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TAA announces results of 2022 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey

A recent survey conducted by the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) found that nearly 30 percent of respondents agreed to allow their royalty rates to be changed. Nearly 40 percent of respondents have been asked by their publishers to sign new contracts, and two-thirds of those have complied.

Stephen Gillen, an attorney with Wood Herron & Evans (Cincinnati, OH), estimates most of those authors did not know they did not have to agree to that royalty rate change, and most of the new contracts were almost certainly more favorable to the publishers than the ones they were replacing. “My guess is that the respondents did not appreciate the differences and did not fully understand that they did not have to agree to the new contracts,” he says.

TAA’s goal with this survey is that the results, combined with tracking data from the 2015 and 2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Surveys, will help authors 1) negotiate better contracts; 2) negotiate higher royalty rates for print and digital products; 3) to seek professional advice when negotiating contracts and when they want to better understand their royalty statements.

The majority of respondents were deeply experienced, with more than 20 percent reporting they have signed more than 10 contracts and been published for more than three decades. Sixty percent have been published in the last two years and nearly 95 percent have been published in the last eight years. While respondents represented authors from a total of 67 different publishers, 65 percent were published by the top four publishers, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, SAGE and Cengage. Nearly 80 percent of respondents did not consult an attorney in negotiation of their publishing contracts. “With respect to the questions about sunset, non-compete, revision and reversion clauses, the responses suggest to me that many of the respondents do not fully understand these provisions in their contracts,” says Gillen.

The survey, last conducted in Spring 2020, was promoted via email to TAA members, prospects, and former members; on the association’s website; and through its social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) from February 22 to April 19, 2022, and received 106 responses.

TAA’s online 2022 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey was aimed at published textbook authors with the goal of providing a look into the range of royalties and contract options offered for print and digital textbooks.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Thirty-five percent of respondents reported that their 2021 royalties are within 10 percent of the past two years’ average, 24 percent reported that their 2021 royalties are between 10 and 25 percent lower and another 24 percent reported their royalties were 25 percent lower.
  • Thirty percent of respondents reported 15 percent as the highest royalty rate negotiated for print, and 33 percent reported 10 percent as the lowest royalty rate negotiated for print. The majority of those respondents who reported 15 percent as their highest royalty rate negotiated for print have been published for almost two decades. These numbers have not changed from those reported by respondents to TAA’s 2015 and 2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Surveys.
  • The majority of respondents (59%) reported royalty rates were the same for digital and print. This represents a 4 percent drop over what was reported by respondents to the 2015 and 2020 surveys, when the rates were nearly identical. Seventeen percent reported a lower royalty rate for the digital version. This represents a 14 percent drop in what was reported by respondents to the 2020 and 2015 surveys, when the rates were nearly identical. Only 2 percent reported they were higher. This represents a 5 percent drop in what was reported by respondents to the2015 and 2020 surveys, when the rates were nearly identical. Four percent reported a different royalty rate for the regular eBook and enhanced digital version, a question asked for the first time in the 2022 survey.
  • While 40 percent of respondents said they carefully look at their royalty statements, 27 percent say they take a look at the totals but don’t look much further, and 17 percent say they glance at their statements but when they try to dig deeper, they quickly give up. Four percent reported that they never review their royalty statements. Just over half of respondents (51%) say they understand their royalty statements when they review them, yet very few (only 7 percent consulted an attorney and only 11 percent consulted a professional royalty auditor) reported consulting a professional outside of their publishing company when they had questions. Seventy-eight percent reported never having their royalty statements audited by a professional auditor.
  • A high percentage of respondents reported not knowing what their contracts said about key contract clauses, such as whether royalty rates were reduced when sold in bulk or wholesale (43%), whether the copyright automatically reverts to them if their publisher no longer wants to publish one of their textbooks (52%), or whether their contracts gave them the right of first refusal to prepare new editions (40%).

View Full Survey Results