Cengage authors begin to receive royalty statements under Cengage Unlimited plan
While some Cengage authors are still waiting for their first royalty statements under the company’s new Cengage Unlimited plan, which, launched in August 2018, offers students access to its database of textbooks and other online content for a flat fee, several have received their statements and shared how the new plan has affected their royalties.
TAA President and Cengage author Mike Kennamer said royalties from CU were included on the most recent statement for one of his three Cengage titles. “The royalties generated from CU, for me, were insignificant and overall sales are down significantly,” he said. “I plan to reach out to Cengage’s Author Relations team to ask for help in interpreting my statement, which is less than clear.” More than three weeks later, he said, he is still waiting for a response.
In mid-February, Cengage sent its authors a letter informing them that in the coming weeks they would be receiving their royalty statements and to look for a new line item showing sales revenue for titles generated by Cengage Unlimited subscriptions. The letter detailed, with a visual, where authors could expect to find CU represented on their statement: “In the Sales Activity section of your statement, you will see Net Sales and Units resulting from Cengage Unlimited sales and usage under each related title.”
The letter also reminded authors that CU “is not replacing traditional access to Cengage materials” and that “royalties on all traditional channels will continue to be calculated as they have been historically.”
However, Kennamer says one of his main complaints about the company’s move to CU is the lack of sales force: “The Cengage reps that sell healthcare (my subject area) are responsible for 56 other subject areas, including Driver Education, Electrical Engineering, Welding, and Agriculture. Is it any wonder sales are down?”
Some authors have reported that they have not received their (already expected) royalty statements and when they have, haven’t been able to reach Cengage’s Author Relations team with their questions. From those who have received their statements, there has been a mix of satisfied and unsatisfied authors. Others did not see any CU usage of their titles.
Communication studies author Stephanie J. Coopman said: “I did receive my royalty statement, which is just as confusing as ever to read. Based on what Cengage sent me about how to read the statement with the new CU royalties, I earned $2.83 from one unit. I don’t know how the unit price/net amount of $43.40 was computed. I haven’t reached out to Cengage’s Author Relations Team as it looks like my book wasn’t affected by CU.”
History author Kevin M. Schultz said: “This year’s royalties, were, so far as I can tell, largely unaffected by the rollout of Cengage Unlimited. I think that’s generally because my book is fairly inexpensive for a textbook, and because it’s in the humanities (soft side), where textbook expense isn’t as big a problem. Of course, it’s impossible to know what factors play into your royalty, but so far as I can tell, my royalties were more-or-less unaffected.”
“As far as new communications team, I’m told that this new structure will improve my author relations with Cengage, but so far I’ve had little luck communicating with them,” said Schultz. “The new team responds quickly to email, and is very nice, but they haven’t seemed forthcoming with direct answers to any questions. My hunch is that they, too, were waiting to see how the new royalty structure affected everyone and that now they might be more direct. At least I hope so!”
One author, who asked to remain anonymous, said CU did not seem to be a factor in her royalties, for which she earned only about $200, but said: “When my royalty deposit arrived from Cengage at the end of March, I was shocked to find that it was more than $1,000 less than I received last year (the fourth year of the last edition of my book). As I’m sure you know, the first year of a new edition is when an author expects the best royalties. In addition, I had spent literally hundreds of hours creating a MindTap, the complete online course that accompanies my text. I received somewhere around 15% of what I have received in earlier times during the first year of a new edition. I have no way of knowing what impact CU might have had. I contacted the Author Relations Team and had a prompt response [from a member of the team], who started looking into what might be going on. No results yet, but the response was cordial and efficient.”
Several Cengage authors said they had either left Cengage recently or want out of their Cengage contract. Anthropology author Eric Bartelink is one: “I honestly want out of my Cengage contract. The company doesn’t seem to care about their author teams like they used to.”
He said that after reaching out to Cengage several times to find out when he could begin the revisions for one of his books (now 3 years out of date), and not receiving a response, he “cc’d a ‘higher up’ person” only to find out that the person he had been trying to contact had moved on to another job, which was the reason they hadn’t responded. “They can’t seem to keep anyone in a position for more than a year!” said Bartelink. “And when the ‘higher up’ person has their Product Manager respond on her behalf, this is what I received as a response: ‘Thank you for contacting my colleague, [XX], about what’s next for your text. Unfortunately, the Cengage Product Manager position for Anthropology is open at the moment, so I don’t have a new long-term contact for you. But you can always feel free to reach out to me directly with questions. We do not plan on revising either of your text for the upcoming copyright year (Winter, 2020 publication), so for the time being there is nothing you need to be working on. Once a new Product Manager is hired, you’ll receive an e-mail introduction; but again, if you need anything in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me.’ Absolutely unacceptable! No one will use my textbook if it’s not revised soon, not even me! There are so many new developments in the field that need to be updated.”
According to his most recent royalty statement from Cengage, Bartelink sold 46 units of one book under Cengage Unlimited, earning $115 in royalties, and 11 units of another, earning $23 in royalties. “In other words, Cengage Unlimited generated $138 in royalties for me personally from both books,” he said, comprising less than 1% of his total royalty. “How any of this benefits authors is beyond me…”
At least one author has had a positive response to their recent royalty statement. Communication author Glenn Sparks said: “Most all of my royalties from the CU plan and the royalties I did earn were very much in line with expectations given how long this edition of the text had been available.” A new liaison Cengage assigned to him, he said, “has been incredibly responsive and fast in communicating with me and has given me satisfactory insights on the pattern of my royalties over the last three years.”