Students’ purchase of used textbooks, and more recently, the theft of new textbooks via downloads at file sharing websites, is…
The trade book market can be lucrative, so it’s no wonder some textbook authors have their hands dipped into both pots. But how can a textbook author “cross over” to trade? Most literary agents agree that being academically published gives trade book-author wannabes extra credibility, but the question is, does the textbook author have what it takes to write for the trade book market.
Sheryl Fullerton, a literary agent with Sheryl B. Fullerton Associates, said text and academic author experience is important in trade publications, especially if the author is writing on the same subject, but it doesn’t guarantee ready acceptance among publishers. “A trade book has to look like, smell like, and taste like a trade book; it can’t have the pedagogical trappings or the professional jargon that are common to text and academic titles,” she said. “For most academic authors, shifting to writing for a trade audience is challenging.”
Q: “What techniques do you use to cut clutter, wordiness, jargon, etc. from your writing?”
A: Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D., Professor of Holistic Education, Department of Special Education, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mankato, MN:
“What you don’t include in is just as important as what you do include. Splash your words on the page. Write your draft without regard to length or redundancy. Get the whole mess out there. First focus on and revise sentence-by-sentence. With each, only include the information that needs to be there to communicate the idea. NO EXTRA WORDS.
Q: “A general question: You are writing a book — in one chapter, you wish to include information that you have used in another book with another publisher. What is the rule of thumb — if there is one — about how much information can be used and/or the level of changes necessary?”
A: Jay Devore, Professor Emeritus, Department of Statistics, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo:
“I’ve been thinking about this issue because a colleague and I are thinking about collaborating on a business statistics book (introductory statistics for a business audience). I have written statistics books for engineers and also for a general audience — 4 in total, all published by Thomson. But Thomson (actually their subsidiary Southwestern) already has a full stable of business stat books, so may not be interested in publishing another one.
Q: “What is a reasonable royalty rate for an author whose name will remain on a (successful) textbook, but who wants to stop doing the revisions? What sort of language in the revisions clause can protect your heirs?”
A: Zick Rubin, Attorney, Archstone Law Group P. C.:
“This is a very important item. Here is a formula that is sometimes proposed by authors and that is sometimes acceptable to publishers for a successful textbook: 75 percent of the royalties (i.e., the contractual rate) in the first edition in which the author does not take part, 50 percent of the royalties for the second such edition, and 25 percent of the royalties for the third and subsequent such editions.
Q: “What is an “author’s questionnaire’?”
A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide:
“An Author’s Questionnaire usually comes from the marketing department to develop leads for reviewers of, contributors to, and especially adopters of your text. I suggest filling it in as completely as possible to make your contacts, colleagues, affiliations, and achievements known to the people who will attempt to market and sell your title. Also include any press–news articles about you (and keep sending them). List your upcoming opportunities to promote your book, such as guest lectures, keynote addresses, interviews in the broadcast media, academic conventions, teleseminars or webinars, etc.