Five chances to reset the terms of your book contract (part 2)

In Part 1 of this article (published in the summer edition of the TAA newsletter), we wrote about the imbalance in negotiating leverage between an author and his/her publisher early in the author’s publishing career. And we noted that there would be opportunities later for an author to retake some of the ground lost in those early negotiations. In particular, we wrote about two of these opportunities:

1) Your publisher calls for work to begin on a new edition and sends an amendment to your contract to memorialize this . . . with a few additional “updates”.

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.

Royalty payment class actions: Opt-in? Opt-out? How does it affect me?

In recent years multiple class action lawsuits have been filed against the biggest textbook publishers, challenging their royalty-payment practices. In 2016, it was a suit against Pearson, alleging (among other things) gray market sales to international subsidiaries, paying lower international royalty rates, and then shipping books back into the U.S. for retail sales.1 More recently, there have been suits against Cengage, challenging “Cengage Unlimited,” Cengage’s all-access, Netflix-like subscription model.2 McGraw-Hill was also sued, in January, for improper royalty payment practices on its “Connect” products.3

Your textbook isn’t being revised. Now what?

If your standard textbook revision cycle has come and gone, it doesn’t automatically mean that you aren’t being revised, and you can’t expect that your publisher will reach out to you either, so you’ll need to ask, says Donna Battista, vice president of content strategy for Top Hat.

“Get in touch with your publisher and just ask directly,” she says. “I think it’s always good practice to start from the perspective that everybody is going to work in good faith. Nobody wants to squat on your rights.”

4/5 TAA Webinar, “Your Textbook Isn’t Being Revised. Now What?”

As publishing companies look to manage costs and focus on large introductory courses, many high-quality and high-value textbooks are not being revised.

Join us Monday, April 5, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Your Textbook Isn’t Being Revised. Now What?”, when Donna Battista, VP of Content Strategy at Top Hat, and previous Pearson Executive, will help authors navigate this increasingly common challenge. She’ll provide guidance on requesting rights back, what to do when rights are reverted, and what options there are to make content available.

McGraw-Hill textbook authors file class action lawsuit against publisher

Three authors filed a complaint in U.S. district court asserting that McGraw Hill is in breach of contract for a recent change to royalty calculations for products sold on its Connect digital platform. The complaint, Flynn v. McGraw Hill LLC, 21-cv-00614, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), was filed on January 22 by Sean Flynn, Associate Professor of Economics, Scripps College; co-author of Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies. (Now in 22nd edition.), Dean Kardan, Prof Economics and Finance, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern U; co-author three textbooks: Economics, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics, and Jonathan Morduch Professor of Public Policy and Economics at Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in NYU, co-author with Dean Kardan of the above three books.