What academics need to know about writing for a trade audience

While the books I represent generally are for a trade audience, and are available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and independent bookstores, a number of my authors are academicians, and also have written for more academic audiences. Very often, that is how their book career began. Today, more categories, such as neuroscience, education, learning, botany, history, and more, are crossing over from academic/textbook to trade, as those authors are able to reframe their material or generate a new spin for an alternate receptive audience.

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Tax tips for authors: Learn how your agent is reporting your writing income

One of the things that can affect your tax returns is the income that you report from writing in the form of royalties, advances, etc. Many of you will have literary agents and those agents will report to you what you’ve earned at the end of a year on a 1099. While the IRS says that agencies are supposed to report to their clients the gross income amount that was received, most agencies report on the net basis, and the IRS doesn’t seem to be aware of, or care about that. But as an author, you really need to know on what basis your agent is reporting income because it could potentially affect your tax return.

How to negotiate textbook contracts strategically

Many textbook authors, especially new authors, are intimidated by the idea of negotiating their contracts, but strategic and artful contract negotiation is essential to ensure that you get the best offer possible.

“It is very important to negotiate your contract, because the first offer will not be the best deal, so you’ll just be leaving money on the table if you don’t negotiate,” said Stephen Gillen, intellectual property attorney at Wood, Herron & Evans.

Textbooks-to-trade shift not always easy

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.”