisher looks at the number of books it will sell during the first year and the dollar amount the author will receive per copy. For example, if the author will receive $2 per copy, and the publisher will sell 10,000 copies the first year, the author will earn $20,000 in royalties. That $20,000, he said, is the highest the publisher will be willing to go in negotiating the advance.

“The publisher will generally low-ball you, especially if you have an agent, because it will assume that the agent will negotiate what is offered,” Herman said. “If the author is negotiating the advance, the initial offer will be closer to their limit.”

[Read more…]

How to go about getting a contract to publish an academic book

Q: “How do you go about getting a contract to publish an academic book? How is the process different from getting a contract for a college-level or K-12 textbook?”

A: Stephen E. Gillen, Authoring Attorney:

“Textbook contracts vary significantly based on curricular level. The K-12 market works with much higher volumes but is price sensitive (because schools adopt and purchase the books). The college market works on lower volumes but is less price sensitive (because professors adopt but students purchase).

The post graduate/academic market works on smaller volumes still and the focus of publishers tends to be not so much financial as it is prestige and contribution to the literature in a field. [Read more…]

Succession agreements: What to do when a coauthor transitions toward retirement

Q: “My coauthor on several different titles is transitioning toward retirement. I will soon be starting a revision without his active participation. We have a succession agreement on the royalty split in future editions, so that’s (hopefully) not an issue. However two questions have risen to top of the swirl of concerns that I have as I face this transition: 1) Is this a good opportunity to renegotiate my authoring contract? I suspect that my publisher will want to simply change the authoring designations as an addendum to the current contract. Should I insist on a new contract? Should I avoid that if they insist on a new contract?; 2) Assuming that I should renegotiate, how likely is it that I’ll be able to break them out of their boilerplate?”

A: Stephen E. Gillen, Authoring Attorney:

“Taking on 100 percent of the writing responsibility is essentially a new deal necessitating some change in the terms of the relationship (royalty share, to name but one important term). There is no magic to how this change in the relationship is memorialized. It can be by amendment or addendum or by substituting a new contract. What is important is that, however it is memorialized, you capture all of the relevant changes. [Read more…]

What royalty rate should you expect for trade books?

Q: “A friend of mine has an extraordinary self-published book of photos that has garnered the attention of a national publisher but he has no idea what a reasonable royalty rate would be, and I have no idea if it would be anything akin to text royalties. I’d describe his work as similar to any other professional photographer level coffee table book (think of a book on nature, national parks, flowers, etc). Does anyone have any idea what any standard royalty rate for this genre of books is?”

A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, Founder, Atlantic Path Publishing:

“Standard advance for books of that kind is in the 10k – 25k range. Standard royalty rate is 10% of net, but offers typically range between 7.5% and 12.5% of net for a textbook. Coffee table books are notoriously expensive to produce at quality.” [Read more…]

You’ve reached your maximum number of textbook pages, but lack content. Now what?

Q: “I am writing a book under contract and my chapters have been running so long I have already written the maximum number of pages negotiated with my publisher, yet have only fulfilled half the overall content promised. How should I approach this with the publisher? Should I renegotiate the overall content covered in the book or engage in some major editing?”

A: Laura Taalman, mathematics textbook author:

“This may not be an issue with you, but are you sure that YOUR page count is the same as theirs? Depending on what program you use for your writing, and what kind of format the graphic designers and compositors will use, your count may be very different from what they will be counting. Maybe your problem can magically go away?” [Read more…]

Should you receive royalties on derivative products?

Q: “Should I receive royalties on products such as Vango Notes and other derivative products?”

“I have a business textbook with Pearson/Prentice-Hall. I picked Pearson for this book because I really like the level of development they invest in new projects, and now that we are in the second edition, the book is doing reasonably well. With the second edition Pearson also launched a VangoNotes version of our book. This is how the Vango site describes them:

‘VangoNotes are exclusively for Pearson Education textbooks. Some VangoNotes subject texts may still be helpful, so browse by subject at www.vangonotes.com. Alternatively, your professor may be able to recommend a Pearson textbook that will be relevant for your class.’

I’ve listened to the material on my book and it could be a substitute for it (though in brief), and the quote above clearly suggests that Pearson/Vango view the resources as interchangeable. I don’t receive royalties on VangoNotes, even though it is essentially a summary version of the book, by chapter. Does anyone have some guidance for me as to what steps I should/could take to remedy this? I have talked with another Pearson author who has the same experience and concern. I also have experience with another publisher, Flat World Knowledge, which pays me a royalty on all derivative products related to my book, even study aids. My sense is that this is coming from the legal side of Pearson, not the editorial side, and I like working with my current editor.” [Read more…]

How to divide royalties when one author retires

Q: “I’m interested in information about the division of royalties, the typical percentages for members of the author team, and the percentage for the author who is retiring from the author team. Can anyone offer advice?”

A: Paul Rosenzweig, CPA:

“As far as I have ever perceived, there are no “rules” about how co-authors or a team, divide royalties. The co-authors negotiate their own shares among themselves. I recently saw a group that had different percentages for the main text vs salable ancillaries, with varying rates among the ancillaries, presumably based on the co-author’s contributions.”

As for the share allocated to a retiring author, that’s usually designated in that author’s (earlier) contract with the publisher. Typically, the retiring author retains a declining percentage as the editions continue.” [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…]