What you need to know about “cross-collateralization”

Magnifying Glass Over Papers and Word "Contract"in Focus

It has an intimidating name. Indeed, it takes more letters to spell it than to put it into effect. But what is it and why is it bad for authors?

Most every book publishing contract will include a provision that obligates the publisher to periodically account to the author for the publisher’s sales of the author’s work. The language will probably look something like this:

Payments to the Authors will be made semiannually, on or before the last day of March and September of each year for royalties due for the preceding half-year ending the last day of December and June, respectively. If the balance due an Author for any royalty period is less than $50, no payment will be due until the next royalty period at the end of which the cumulative balance has reached $50. Any offsets (including but not limited to any advances or grant) against royalties or sums owed by an Author to the Publisher under this or any other agreement between the Author and the Publisher may be deducted from any payments due the Author under this or any other agreement between the Author and the Publisher. [Read more…]

Will aggregated textbook products shift more risk to authors?

In a post on October 20, I described decisions made by the Southern District of New York in a lawsuit between authors and Cengage. The authors had alleged breach of contract as well as bad faith dealings by Cengage in regard to their products Cengage Unlimited and MindTap. Read about it here.

This is more of a thought piece—generated in part by an aspect of the authors’ allegations—about what would constitute good faith in a publisher’s interactions with authors. I ask this not as a legal matter, about which I am not qualified to opine, but as an ethical one.

The authors’ allegations stem from an uncontested aspect of both the MindTap and Cengage Unlimited royalty allocation models. In both products, Cengage counts a portion of each sale as non-royalty-bearing income. In the case of MindTap, that non-royalty-bearing portion is called ‘ancillary materials’ encompassing “tests, studies guides, exercises”. For Cengage Unlimited, this portion is called ‘courseware’ but apparently includes the same ancillary materials as MindTap. [Read more…]

Building content dexterity into your textbook

all you need is lessRecently my mentor, Paul Martinelli, was talking about creating and delivering content for various audiences and in a variety of ways. As part of his lesson, he said, “Content dexterity is key. You need to be able to speak on your subject for 3 seconds, 3 minutes, 3 hours, or 3 days”. Having taught many 3-hour class sessions in more than 20 years of teaching experience, that time period certainly is comfortable for me, but what about the others?

As textbook authors, we often write the book around the expectation of class sessions. We envision the classroom audience, the common structure of classroom time where our book will be used, and the depth and breadth of coverage of concepts necessary to meet the curriculum standards of the course. We then have a tendency to structure chapters and units around those constraints.

But I question whether that approach is effective in our current educational environment. Below I offer some ways that you might want to consider building content dexterity into your next textbook. [Read more…]

3 Undeniable signs you need to revise

Between bouts of hating what we write, we may secretly admire our creations. And we’re entitled to. But there’s a difference between admiration and excessive love of our own words. Such love blinds us to editorial blunders, judicious cutting, faults in logic, and any other revision, and reduces the possibilities of publication. [Read more…]

Summer 2020 TAA Writing Gym receives high marks, praise

Writing GymEighty authors participated in TAA’s six-week Summer 2020 Writing Gym, which was held July 20-August 31. The gym included templates for tracking writing time and developing a six-week workout plan, a TAA Writing Gym-branded writing journal, weekly inspirational emails, 6 on-demand writing classes, several writing stations that allowed participants to target specific writing areas, and a Facebook Group for networking with other gym members.

In a survey sent out after the close of the summer gym, the majority of respondents gave the gym 5 stars, and rated features like the Facebook Group and Writing Classes as Very High Quality or Quality. “I loved the writing gym. It helped me get on track with my writing. The videos and short articles helped me with goal setting, organization, writing tips, etc. I highly recommend participating in the writing gym,” said Leslie Koberna. Most respondents said they averaged 2-4 days per week of writing while participating in the gym. Said Koberna: “Most of the time, I averaged 4 days a week, but the last two weeks I worked 6 days a week on my writing:).” [Read more…]

Nominations for the 2021 Textbook Awards now open

2021 TAA Textbook AwardsNominations for the 2021 Textbook Excellence Award (“Texty”), McGuffey Longevity Award (“McGuffey”), and Most Promising New Textbook Award, will be open September 1 to November 1.

For more than 20 years, TAA has supported textbook and academic authors through these highly-recognized awards, given annually to emerging and veteran published authors in eight subject categories. [Read more…]

Reflecting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our publications

library bookshelfI’ll never forget that encounter I had with Kathy a number of years ago. Kathy and I are friends now, but I’d never met her before that moment when she introduced herself at our annual anatomy and physiology (A&P) teaching conference. She asked if I had a moment to chat about how illustrations are chosen for textbooks. As you can imagine, I love talking about the process of creating textbooks, so we stepped aside for a quick chat.

It turns out that she was chatting up as many A&P textbook authors as she could, including a few other TAA members, with a question that stemmed from her interest in diversity issues. Kathy wanted to know about the illustration process because she wanted to know why women and other groups were underrepresented. [Read more…]

The power of systematic checklists: Saving time, uncovering Easter eggs, and preventing overload

It’s 8:30 a.m.

Time to refill my mug of tea, revive my computer, and work on the ol’ textbook. I know I have a lot to do, but I feel good … at first. Then I catch a glimpse of my bloated task list and I’m immediately discouraged.

Let’s see. I still haven’t finished the manuscript for the sixth and final unit. The copyeditor is already sending batches of early chapters for my approval, the artists need corrections on drafts of new figures, the designer wants a decision on the cover photo, and a professor who uses my current edition wants more coverage of tardigrades. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I also have classes to teach, meetings to attend, and personal responsibilities that I can’t abandon. Suddenly, I’m in a tizzy. [Read more…]

Jumpstart your writing productivity this fall: Join the TAA Writing Gym

Writing GymFlex your writing muscles in the TAA Writing Gym! This 6-week work-out-on-your-own gym time will serve as your writing accountability partner as you work to achieve your writing goals. The gym is open to those writing textbooks, scholarly journal articles, and dissertations.

Here’s what previous Writing Gym participants have had to say:

“The presentations are very inspiring. Over the last two weeks, I managed to complete and submit a manuscript that I stopped working on for 3 months now and to start the outline for my textbook.” – Andrea McDonald, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Prairie View A&M University, Department of Health and Kinesiology [Read more…]

What can Learning Science teach textbook authors?

At a 2019 national sales meeting, my publisher Macmillan Learning, hosted a luncheon for textbook authors with our Learning Science team. This was my first opportunity to learn about what learning science does – their research and how findings might guide textbook organization, content and revisions as well as pedagogical approaches and application. For example, through analytics the learning science team can track where students spend their time in digital formats reflecting potential confusion, but also interest.  Their research can help determine what might be most effective for student engagement and assessment.

Here I am pleased to ask a few questions of Erin Scully, Senior Director, Learning Design & Ed Research with Macmillan Learning, to provide insights into ways learning science can augment textbook quality and influence our pedagogical approach. [Read more…]