Five chances to reset the terms of your book contract (Part 1)

If you published the first edition of your textbook ten or more years ago, you may find yourself occasionally muttering to yourself, “I wish I kew then what I know now.”

Why is that?

Historically, the publishers start the book contract negotiation game with all the cards…backs to you. You have one card…it’s face up. And it tells everybody, “I’m new at this but I’m excited. Just tell me where to sign.”

Publishers have generally been the gatekeeper to a published book. While this may be less true now, with self-publishing and Open Educational Resources (OER), the publishers still have the most established distribution channels self-publishers cannot begin to match.

What you need to know about ‘cross-collateralization’

It has an intimidating name. Indeed, it takes more letters to spell it than to put it into effect. But what is it and why is it bad for authors?

Most every book publishing contract will include a provision that obligates the publisher to periodically account to the author for the publisher’s sales of the author’s work. The language will probably look something like this:

Payments to the Authors will be made semiannually, on or before the last day of March and September of each year for royalties due for the preceding half-year ending the last day of December and June, respectively. If the balance due an Author for any royalty period is less than $50, no payment will be due until the next royalty period at the end of which the cumulative balance has reached $50. Any offsets (including but not limited to any advances or grant) against royalties or sums owed by an Author to the Publisher under this or any other agreement between the Author and the Publisher may be deducted from any payments due the Author under this or any other agreement between the Author and the Publisher.

New year welcomes thousands of copyrighted works into the public domain

This year marks the first in two decades that a significant body of copyrighted work has lost its U.S. copyright protection and fallen into the public domain. Why is that…and what does it mean for scholars and educators?

Prior to 1978, the term of copyright protection for a work in the United States was measured from its date of first publication in the U.S. Under the first U.S. copyright act in 1790, U.S. works enjoyed an initial term of 14 years of protection, with an optional second term of another 14 years.

How to avoid the need to secure permission

Maybe it was something you saw in a magazine or at a bookstore. Maybe it was something you saw online. Maybe it was something that caught your eye in a grant application or proposal…a good idea in poorly skilled hands seemingly not up to the task. In any event, wherever you first saw it, it inspired you to develop and publish your own article or book on the subject.

Anyone who has worked in an intellectual or creative endeavor knows that many new works build to one degree or another on the earlier work of others. But getting a head start by leveraging the intellectual work product of another is potentially problematic. When does inspiration cross over into infringement or a breach of scholarly integrity? The lawyer’s answer is: it depends.

Textbook contract clauses: Understanding advances and grants

An advance is a pre-payment of royalties to be earned upon the publication of your textbook. It will be recouped out of the royalties first accrued from the commercial exploitation of your work. It is not incoming for publishers to agree to advance from 50% to 100% of expected royalties on projected first year sales. The advance may or may not be refundable if your manuscript is rejected and your contract is cancelled.

A grant, conversely, is a payment intended to cover some or al of the out-of-pocket costs of research and/or manuscript preparation. It is generally not recouped out of accrued royalties, and like the advance, may or may not be refundable in the event the manuscript is rejected.