Ask the Expert: What to look for in publisher-driven ‘new’ textbook contracts

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Steve Gillen has authored three books with TAA on the topics of textbook authoring, publishing, contracts, and rights clearance and permissions.

Q: I’m a published author. I signed a textbook contract with a publisher 32 years ago and the first edition of my text was published 30 years ago. It’s since been revised 9 times, all under the original contract, and is due to be revised again soon. Recently, my publisher wrote and said they wanted to sign a new contract for the new edition because the industry had changed, their business model had changed, and the old contract was no longer in step with their current practices. Should I go along with this and sign the new contract?

A: Maybe. . . but not without doing a little homework first. Your original contract almost certainly contemplated that your text, if successful, would need periodically to be revised. What it probably said about this was that “if and when” the publisher thought a revision was warranted, the publisher would call upon you to prepare it. And if you were willing and able to do that, the revision would be prepared and published under the terms of your then existing agreement as if it were the work being published for the first time. [Read more…]

Textbook publisher mergers and acquisitions: What authors need to know

mergers and acquisitionsIf you’ve been published (or simply signed, for that matter) by a US publisher in the last dozen years, there is a fair to excellent chance that the master to whom you are now answering is not the master to whom you indentured yourself when you signed your original publishing contract. Among the larger transactions: [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

How to avoid the need to secure permission

Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade PublishingMaybe 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. [Read more…]

Textbook contract clauses: Understanding advances and grants

Guide to Textbook Publishing ContractsStephen GillenAn 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 uncommon 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. [Read more…]

10 Tips for your next textbook deal

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Steve Gillen

If you’ve been published, then you’ve seen it before — a “whereas” and a “therefore” followed by eight or more pages of pre-printed, pedantic prose offered up by the editor as the house’s “standard publishing contract.” Other than a few tiny spaces for your name, the title of your work, and the manuscript delivery date, the bulk of it looks as though it were long ago locked down in Century Schoolbook type.

But the truth is that there is more to review than the spelling of your name, choice of title, and projected completion date, and more to negotiate than you might realize. Here are 10 tips to help you understand what is (or ought to be) worthy of negotiation. [Read more…]

TAA once again stands up for authors in Google Books case

LegalscaleThinkstockPhotos-178999905More than a decade ago, in 2004, Google initiated a program, in concert with several university and large public libraries, to scan and digitize the entire contents of millions of books without regard to whether they were or were not still under copyright, ultimately making complete digital copies of more than 20 million books. Google’s goal was to expand its search business to include print works as well as online works. It spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this project, suggesting what Google believed to be its commercial potential. [Read more…]

Textbook contract negotiations: Do your homework

Textbook Contract NegotiationWhen it comes to contract negotiations, you have to do your homework, says Steve Gillen, partner at Wood, Herron & Evans, where he concentrates his practice on publishing, media, and copyright matters.

“Negotiations are ultimately influenced by which side knows the most about the other side’s positions. The editor starts this contest with an advantage gained from experience in the market, experience doing other [Read more…]

Copyright: Why a memorialized record of good faith matters

copyright collage artThere are few absolutes or bright lines when it comes to copyright matters. So much is left to the judgment of the court or jury in a copyright infringement case, the boundaries so amorphous, the tests so subjective, that ensuring that you are more sympathetic than the plaintiff can go a long way toward moving the case one way or another.

The threshold question of the copyrightability of plaintiff’s work, the credibility assigned to any given copyright registration, the application of the four-factor test for fair use, the [Read more…]

When getting rights clearance is tough

copyright collage artWe’ve all been there. You have the perfect photo . . . verse . . . song lyrics . . . vignette . . . you name it . . . to open your book or a chapter within it. Having labored long and hard to locate just the thing, you are now certain that nothing else will do. There’s only one problem. It’s not yours and either you can’t determine who owns the rights, or you can’t figure out how to reach them, or they’re dead or out of business, or they won’t answer you. [Read more…]