How Much Should Publishers Pay Contributors?

How Much Should Publishers Pay Contributors?


A professor who prefers to remain anonymous—perhaps so as to not weaken his bargaining position—asks for help from Daily Nous readers about how much he should request to be paid for allowing a publisher to use one of his articles in a textbook anthology. He writes:

Does anyone have any information about how much, if anything, an author should expect to receive as a fee from a publisher to include a previously published article in a textbook anthology? I’ve recently been approached by a well-known publisher to include a paper of mine in the latest edition of a well established anthology intended for class use. The permission form I received included the choice of two tick boxes – one for no fee, and one for a fee in USD (with a blank to fill in the amount). Part of me is, of course, tempted to ask for $1000000 and to then negotiate from there… More pessimistically, the beaten-down academic in me is inclined to tick “no fee” so to avoid the chance of putting off the publisher with what they see as an unreasonable request. 

I should add that I’m not in direct contact with the publisher – they are using another company that deals with copyrights and permissions; and I’m afraid I’m not sure who the editor of the anthology will be as the original editor has, unfortunately, passed away. So it would take a bit of work to track down someone at the publisher to see what they would consider reasonable.  That said, this would be my default option if there doesn’t seem to be any “industry standard”. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

(art: “Kraken” by Chad Person)

guest
5 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

For a standard professional level anthology, I wouldn’t ask. However, textbooks are another matter. My gut response is to have the high end be the textbook author/editor’s royalty percentage divided by the number of articles contributed (e.g., in a case where the textbook author gets 10% royalty and there are 20 total articles contributed, the very most I’d feel comfortable asking for would be a .5% royalty).Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
6 years ago

I don’t think you can ask for a percentage of royalties; you instead ask for a flat fee. And you should ask. Various people, including the publisher and the editor, are going to be making money in part from your work and they should share it with you.

How much you should ask for depends in part on the print run, i.e. it should be more for a larger print run. But what, more specifically? Here are a couple of examples from my experience.

For a very short (800-word) piece in a text with a very large print run (120,000) I was paid $350. I’m told by Cambridge U Press that the fee for reprinting the whole of an article of mine from one of their anthologies in another anthology from a different press with a print run of 5000 would be $408, split halfway between CUP and me. (That, by the way, is common. Both book publishers and journals often have set reprint fees, often so many dollars per page, which they charge the reprinter and then split with you.) Back in 2005 I charged $250 to reprint a shortish (by current standards) article in a textbook with a print run of 2000. And in 2011 OUP charged $652 (half to me) for two 20-page excerpts from books of mine included in a Routledge textbook, i.e. $326 per excerpt.

I don’t know if others have had different experiences, but maybe the figures above give you a ballpark idea of the going rate for reprinting an article. There is a going rate!Report

Christy Mag Uidhir
6 years ago

Scratch that. I like what Tom said much better. Listen to Tom. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some editors to contact about this pair of boots I’ve had my eye on for some time.Report

Christopher Morris
Christopher Morris
6 years ago

Some quick remarks. There are two questions, what should you expect and what should you ask for? The second question is easy to answer; it likely won’t come up (read the fine print of the contract you signed when you published your article!). If it does come up, then see the answer to the first question, what should you expect. Almost anything. When putting together a teaching anthology I had publishers request fees (usually half goes to the author) ranging from $50 to about $1,000. From experience (and my wife was an acquisitions editor), I didn’t bother with some presses because either they typically ask for ridiculous sums or they won’t bargain. One press dropped its request from $650 to a reasonable $150. As in other markets, asking too large a price may lose you a sale. But most of us are not Judith Thomson or Thomas Nagel and are unlikely to make very much with reprints; it’s often better for us just to have the piece reprinted.Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
6 years ago

I forgot to say: make sure you give the rights to your article only for the current edition. Many texts go through several editions, involving further, sometimes larger print runs. You can get further fees for these later editions, but only if you don’t give the rights away for all future editions at the start. As Chris says, you’re not going to get rich from reprints. But a little cheque every now and then is a nice thing to get.Report