Reviewing your author contract: Planning for the future

The life cycle of a successful textbook reaches well past the life of its author, given that copyright law currently extends rights in a work to the life of the author + 70 years. That means not just your children, but even your grandchildren may benefit from the fruits of your labors. At the same time, for books—and in particular textbooks—governed by publishing contracts, it is important for both you and your heirs to understand your, and by extension their, rights and responsibilities.

The first step is to pull out your publishing contract. If it is a typical royalty-bearing contract, then you likely have rights in every revision in which you participate. [Read more…]

Cengage denies trampling authors’ rights, claims Cengage Unlimited will increase author royalties

TextbooksIn its response to a class action lawsuit filed against them in May by David Knox and Caroline Schacht, Cengage denies that its business model “tramples on” or is in any way inconsistent with its authors’ rights and said it believes that the new Cengage Unlimited model will “increase sales and revenues (and, accordingly, royalties to authors).”

Cengage authors Knox and Schacht filed their 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. [Read more…]

Will Cengage’s rising tide lift all boats?

Subscription models for reading materials are not unheard of in other industries, but they are a new model emerging within the higher education publishing industry. Late last year, Cengage announced Cengage Unlimited, a subscription based model offering access to its entire catalog of textbooks and related learning materials to college students for a flat price of $119.95 per semester calls Cengage Unlimited. Royalty structures under these models vary. Newer contracts provide broad leeway for publishers to allocate royalties on in a way they deem reasonable.

While boon to students, especially those assigned multiple Cengage texts, it has left Cengage authors wondering about the impact to their royalty earnings. [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…]

Cengage says authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited

textbook opt outIn a recent post on the Cengage blog, Erin Joyner, the company’s senior vice president of product, said that authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited. However, industry experts say Cengage cannot make this sweeping statement.

“The large majority of publishing agreements do not contemplate the Cengage Unlimited model of distribution,” said David Slarskey, a litigator with Slarskey LLC. “Refusing author demands to opt-out tends to undermine the terms of the contract.”
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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…]

Announcement of Cengage Unlimited royalty calculation model raises new questions

online library of textbooksCengage’s royalty calculation model for its new subscription service Cengage Unlimited has raised a few questions that remain unanswered, primarily, will their model account for the range of existing publishing agreements—which have a variety of different provisions for accounting for royalties?

“Here’s the key problem,” said Stephen E. Gillen, a partner with Wood, Herron & Evans. “Cengage has a wide variety of different contracts that were entered over time. Some of their longer lasting titles, those in their 10th edition and up, are the subjects of original contracts still in place that were entered 40 or more years ago. Many of their contracts were not done on Cengage forms but were acquired from other publishers, all of which have different provisions for accounting for royalties. Some of them were done before the days of bundling, custom publishing, digital publishing, and publishing through interactive/adaptive learning platforms and so do not provide expressly for those then unanticipated media or channels of distribution. But Cengage has thousands of authors and almost certainly a greater number of contracts (no author will have less than one contract, and many will have multiple contracts). It’s hard for me to imagine that they are going to have lawyers go back over every single contract to determine if and how it should be treated in the current scheme.” [Read more…]

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…]

3/7 TAA Webinar: ‘Royalty Disputes: Legal Strategies in Pursuit of Information and Payments Due’

Juli SaitzDavid SlarskeyJoin us Wednesday, March 7 from 2-3 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Royalty Disputes: Legal Strategies in Pursuit of Information and Payments Due”, presented by dispute resolution lawyer David Slarskey and royalty auditor Juli Saitz. The two will discuss the challenges associated with getting reliable information from publishers, the state of the law for authors seeking access to data, and negotiation and legal strategies for pursuing recoveries while protecting relationships.

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Cengage promises more details about how royalties will be calculated on Cengage Unlimited subscriptions by March

TextbooksIn a January 25 email to its authors, Cengage said that it will have more detailed information about how royalties will be calculated on Cengage Unlimited subscriptions by March. “With the introduction of Cengage Unlimited, we know authors are keenly interested in how royalties will be calculated,” the email stated. “To answer that question, we are currently building out the Cengage Unlimited platform and assessing financial and royalty systems to enhance our ability to track student access.” [Read more…]