The Authors Guild has sent an alert to its membership advising former Bloomberg Press authors not to sign a letter sent to them by John Wiley. Wiley took over the Bloomberg book publishing program earlier this year. According to the Guild, the letter is actually a contract amendment that changes the way royalties are paid from a rate based on list price to a rate based on net receipts. The result of the change, the Guild said, will reduce author royalties by as much as 50%.

In addition to the changes in terms, the Guild found Wiley’s presentation of the changes misleading in that the letter begins by stating that Wiley wants to inform authors "about a few differences in the accounting systems of Bloomberg and Wiley that it will be helpful for you to know about." The Guild said that a review of a number of Bloomberg contracts found all royalties based on a discount off the retail list price, although they acknowledged that there may be other contracts based on net receipts. By using the phrase “we are pleased to inform you that we will be paying royalties on the net amount received” Wiley gives the impression that the change is beneficial to authors, the Guild said.

In addition to switch in royalty structure, the new terms also allow Wiley to keep a book in print “with a lowball print on demand royalty of 5% of net receipts” the Guild alert states. “The contract amendment, which provides no threshold level of sales for a work to be considered in print, essentially grants Wiley a perpetual right in an author's book for a pittance. The 5% of net receipts royalty rate for print on demand editions is as low as we've seen.

The change in terms and the manner in which it is presented “is no way to do business.” the alert concludes, and urges Wiley to tear up any signed letters it may have received and “forthrightly explain to its new authors the contractual changes it is seeking and how this may affect their income and their right to terminate their publishing contracts.”

No one from Wiley was available to comment at press time.