Textbook contract negotiations: Do your homework

When it comes to contract negotiations, you have to do your homework, says Steve Gillen, partner at Wood, Herron & Evans, where he concentrates his practice on publishing, media, and copyright matters. “Negotiations are ultimately influenced by which side knows the most about the other side’s positions. The editor starts this contest with an advantage gained from experience in the market, experience doing other similar deals (undoubtedly many more than you have done), and the benefits of your perspective as reflected in your proposal. The way to get on an even footing with the editor/publisher is to learn more about the publisher’s plans for, and expectations of, your work — information that will help you evaluate your leverage and the editor’s weaknesses.

What is a typical rate for a textbook contributor?

Q: What is a typical rate for a textbook contributor? Do I have any negotiation power if I think the rate isn’t fair?

A: Lorraine Papazian-Boyce, author of ICD-10-CM/PCS Coding: A Map for Success, and the upcoming Pearson’s Comprehensive Medical Coding: ICD-10-CM/PCS, ICD-9-CM, CPT, HCPCS:

“I’ve contributed to dozens of projects for multiple publishers over the last 8-9 years. It is a wonderful way to get started in the field, gain credibility with a publisher, and earn $ here and now. The rate for contributors depends on the type of content you’re being asked to develop, such as exercises, a chapter, supplements, etc. It also varies by field and publisher.

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What to consider before signing your first textbook contract

The following advice came from a 2014 TAA Conference Roundtable Discussion led by Mike Kennamer and Steven Barkan, entitled, “What I Wish I Had Known Before I Signed My First Textbook Contract”:

“Be prepared that some books don’t make money.” – Steven Barkan

“$3,000 would be a good advance for most first time textbook authors.” – Attorney Zick Rubin

“I received a grant rather than an advance for my text. A grant is better because it isn’t an advance against royalties.” – Mike Kennamer

“You don’t want snapshot quality photos in your textbook. Hire a professional or purchase professional photos.” – Mike Kennamer