Reviewing your author contract: Planning for the future

The life cycle of a successful textbook reaches well past the life of its author, given that copyright law currently extends rights in a work to the life of the author + 70 years. That means not just your children, but even your grandchildren may benefit from the fruits of your labors. At the same time, for books—and in particular textbooks—governed by publishing contracts, it is important for both you and your heirs to understand your, and by extension their, rights and responsibilities.

The first step is to pull out your publishing contract. If it is a typical royalty-bearing contract, then you likely have rights in every revision in which you participate. [Read more…]

Cengage denies trampling authors’ rights, claims Cengage Unlimited will increase author royalties

TextbooksIn its response to a class action lawsuit filed against them in May by David Knox and Caroline Schacht, Cengage denies that its business model “tramples on” or is in any way inconsistent with its authors’ rights and said it believes that the new Cengage Unlimited model will “increase sales and revenues (and, accordingly, royalties to authors).”

Cengage authors Knox and Schacht filed their class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 14 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments. [Read more…]

8 conditions affecting royalty accuracy

Royalty accuracyIn his recent webinar, “Royalty Disputes: Legal Strategies in Pursuit of Information and Payments Due”, David Slarskey, a trial lawyer with Slarskey LLC, defined royalty accuracy as the “accurate reporting, accurate calculation, and accurate recovery of royalties due to authors.”

Slarskey proceeded to identify the following eight conditions as some of the dynamics at play that can create friction in the process of achieving royalty accuracy in publishing relationships. [Read more…]

Announcement of Cengage Unlimited royalty calculation model raises new questions

online library of textbooksCengage’s royalty calculation model for its new subscription service Cengage Unlimited has raised a few questions that remain unanswered, primarily, will their model account for the range of existing publishing agreements—which have a variety of different provisions for accounting for royalties?

“Here’s the key problem,” said Stephen E. Gillen, a partner with Wood, Herron & Evans. “Cengage has a wide variety of different contracts that were entered over time. Some of their longer lasting titles, those in their 10th edition and up, are the subjects of original contracts still in place that were entered 40 or more years ago. Many of their contracts were not done on Cengage forms but were acquired from other publishers, all of which have different provisions for accounting for royalties. Some of them were done before the days of bundling, custom publishing, digital publishing, and publishing through interactive/adaptive learning platforms and so do not provide expressly for those then unanticipated media or channels of distribution. But Cengage has thousands of authors and almost certainly a greater number of contracts (no author will have less than one contract, and many will have multiple contracts). It’s hard for me to imagine that they are going to have lawyers go back over every single contract to determine if and how it should be treated in the current scheme.” [Read more…]

5 Phases of a royalty audit

The Anatomy of a Royalty AuditIn her TAA webinar, “The Anatomy of a Royalty Audit”, royalty auditor Juli Saitz, senior managing director for Ankura Consulting Group, shared the five phases of a textbook royalty audit: preparation, paperwork, communication with the publisher, document analysis, and the publisher’s response.

1) Preparation phase. This phase consists of three parts: talking to the client, reviewing contracts, and reviewing statements. [Read more…]

3/7 TAA Webinar: ‘Royalty Disputes: Legal Strategies in Pursuit of Information and Payments Due’

Juli SaitzDavid SlarskeyJoin us Wednesday, March 7 from 2-3 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Royalty Disputes: Legal Strategies in Pursuit of Information and Payments Due”, presented by dispute resolution lawyer David Slarskey and royalty auditor Juli Saitz. The two will discuss the challenges associated with getting reliable information from publishers, the state of the law for authors seeking access to data, and negotiation and legal strategies for pursuing recoveries while protecting relationships.

[Read more…]

Cengage ‘will honor all contractual obligations’ with authors under Unlimited model

online libraryCengage’s Chief Product Officer Fernando Bleichmar said the company will continue to honor its contractual obligations with authors under the Cengage Unlimited model, but that the contract they have with authors generally grants them the discretion to publish the work in the way they think best helps drive the sales of those titles.

“We have spent significant time with our internal teams making sure the contracts allow us to do the Unlimited model,” he said. “The contracts are established in a way in which the publishers have the discretion of evolving the model that benefits both the authors and the publisher, and our contracts allow the creation of different models. We are going through all the details in the contracts, having those conversations with our authors to make sure they are comfortable with the Unlimited model as we move forward.” [Read more…]

Authors express concern about new Cengage Unlimited subscription service

online booksCengage’s announcement of a new subscription service, Cengage Unlimited, that gives students at U.S. higher education institutions access to all of the company’s digital higher education materials for $119.99 a semester has Cengage authors concerned about how their contracts will be affected.

“I think the authors should find out as soon as possible how we are going to be paid,” said mathematics author Pat McKeague, who did not receive any information from his publisher about the new service prior to its public announcement, and has not been able to reach his editor for more information. “My contracts require my written permission before any electronic version of my book can be published.” [Read more…]

Not for the faint of heart: The art of truly understanding your royalty statement

royaltiesA royalty statement should be simple to understand, right? “Show me my sales and my royalty rate, perform a simple mathematical calculation, and — boom! There’s my royalty check!” But how often have you looked at your publisher’s royalty statement and muttered, “I have no idea where these numbers are coming from,” and spent hours trying to understand the calculations? Or perhaps you’ve become so frustrated that you simply gave up, took the royalty check out of the envelope, cashed it, and threw the rest of the statement in the recycling bin, reassuring yourself that the amount must be correct if it’s this complicated. [Read more…]

Collecting unpaid royalties: Trends, traps, and litigation strategies in textbook royalty enforcement

textbooksMuch has been written about changes in the college textbook marketplace over the last decade. The industry has adapted to new pedagogical methods, the proliferation of digital learning materials, and profitability pressures felt by publishers — all leading to significant innovation in the publication of learning materials. Some observers have concluded that we may be witnessing the death of the textbook as we have known it.

As the textbook publishing marketplace has changed, so too have relationships evolved between authors and their publishers. Commercial arrangements forged in the era of print media — which were amended and extended over time to apply to the publication of new editions — have been impacted by these industry-wide changes. [Read more…]