How to smash an unexpected block: When the writing’s going well

No negative thoughts allowedWe’ve all probably read articles about writer’s block that stumps and paralyzes, but several writers I know have experienced another unexpected and surprising block. One described it: “My fingers play the computer keyboard like a concert pianist, my pages pile up like gold. ‘Wow, I think, I’m gonna go all night!’”

Then he confessed, “‘Faster than a form rejection, more powerful than an editor’s frown, able to freeze me in a single flash, a horrible thought darkens my brain: I can’t stand it anymore!’”

What? The writing was going just too well. [Read more…]

2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 4): What they wish they had known before they started, writing advice

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsRecently we reached out to winners of the 2017 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. The first installment in this four-part series focused on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got started. The second installment focused on what they do to boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use. The third installment focused on which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book.

This fourth, and final, installment in the four-part series focuses on what they wish they had known before they started, and advice for other authors. [Read more…]

Authors Knox and Schacht file lawsuit against Cengage, claiming company has ‘trampled on its authors’ rights’

Textbook StackCengage authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 14 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments.

According to the complaint, Cengage’s plan to overhaul its business model after emerging from bankruptcy in 2014, “has trampled on its authors’ rights”. The suit alleges that Cengage’s new Cengage Unlimited business model has the company “dismantling its support” for individual title sales in favor of selling subscriptions to Cengage Unlimited, which plaintiffs say violates their contracts and will reduce the amount of royalties they will earn, while allowing Cengage to retain a larger share of revenue. [Read more…]

2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 3): Pedagogy and marketing involvement

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsWe recently reached out to winners of the 2018 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. The first installment of this four-part series focused on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got started. The second installment focused on what they do to boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use.

This third installment in the four-part series focuses on which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book. [Read more…]

How to avoid the need to secure permission

Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade PublishingMaybe it was something you saw in a magazine or at a bookstore. Maybe it was something you saw online. Maybe it was something that caught your eye in a grant application or proposal…a good idea in poorly skilled hands seemingly not up to the task. In any event, wherever you first saw it, it inspired you to develop and publish your own article or book on the subject.

Anyone who has worked in an intellectual or creative endeavor knows that many new works build to one degree or another on the earlier work of others. But getting a head start by leveraging the intellectual work product of another is potentially problematic. When does inspiration cross over into infringement or a breach of scholarly integrity? The lawyer’s answer is: it depends. [Read more…]

2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsWe recently reached out to winners of the 2018 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about how they made the decision to write their textbook, how they interested a publisher, what they do to boost their writing confidence, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and more. We will be sharing their answers in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

This first installment of the four-part series focuses on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got the interest of a publisher. [Read more…]

Pre-order your copy of TAA’s newest book: ‘Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade Publishing’

Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade PublishingLearn what you need to know to avoid and manage copyright infringement claims that arise from the publication of your book, article, or media project with TAA’s newest book by intellectual property attorney Stephen E. Gillen, Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade Publishing. In this book, now available for pre-order, Gillen covers the unique rights clearance and permission issues related to writing scholarly works: [Read more…]

Executive Director’s Message: Developing sustainable textbook business models

Textbooks have a very different challenge from journals in converting to online businesses. First, readers have not embraced longer works online quite as enthusiastically as they adopted shorter journal articles. Print continues to have strong appeal as a reading format.

Another critical barrier to developing sustainable online textbook business models is working out the complexities of author royalties.

We have entered a new phase of experimentation with textbook business models. One major textbook publisher recently introduced a digital platform providing student access to all eligible textbooks in the publisher’s portfolio for a flat rental fee per semester. This is but one version of a broader strategy called “inclusive access” (see Joe Esposito’s excellent post on this in SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog from March of last year). Inclusive access plans enable institutions to negotiate for campus-wide access to titles for a student fee that can be a fraction of the current average cost of textbooks each semester.

There are serious concerns among authors – especially of works already published – about how these new plans will impact royalties. Are authors paid a small share of every student fee collected?…every time their work gets used?…or only when the work is adopted for a particular course? It is unknown how online royalties accounting can be audited, or whether author royalties for online access can remain at least comparable to print royalties.

Even so, experimentation with business models is necessary. Textbook publishing must adapt to both the threats and opportunities presented by the digital environment.

The business case for aggregated fees rests on expanding market share and increasing the percentage of students who purchase access digitally. Inclusive access and other strategies have already reduced student average spending per semester and per book in recent years, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the number of students who are getting by without purchasing a textbook, or only buying used books is still apparently very high today (see http://bit.ly/2ivJwlY).

Non-sales and used copy sales do not contribute anything to author or publisher royalties. Changing that dynamic might stabilize author royalties even if the royalty ‘per unit’ is lower. But there are risks for authors in the new arrangements, and the rollout of publisher business model experiments has so far been shrouded in secrecy. Publishers who want to act as partners with authors will take steps to inform them and address their questions before experimental models are presented to the market. And authors, as key stakeholders, should remain open minded to new models, but express their concerns and ideas pro-actively with their publishers whenever possible.

~ Michael Spinella, TAA Executive Director

Kick off your summer writing program with TAA’s June writing conference

2018 TAA ConferenceLooking for inspiration and structure for your summer writing projects? Look no further. TAA’s 31st Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference features veteran authors, industry professionals, and intellectual property attorneys who can provide strategies and guidance on how to move forward with your writing projects to reach your publication goals. Join us at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM, June 15-16 and prepare to be inspired. [Read more…]

4/12 TAA Webinar: ‘Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities’

Robert MartinengoAs digital technology continues to redefine the market for instructional materials, one thing remains constant: students with disabilities must not be left out. While products evolve, the concepts of equal access, and the legal obligation of educational institutions not to discriminate, remain.

Join us Thursday, April 12 from 2-3 p.m. ET, for the TAA Webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, presented by Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility. [Read more…]