2015 Textbook Author Survey

2015 TAA Textbook Author SurveyA survey of 403 textbook authors by the Text and Academic Authors Association (TAA) and digital book pioneer and industry expert June Jamrich Parsons has found that most have the same royalty rates for digital and print. Only 6 percent of respondents reported higher royalty rates for digital versions.

The survey, conducted for the first time this spring as part of a session on digital book publishing by Parsons at the 2015 TAA Conference, was a way to begin to quantify the range of royalties and contract options offered for print and digital textbooks.

The survey received 92 responses, yielding a response rate of 23%. Almost half of respondents (47%) have been active authors for more than 25 years. More than half of respondents (57%) have been teaching in the subject area for which they write textbooks for more than 20 years. The majority of respondents write in three subject areas: Social Sciences (18%), Natural Sciences (17%), and Mathematics or Computer Science (16%). The majority of respondents have one of three primary publishers: Cengage (31%), Pearson (20%), and McGraw-Hill (14%).

Key findings from the survey include:

The most frequent high royalty rates for print textbooks were 15% and 18%.  The highest royalty rate reported for a print textbook was 30%. The average highest royalty rate paid for a print textbook was 14%.

The most common low royalty rates for print textbooks were 10% and 11%. The average lowest royalty rate reported for a print textbook was 9%.

63 percent of respondents reported the same royalty rates for digital and print. 31 percent reported lower royalty rates for digital versions. Only 6% reported higher royalty rates for digital versions.

71 percent of respondents said they did not have any input into their digital textbooks. Of the 27 respondents who had input into their digital books, the majority of them said they had input into the media, pedagogy, interactive quizzing, and layout aspects.

The majority of respondents (58%) reported that they do not receive royalties on any sales of ancillaries. 13 percent of respondents reported that they receive royalties on all sales of ancillaries.

Survey Questions & Responses

What is the HIGHEST royalty rate you've negotiated for a print book you've authored?

  • The highest royalty rate reported for a print textbook authored was 30%.
  • The majority of respondents reported that they had negotiated 15% and 18% royalty rates.
  • The average highest royalty rate paid for a print textbook was 14%.


What is the LOWEST royalty rate you've negotiated for a print book you've authored?

The average lowest royalty rate reported for a print textbook authored was 9%. The most common low royalty rates were 10% and 12%.

Are any of your textbooks sold in digital versions?

Yes (77%)
No (15%)
Not sure (8%)

In which formats are digital editions of your textbook sold?

The majority of respondents (57%) reported that the digital editions of their textbooks are sold in the publisher’s proprietary format. The second most popular was PDF (28%) and then Kindle (20%).

Have you viewed your digital textbook(s)?

Yes (61%)
No (39%)

Did you have input into any of the following for your digital textbook(s)?

Of the 27 respondents who had input into their digital books, the majority of them said they had input into the media, pedagogy, interactive quizzing, and layout aspects. 71% of respondents said they did not have any input into their digital textbooks.

Which best describes the royalty rate for digital versions of your textbook(s)?

Same (63%)
Lower (31%)
Higher (6%)

Which of the following ancillaries are available for your textbook(s)?

The top three ancillaries that respondents reported were available for their textbooks included online instructor manuals, electronic test banks, and printed instructor manuals.

Online instructor manual (66%)
Electronic test bank (65%)
Printed instructor manual (54%)
Free student website (41%)
Paid student website (38%)
Free media (30%)
Paid student workbook (29%)
Paid media (27%)

Do you receive royalties on the sales of ancillaries?

Yes (13%)
No (58%)

Are you aware of any pirated copies of your textbooks available on the Internet?

Yes (40%)
No (60%)

When your books are sold outside of North America, is the royalty rate reduced?

Yes (74%)
No  (14%)
Not sure (11%)

Is the royalty rate reduced when your textbooks are sold in bulk or wholesale?

Yes (37%)
No (25%)
Not sure (37%)

Do you have a non-compete clause in your contract that prevents you from writing textbooks in your field for other publishers?

Yes (68%) of respondents reported that they have a non-compete clause in their contracts.
No (27%)
Not sure (6%)

Does your contract give you the right of first refusal for revisions of new editions?

Yes (47%) of respondents reported that their contract gives them the right of first refusal
No (15%)
Not sure (37%)

When the publisher no longer wants to publish one of your textbooks, does the copyright revert to you?

Yes (43%)
No (21%)
Not sure (36%)

Do you have a "sunset clause" in your contract that stipulates what happens when you no longer participate in revisions?

Yes (56%)
No (17%)
Not sure (28%)

Which of the following best describes your "sunset clause"?

The majority of respondents (42%) said their sunset clause gives them 50% for the first edition, then 25%, then nothing.

Have any of your books been translated into other languages?

Yes (50%)
No (35%)
Not sure (14%)

When your books are sold outside of North America, is the royalty rate reduced?

Yes (73%)
No (14%)
Not sure (11%)

When the publisher no longer wants to publish one of your textbooks, does the copyright revert to you?

Yes (42%)
No (21%)
Not sure (36%)

In 2014, approximately how much did you receive in royalties for your textbook(s)?

More than $100,000 (38%)
Less than $20,000 (32%)
$20,000 - $99,999 (28%)

Less than $5,000 (20%)
$100,000 - $500,000 (26%)
More than $500,000 (12%)

Are you aware of any pirated copies of your textbooks available on the Internet?

Yes (39%)
No (59%)

Some of the comments from the survey:

"Some of my contracts have non-compete clauses. In others they were modified to say that the non-compete clause is only in effect if the Publisher does not come out with a book that competes with mine.”

“Language in the Right of first refusal for revision of new edition is somewhat ambiguous in the contract, but has never been challenged by the publishers.  It says, ‘... the Author agrees, upon request of the Publisher...to revise the Work and supply any new material...’”

"Reversion of copyright clause is included in most contracts but it is difficult to get rights back because most contracts allow the company to keep the rights until they have sold all back copies and they can keep copies on had to prevent reversion.”

I know of several authors who have tried to get copyright back under reversion clauses. They have been delayed by publishers who don't want to do their books but want to delay return of copyright to keep the authors from publishing with another company--competing with other similar books of their own.”

“Non-compete clause allows right of first refusal to publisher--then book can be published elsewhere if company refuses.”

“Royalty rate is never reduced on any of my books for bulk or wholesale, but net sales price is discounted. Thus, total royalty reimbursement is lower."

 
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