How to deconstruct and decipher your textbook royalty statement

Deciphering royalty statements to determine whether royalties being reported are accurate can be frustrating for both first time and veteran textbook authors. Royalty calculations should be relatively straightforward. That is, the contractually agreed-upon royalty rate for the Work multiplied by the earnings received by the publisher. However, add in escalation clauses, various rates for different sales categories or channels, co-authorship, packaged products, electronic materials, custom editions, abridgements, agreed-upon deductions, returns for reserves, specific definitions of earnings, multiple titles in various editions etc., and the calculation of royalties becomes much more complex.

Whose book title is it, anyway?

Professor Charlotte Smith, an up-and-coming young entomologist, decided to write a textbook for the always-popular, upper-level course on spiders.  After putting out a few feelers, she submitted a proposal to Six Legs Press, a leading publisher of  books about insects.  Six Legs loved the proposal and offered Professor Smith a contract. Charlotte was so abuzz with excitement—”tenure, here I come!” she yelled—that she signed the contract without even reading it.

Textbook contract Q&A with attorney Lisa Moore

Earlier this fall, TAA hosted an audio conference titled “Contract Negotiation: E-books & E-rights” featuring attorney Lisa Moore, principal of The Moore Firm, LLC. Moore’s outstanding presentation culminated in a rich Q&A discussion that provided valuable insight into textbook publishing contract negotiations.

Following are abbreviated excerpts edited by TAA from the transcripts of that discussion.

Before entering a co-authoring relationship, sign a collaboration agreement

The first thing you should write before entering into a co-authoring relationship is a collaboration agreement, said Stephen Gillen, an attorney with Wood, Herron & Evans, L.L.P.

“Do it before you write the manuscript, before you sign the publisher’s contract, before you write the sample chapters, before you write the outline, and before you write the proposal,” he said. “Do it first. If it’s too late to do it first, do it NOW! If you think you don’t need one, you’re wrong. By the time you realize you do, it’s probably too late.”