Q&A: How to go about getting a contract to publish an academic book

Q: “How do you go about getting a contract to publish an academic book? How is the process different from getting a contract for a college-level or K-12 textbook?”

A: Stephen E. Gillen, Attorney, Wood Herron & Evans:

“Textbook contracts vary significantly based on curricular level. The K-12 market works with much higher volumes but is price sensitive (because schools adopt and purchase the books). The college market works on lower volumes but is less price sensitive (because professors adopt but students purchase).

Q&A: How to determine a good royalty rate offer when negotiating a textbook contract

Q: “I’m in discussions with six publishers right now for my first book. One of them has just made a preliminary offer, including a 12 percent royalty on the first 2,000 sold and 15 percent thereafter. They also offered me a $3,000 advance against royalties to prepare a camera-ready copy over the summer. The editor has informally projected something like 2,000 books/year sold at about $90-100 per, saying it costs them $60-70 per. Here are some of my questions: 1) How common is it to have a lower percentage on the first chunk of books?; 2) Even if it sold only 1,000 at $80, 12 percent of that equals $9,600. Shouldn’t they be willing to part with more than $3,000 of it up front?; 3) How much am I saving them with a camera-ready copy? Doesn’t that cut out a lot of work for them and shouldn’t that translate into a much better deal than this? Sounds like a cookie-cutter offer.”

A: Don Collins, former managing editor at a publishing company:

“First, it is very common to offer a lower rate on the first textbooks published. The publisher is in business for profit and at every point the publisher wants an advantage although in your case it seems slight. Second, up front money is an expense. If the book does not sell then the publisher is out this money. But you get to keep the advance. And lastly, you may think of giving camera ready copy as saving the publisher money. It probably is. But the way publishers play the game is to take only authors who are willing to do this.

Only after your work has proven successful and you have established a reputation will you have much of a chance of negotiating better terms.”

Q&A: How to divide royalties when one author retires

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Q&A: Can you renegotiate your textbook contract when going into subsequent editions?

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Q&A: Timeline for textbook royalties: When should you get paid?

Q: “I am concerned about the length of time a publisher can hold onto royalties. Mine are due in April, four months after the close of the accounting period in December. This means some monies have been held from July 1 through April — 10 months! I would think interest should be paid or royalties sent out on a more continuous basis.”

A: Steve Gillen, Attorney, Wood Herron & Evans:

“The publisher’s obligation to account for and pay royalties is set forth in the publishing agreement. While the timing of payment and the nature of information contained in the reports may be negotiable, the time to negotiate these issues is before the agreement is signed. Once the deal is done, it’s too late for the author to complain. Historically, publishers have paid royalties on an annual or semi-annual basis (providing reports and payments anywhere from 30 days to four months after the close of the relevant accounting period). I suppose there was a time when this delay was justified by the difficulty in processing returns and credits and closing the books. Now, however, it persists as custom rather than of necessity.

Q&A: Definition of ‘camera-ready copy’ & how it could affect your contract negotiations

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