4 Questions authors are asking about open textbooks

Whether you are a veteran textbook author or new to the industry, you’ve likely heard of open educational resources (OER) and open textbooks by now. As with anything new, the open textbook model is faced with scrutiny and questions from those familiar with the traditional publishing process. It’s also laden with opportunities, such as the current $5M open textbook pilot program.

To better understand the open textbook model, specifically what is the same and what is different from traditional publishing options, we asked some questions of several leaders in the open textbook movement. Here’s what we learned. [Read more…]

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…]

Authors may be eligible for proposed IRS regulation on 20% deduction for income from pass-through businesses

books and moneyBased on proposed regulations issued by the IRS and Treasury that would add a new provision of the Internal Revenue Code allowing owners of sole proprietorships, S corporations, LLCs, or partnerships a deduction of up to 20% of the income earned by the business, writers will be eligible for the deduction, said Robert Pesce, an accountant with Marcum LLP.

“I read the 184-page Proposed Regulations,” said Pesce. “There is nothing in the regs that excludes authors from the deduction or indicates an author is a SSTB [Specified Service Trade or Business category, which is excluded from the deduction].  [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: August 17, 2018

"Writing is its own reward." ~Henry MillerFor many of our readers, the academic school year is back in session (or soon will be) and, as a result, our academic writing efforts may be rekindled or, in some cases, complicated by the schedule the academic calendar brings. If the summer “break” has derailed your writing efforts, the first two articles in our collection may provide advice for getting things back on track as you establish a new routine.

If, however, routine isn’t the challenge, perhaps one of the other topics in this week’s list offers guidance. Covered below are topics of compensation for research efforts, OER opportunities in textbook publishing, academic challenges in the Global South, gender gap in citations, and predatory publishing. No matter the challenge you may face this week, remember the opportunity that exists when you write and the reason behind your efforts. As Henry Miller said, “Writing is its own reward.” This week be rewarded and happy writing! [Read more…]

College textbook publishing: Royalties, risk, and reward

High books stack with open book isolated on white background. Many colorful book covers.College textbook authors are motivated to write for many reasons. Some write with the goal of providing the optimum textbook for their students. Others are excited to share their approach to teaching a subject, or they simply enjoy the experience of translating research into practice. And, in some cases, the primary motive is to generate income.

Regardless of their motives, every textbook author must grapple with the same question: How can I achieve the best return on the time I spend writing a textbook, and how much risk should I accept in exchange for my sweat equity? To this end, there are several considerations authors should keep in mind regarding royalties as they negotiate a publishing agreement. [Read more…]

Publishers: Getting to know you

Connecting puzzle piecesBook publishing is the long game. Thinking of publishing in a short-term way will likely either get you discouraged or frustrated.

Of course, publishing starts with an idea and the desire to communicate it to your community. Once you are ready to act on it, a publisher (likely) needs to come into the picture. Authors may know the names of publishers in their field, usually from going to conference or speaking with their salespeople. But how do you approach them with your idea? I would suggest you start well before any proposal or actual discussion. Developing connections or relationships with publishers can pay off in many ways. [Read more…]

Writing in tribute: Don’t wait for the eulogy!

Thank youRecently I received some professional praise and recognition. One was in public,  the TAA Mike Keedy Award and the other was in private, a few sentences in an other-wise business-as-usual email. At first, I felt simply flattered. How nice! But as I reflected on the comments, I realized they were more than just sweet talk. The remarks confirmed that I am making progress toward accomplishing what I have set out to do at this point in my career. They helped me confirm priorities and set steps for continued improvement. In the digital age, we can write, post, and give webinars. We can read site analytics, but we can’t read the audience. Are they paying attention or are eyelids drooping? Are they reading or just scrolling? In absence of visual cues, it helped me to hear that my messages are getting through. [Read more…]

How a personal writing team can increase your productivity through accountability

Writing TeamAt the 2018 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, panelists at three different career stages discussed how they came together to form a “personal writing team” that supports writing goals, productivity, and accountability. Unique to this group, said panelist Felicia Moore Mensah, an associate dean and faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University, is the support that women of color can provide and need for increased mentorship for early career scholars.

The complete recording of their presentation, “A Personal Writing Team for Productivity and Accountability,” can be found in TAA’s library of Presentations on Demand. [Read more…]

3 Tips for writing an effective figure caption

Research with figureIn a recent post on constructing effective tables and figures, I noted the need for figures to include captions that “succinctly describe the accompanying content.” In this post, we will discuss the purpose of captions and how to write one that is effective.

It is important to remember that figures should be clearly understood, even in isolation from the rest of the manuscript. The caption provides an opportunity for the author to provide context and connection to the rest of the article, as it relates to the visual element. [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…]