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Q&A: 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, Attorney, Wood Herron & Evans:

“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.

At lower levels, the manuscripts are more heavily editorially managed and publishers frequently require that the work be done on a for-hire basis. At higher levels, the works are not likely to be managed at all and any evaluation will be done by peer review. Copyrights in these works are typically retained by the authors, with an assignment of certain exclusive but limited rights to the publisher.

Financial terms (advances, grants, and royalty rates) predominate in negotiation of lower level works — bigger markets, higher volumes, and more revenue at stake. Issues of editorial control, assurance of publication, and attribution predominate in the higher level works, where financial interests are less of a motivating factor for all.”