Speaker spotlight: Wendy Laura Belcher to speak at TAA’s 2017 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference

Wendy Laura Belcher, an Associate Professor at Princeton University and author of the best-selling book, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Writing Success, will be a featured speaker at TAA’s 30th Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, June 9-10, 2017.

Belcher’s session, “Writing a Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Inspiration, Concepts, and Success,” will highlight key strategies for being a productive academic author and provide insight and inspiration for you as authors, educators, and writing mentors. [Read more…]

5 Things to consider when negotiating your textbook contract audit clause

royalty auditOne of the most important provisions in your textbook publishing contract is the audit clause, which will specify the conditions for how and when you can request and conduct an audit. In the absence of an audit clause, some publishers will still comply with a request to audit, although they are not contractually required to do so.

While the large publishers have calculated and paid royalties to thousands of authors, contract terms can vary, automated royalty systems have limitations, and the accounting teams at publishers are made up of human beings who can make mistakes. If an author wants a better understanding as to the calculation and accuracy of his or her royalties, the best course of action is to request a royalty audit. [Read more…]

Pre-order your copy of TAA’s newest book: ‘Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide’

Writing and Developing Your College TextbookWriting and crafting a textbook and attending to authoring tasks is a time-consuming, complex—some would say monumental—project, even harrowing at times. The updated and expanded third edition of Writing a Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide, now available for pre-order, will empower you to undertake textbook development by guiding you through the nuts and bolts of the development process and providing essential background information on the changing higher education publishing industry, as well as how to choose a publisher, write a textbook proposal, negotiate a publishing contract, and establish good author-publisher relations. Click here to pre-order. [Read more…]

Book Review: Guide to Textbook Publishing Contracts

Kevin Patton 2016-04-19_16-38-43One of the first experiences a textbook author will have is dealing with a publishing contract. Very few of us are attorneys ourselves and very few of us will have had any prior experience negotiating a publishing contract. Our expertise is in our teaching discipline—not in contract law.

I have learned—the hard way—that I should NOT be the only one looking at contracts and amendments presented to me by my publisher. I’ve therefore made it a habit to have an attorney specializing in textbook publishing contracts to review, suggest, and debate the points in anything I sign. Now I have a much better idea of the potential risks and rewards involved in each new professional writing project. [Read more…]

How to deconstruct and decipher your textbook royalty statement

royaltiesDeciphering textbook royalty statements to determine whether royalties being reported are accurate can be frustrating for both first time and veteran textbook authors.

Royalty calculations should be relatively straightforward. That is, the contractually agreed-upon royalty rate for the Work multiplied by the earnings received by the publisher. However, add in escalation clauses, various rates for different sales categories or channels, co-authorship, packaged products, electronic materials, custom editions, abridgements, agreed-upon deductions, returns for reserves, specific definitions of earnings, multiple titles in various editions etc., and the calculation of royalties becomes much more complex. [Read more…]

When getting rights clearance is tough

copyright collage artWe’ve all been there. You have the perfect photo . . . verse . . . song lyrics . . . vignette . . . you name it . . . to open your book or a chapter within it. Having labored long and hard to locate just the thing, you are now certain that nothing else will do. There’s only one problem. It’s not yours and either you can’t determine who owns the rights, or you can’t figure out how to reach them, or they’re dead or out of business, or they won’t answer you. [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…]

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?

Tips of the Trade ImageQ: “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…]

Royalty step-down clause: Factors and formulas

Tips of the Trade ImageQ: “I am trying to establish a royalty step-down clause for a very successful text. I proposed the three-edition step-down of 75 percent of contractual royalty to 50 percent to 25 percent, assuming this means, for example, when I do not participate at all, I would receive 75 percent of, say, 15 percent, then 50 percent of 15 percent then 25 percent of 15 percent. Is that correct?

My publisher astounded me by saying this means 75 percent of the full royalty, contractual rate, then 50 percent of the new, reduced, rate, and 25 percent of the latter vastly reduced rate!! Doesn’t this depart from common industry practice? It is my understanding from TAA discussions and other sources that the standard step-down is 50 percent of contractual rate, then 25 percent of the same contractual rate, followed by nothing. What’s up??”

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.

This can be an actively negotiated item on both sides. The negotiations reflect a number of factors, including: how successful and established is the book?; how valuable will it be for the publisher to continue listing the original author as ‘author’?; what would be fair and attractive royalties to attract an excellent new author or authors to take over the book? (the publisher will typically be reluctant to expand the total royalty pot); will the initial author play any continuing role as a consultant or in marketing?

You’re not crazy. When these step-downs (whether 50-25 or any other formula), we mean what you think it means: ___% of the original contractual rate for Revision 1, ___% of the original contractual rate for Revision 2, etc. Is your publisher saying that it would agree to 75 percent for Revision 1, then 50 percent of 75 percent (or 37.5 percent) for Revision 2, and then 25 percent of 37.5 percent (or 9.375 percent) for Revision 3? That’s a peculiar way to go about it, but the actual numbers are quite good.”