Ask the Expert: What to look for in publisher-driven ‘new’ textbook contracts

Gillen book covers

Steve Gillen has authored three books with TAA on the topics of textbook authoring, publishing, contracts, and rights clearance and permissions.

Q: I’m a published author. I signed a textbook contract with a publisher 32 years ago and the first edition of my text was published 30 years ago. It’s since been revised 9 times, all under the original contract, and is due to be revised again soon. Recently, my publisher wrote and said they wanted to sign a new contract for the new edition because the industry had changed, their business model had changed, and the old contract was no longer in step with their current practices. Should I go along with this and sign the new contract?

A: Maybe. . . but not without doing a little homework first. Your original contract almost certainly contemplated that your text, if successful, would need periodically to be revised. What it probably said about this was that “if and when” the publisher thought a revision was warranted, the publisher would call upon you to prepare it. And if you were willing and able to do that, the revision would be prepared and published under the terms of your then existing agreement as if it were the work being published for the first time. [Read more…]

Full results of TAA’s 2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey now available

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In a recent survey conducted by the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA), 27% of respondents reported that their 2019 royalties were 25% or more lower than in recent years. Only 8% reported that their royalties were 25% or more higher than in recent years.

One survey respondent, who writes in the Business discipline for Cengage and has been authoring textbooks since 1985, said: “Cengage Unlimited has had a significant impact on our royalties. We were told that CU would capture more sales (at a lower price point). It has not happened; we are selling (marginally) fewer units, but at a much lower price point.” The highest royalty rate this respondent had negotiated for both their print and digital textbooks was 20% and the lowest was 15%. They also reported their 2019 royalties were between 10% and 25% lower than recent years. [Read more…]

Textbook rights reversion: How to get them back

A Second Bite at the AppleMost publishing contracts are for the life of the copyright, so how could an author ever get their rights back? In her TAA webinar, “A Second Bite at the Apple: Getting Rights in Your Book Back”, Brenda Ulrich, a partner at Archstone Law Group, discussed the role of reversion clauses in a publishing contract, which allow rights in a book to revert to their authors under certain circumstances.

The issue of rights reversion can confound many authors, said Ulrich, especially as it relates to how broad the grant of rights is in any traditional publishing contract. “It’s a very broad, very wide, very long, license,” she said. “You are giving the publisher permission to publish the book, but you are not signing over the book to them forever.” [Read more…]

2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey

Are you curious what royalty rates other textbook authors are receiving for print and digital books? What about what they’ve been able to negotiate regarding first right of refusal, the sunset clause, or royalties for bulk, wholesale and foreign editions?

If you are a published textbook author, we invite you to participate in the Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s 2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey, which aims to provide a look into the range of royalties and contract options offered for print and digital textbooks. [Read more…]

eBook Download – Can My Textbook Publisher Really Do That?

First-time and novice textbook authors may ask themselves throughout the publishing process – “can my publisher really do that?” And the answer is “yes”. And “no”. And “it depends”. Your answer will be determined by the initial negotiation of contract terms and your willingness to invest time in marketing the work after it’s published. TAA’s newest e-book is full of advice on both. [Read more…]

TAA’s 2020 Conference Early Registration Is Open!

Join us in San Diego, CA for TAA’s 33rd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference. Early registration is now open!

TAA’s conference will be held June 12-13 at the beautiful Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, located in the heart of downtown San Diego! With a Four Diamond rating by AAA, the Westin San Diego Gaslamp is located just steps from the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, boasting of more than 150 restaurants, bars, shops, cafes and galleries. It is also only a 15 minute walk or short Uber ride to the popular Waterfront and Little Italy neighborhoods! [Read more…]

Analog contracts in a digital world

Shaking hands over a signed contractCollege level textbooks and their publishers have been in the news a lot lately, with all of the major higher education publishers emphasizing a shift to a digital first market strategy. The vast majority of publishing agreements for established textbooks were written in a world where print books were the dominating market offering. As the world shifts, there are certain contractual provisions to be mindful of when evaluating one’s royalty statements and in negotiations over amendments.

In reality, print sales still dominate, but publishers are trying to move away from the model, and the future of higher education materials is uncertain. [Read more…]

President’s Message: The shifting landscape of textbook publishing

Laura FrostAs many of us return to campus for the fall semester, it may be time for both textbook and academic authors to take a look at what our institutions are doing regarding textbook purchases and costs. Is your campus offering Cengage Unlimited or signing up for Pearson’s Inclusive Access? With Pearson’s recent announcement this past July that it will also be “moving from ownership to subscription based access models”, several of the major publishers have now committed to digitally transforming their businesses into something more akin to Netflix than what authors have been used to (DVD purchases).

It only takes a few hours of internet research to discover that the publishing industry is only doing what consumers want—lower textbook prices—and hoping that the investment will be worth it in the long run. After losing out to rentals, piracy, and OER models, publishers are lining up to recollect on their own investments. But where does this leave their authors? [Read more…]

Pearson announces move to digital-first

Pearson, one of the world’s largest educational publishers, recently announced that all of its U.S. higher ed titles will be released in digital-first format. The announcement comes as Pearson takes steps to regain profitability in a market that has become increasingly price sensitive.

For Pearson, digital-first is a departure from the traditional publishing model in which final drafts are handed off to a compositor who lays out pages that are then sent to be printed. Once a print edition is produced, a second production process swings into gear to create a digital book, either by outputting to PDF format or by transforming text and media into a digital format that is uploaded to a cloud-based learning platform. [Read more…]

Call for Proposals: 33rd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference

The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) announces a Call for Proposals for its 2020 conference to be held June 12-13 in San Diego, CA. We invite the submission of session presentations relevant to writing, publishing, and marketing textbooks and academic works (journal articles, books, and monographs). The session proposal deadline is October 7, 2019.

A highly interactive event, the conference will be attended by authors and aspiring authors of textbooks, journal articles, and other academic works, as well as by industry professionals from across the country. [Read more…]