What To Watch For in Textbook Publishing Contracts

Steve GillenWhereas Steve Gillen has seen his share – and more – of book contracts, therefore, he is highly qualified to share his views on the ways authors should approach negotiations and what they should look out for in the fine print there.

Over his career advising clients in a wide variety of publishing and entertainment transactions and disputes, Steve Gillen has explored the dark corners of contractual law and sheds light on what he found there in a new publication from the Textbook & Academic Authors Association, “Guide to Textbook Publishing Contracts.”

At a high-level, Gillen’s message is a welcome one for authors: “You have is you’ve got more leverage than you think you have.” However, there’ is a caveat –Do your homework before you begin negotiating.

You can have leverage, but it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t know what has value to you,” Gillen explains.  “If it’s money that is the primary driver – if this is all about royalties and advances and grants – then that’s where you need to focus your efforts.

“But it may not be about money for a lot of textbook authors.  Some of them – they’re at universities where publishing a textbook, particularly a market-leading textbook, would be considered in advancement and promotion and tenure considerations,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “If that’s the case, if this is a publication that they need for promotion or for tenure, then the focus ought to be not so much money, perhaps, but making sure that the book actually sees the light of day.  So your attention is going to be focused on things like the manuscript acceptability clause and making sure that you maintain as much control over the content and the message that the book ends up delivering as is possible.

Stephen E. Gillen teaches Electronic Media Law at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. He worked for nearly 20 years in publishing prior to entering private legal practice in the middle 1990’s. He is presently a partner at Wood Herron & Evans, a 145-year-old Cincinnati law firm focused on intellectual property.

The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) provides professional development resources, events, and networking opportunities for textbook authors and authors of scholarly journal articles and books. TAA is the only national, nonprofit membership association dedicated solely to assisting textbook and academic authors. Steve Gillen is a long-time member of the TAA Council.

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