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What to consider before signing your first textbook contract

The following advice came from a 2014 TAA Conference Roundtable Discussion led by Mike Kennamer and Steven Barkan, entitled, “What I Wish I Had Known Before I Signed My First Textbook Contract”:

“Be prepared that some books don’t make money.” – Steven Barkan

“$3,000 would be a good advance for most first time textbook authors.” – Attorney Zick Rubin

“I received a grant rather than an advance for my text. A grant is better because it isn’t an advance against royalties.” – Mike Kennamer

“You don’t want snapshot quality photos in your textbook. Hire a professional or purchase professional photos.” – Mike Kennamer

“If you give them a valid reason, publishers will be more likely to consider your request for a change.” – Mike Kennamer

“Have a collaboration agreement when writing a textbook with coauthors. You don’t want your disagreements with coauthors to be mediated by your publisher.” – Attorney Zick Rubin

“…and your publisher doesn’t want to mediate them.” – Sean Wakely

“Look for ‘joint’ or ‘several’ language in your contract. This gives you the ability to remove an author without disrupting the contract of the other authors.” – Sean Wakely

“Don’t fall in love with your acquisitions editor. It is likely that he/she will leave and others will come and go.” – Steven Barkan

“During contract negotiation, don’t believe anything the acquisition editor says. When they say they won’t budge, they usually do.” – Steven Barkan

“You will only get a developmental editor for a textbook that the publisher thinks will do really well.”  – Sean Wakely

“Good developmental editors have a really great way of supporting you.” – Helen Solarzano

..and making your book better.” – Mike Kennamer

“Find out who pays for the illustrations/photos and what your budget is.” – Helen Solarzano

“Get approval over the title and cover of your textbook.” – Zick Rubin

“Permissions is an area of negotiation for books of all sizes.” – Zick Rubin

“What you negotiate in a contract depends on what is important to you.” – Zick Rubin

Guide to Textbook Publishing ContractsLearn more about textbook contract negotiations by purchasing Guide to Textbook Publishing Contracts, by Stephen Gillen, a partner at Wood Herron & Evans. The book offers a step-by-step guide to the key provisions of a typical textbook contract and how to determine what’s important to you so that you can enter into the contract negotiation process better informed. Buy today. TAA members receive discount pricing.