Authors express concern about new Cengage Unlimited subscription service

online booksCengage’s announcement of a new subscription service, Cengage Unlimited, that gives students at U.S. higher education institutions access to all of the company’s digital higher education materials for $119.99 a semester has Cengage authors concerned about how their contracts will be affected.

“I think the authors should find out as soon as possible how we are going to be paid,” said mathematics author Pat McKeague, who did not receive any information from his publisher about the new service prior to its public announcement, and has not been able to reach his editor for more information. “My contracts require my written permission before any electronic version of my book can be published.” [Read more…]

Collecting unpaid royalties: Trends, traps, and litigation strategies in textbook royalty enforcement

textbooksMuch has been written about changes in the college textbook marketplace over the last decade. The industry has adapted to new pedagogical methods, the proliferation of digital learning materials, and profitability pressures felt by publishers — all leading to significant innovation in the publication of learning materials. Some observers have concluded that we may be witnessing the death of the textbook as we have known it.

As the textbook publishing marketplace has changed, so too have relationships evolved between authors and their publishers. Commercial arrangements forged in the era of print media — which were amended and extended over time to apply to the publication of new editions — have been impacted by these industry-wide changes. [Read more…]

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…]