Over the past several years major publishers have been moving away from physical or electronic books into online learning platforms and courseware, and from straight sales of standalone books to bundles, custom products and subscriptions. Traditional publishing contracts were developed at a time when a book was a discrete unit, sales could easily be tracked in those units, and revisions occurred on a predictable cycle. Publishers are trying in various ways to update and adapt their contracts to the new textbook landscape. In her 2023 TAA Conference session, presenter Brenda Ulrich, an attorney at Archstone Law Group, will explore the ways in which the contracts are changing, and what the implications are for authors.
TAA announces results of 2022 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Survey
A recent survey conducted by the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) found that nearly 30 percent of respondents agreed to allow their royalty rates to be changed. Nearly 40 percent of respondents have been asked by their publishers to sign new contracts, and two-thirds of those have complied.
Stephen Gillen, an attorney with Wood Herron & Evans (Cincinnati, OH), estimates most of those authors did not know they did not have to agree to that royalty rate change, and most of the new contracts were almost certainly more favorable to the publishers than the ones they were replacing. “My guess is that the respondents did not appreciate the differences and did not fully understand that they did not have to agree to the new contracts,” he says.
TAA’s goal with this survey is that the results, combined with tracking data from the 2015 and 2020 Textbook Contracts & Royalties Surveys, will help authors 1) negotiate better contracts; 2) negotiate higher royalty rates for print and digital products; 3) to seek professional advice when negotiating contracts and when they want to better understand their royalty statements.
Published textbook authors invited to take TAA’s 2022 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 TAA’s 2022 Textbook Contract & Royalties Survey, which aims to provide a look into the range of royalties and contract options offered for print and digital textbooks.
Class action complaint filed against Cengage alleging unfair, deceptive royalty-reporting practices
A class action lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Cengage, one of the leading publishers of educational textbooks, alleging that its unfair and deceptive royalty-reporting practices violate Massachusetts’ Consumer Protection Law.
The lawsuit, filed by Slarskey LLC and Casner & Edwards LLP on behalf of art history author Fred Kleiner and similarly-situated individuals, alleges that Cengage’s practices are designed to conceal that Cengage systematically underpays royalties due to authors in the range of 10-30 percent.
Five chances to reset the terms of your book contract (Part 1)
If you published the first edition of your textbook ten or more years ago, you may find yourself occasionally muttering to yourself, “I wish I kew then what I know now.”
Why is that?
Historically, the publishers start the book contract negotiation game with all the cards…backs to you. You have one card…it’s face up. And it tells everybody, “I’m new at this but I’m excited. Just tell me where to sign.”
Publishers have generally been the gatekeeper to a published book. While this may be less true now, with self-publishing and Open Educational Resources (OER), the publishers still have the most established distribution channels self-publishers cannot begin to match.
Royalty payment class actions: Opt-in? Opt-out? How does it affect me?
In recent years multiple class action lawsuits have been filed against the biggest textbook publishers, challenging their royalty-payment practices. In 2016, it was a suit against Pearson, alleging (among other things) gray market sales to international subsidiaries, paying lower international royalty rates, and then shipping books back into the U.S. for retail sales.1 More recently, there have been suits against Cengage, challenging “Cengage Unlimited,” Cengage’s all-access, Netflix-like subscription model.2 McGraw-Hill was also sued, in January, for improper royalty payment practices on its “Connect” products.3