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…]

College textbook publishing: Royalties, risk, and reward

High books stack with open book isolated on white background. Many colorful book covers.College textbook authors are motivated to write for many reasons. Some write with the goal of providing the optimum textbook for their students. Others are excited to share their approach to teaching a subject, or they simply enjoy the experience of translating research into practice. And, in some cases, the primary motive is to generate income.

Regardless of their motives, every textbook author must grapple with the same question: How can I achieve the best return on the time I spend writing a textbook, and how much risk should I accept in exchange for my sweat equity? To this end, there are several considerations authors should keep in mind regarding royalties as they negotiate a publishing agreement. [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…]

How to incorporate accessibility throughout the publishing process

Digital AccessibilityIn his recent webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility, said that the issue of accessibility is even more important when it comes to digital products.

“The ability to navigate through a digital textbook is a critical component of accessibility,” he said. “Navigation is enabled by consistent and rational use of tags throughout the text.”

In addition to effective navigation, accessible manuscripts should also include these four elements, said Martinengo: [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…]

2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 2): Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software

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. We will be sharing their answers in a series of posts over the next few weeks. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook and how they got started.

This second installment in the four-part series focuses on how they boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use. [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.”
[Read more…]