Types of Publishing Arrangements and Contracts

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The AAUP Business Handbook >> Part Five: Journals



University presses often publish journals in cooperation with other not-for-profit organizations. The goals of such cooperation are to lower costs for both organizations by achieving economies of scale and to undertake activities jointly, such as marketing, that would not be possible separately. Such cooperation is quite natural, as both organizations share the mission of disseminating scholarship as widely as possible at the lowest possible cost. Commonly these cooperative agreements are with scholarly societies, though university presses also work with museums, foundations, and other research organizations. In the usual arrangement, the society (for the sake of simplicity, the word "society" will here represent all such organizations) is responsible for determining editorial policy, appointing the editor, and selecting manuscripts for each issue, and the university press is responsible for handling most of the other publishing functions.

Editorial Control

At the beginning of its relationship with a society, the press will usually require a full review of the editorial content of the journal by qualified scholars, who are selected by the press, and approval of the publication by its governing board. In addition, the press may require that, as new editors are selected by the society, they are also approved by the press board. In general, at the time of the initial review, the governing board will determine whether a publication is appropriate for the university press, and it will review the qualifications of the editor; it will not, however, be involved in setting editorial policy for the journal.

Manuscript Editing and Production

These processes are managed in a variety of ways for society publications. The tasks include

(1) Review and acceptance of manuscripts; communicating with authors; substantive editing.

(2) Editing for consistency and style.

(3) Scheduling and control of typesetting.

(4) Handling of the master typesetting proofs; proofreading.

(5) Scheduling and control of printing and mailing.

The editor and staff in the journal's office will always manage the first step, but the other tasks may be split between the editor and the press in a variety of ways. In some cases, the press will handle all those functions; in others cases, some of them; and in others, none. The arrangements that are established for any particular journal will depend upon a variety of factors, among them cost, quality, practices among similar journals, and the predilections of the press and those of the society for control of various elements in the publication process. What is important for one press or one society may be of lesser importance for another. (See the section of this handbook on relationships with editors for more details.)

Membership List

In some cases, all the individual subscribers are members of a society, but in other cases, there are non-member, individual subscribers along with the non-member institutional subscribers. In both cases, the press often maintains the membership list along with the rest of the subscription list, as that presents far fewer problems to the press and the society in managing renewals, in providing customer service, and in coordinating marketing activities. Special provisions may then need to be made for accommodating the society's own needs for use of its membership list.


University presses are often able to market society journals in ways that the societies could not on their own, and frequently societies seek arrangements with university presses in order to secure such marketing. University presses will actively promote sales of subscriptions, sales of single copies, and advertising and rental of lists. The level of expenditure for subscription marketing will vary considerably, depending on the sizes of the various markets (individual and institutional, foreign and domestic).

Publication Design

At some point, every publication will need to be redesigned, and the process of selecting a new design of a society journal is often quite different from that for a journal without society sponsorship. In addition to the editor, the process usually involves society officers or committees. Of course, the press and the society seek a consensus on a new design, but often either can veto any particular design. The selection process is frequently successful in achieving improvements in the designs; occasionally, however, a design is so compromised that, though it ends up being acceptable to all the parties involved, it is a design failure.

Other Society Activities

Occasionally, a university press will be involved in assisting a society with production of a variety of other printed material: its directory of members, its newsletter, publications related to its meetings, or other miscellaneous reports. Arrangements for handling these are extremely variable. Some presses undertake such work; others do not.

Financial Arrangements

There is wide variety in the financial arrangements between societies and university presses for the publication of journals. Sometimes it appears that there are as many arrangements as there are journals. However, there are only two general types: one in which the press has overall financial responsibility for the publication, and one in which the society has overall financial responsibility.

Press Financial Responsibility. In those cases where the press has overall financial responsibility, the annual net income or deficit for the publication will belong to the press. Normally, in these circumstances, the press will set the subscription rates and will establish the frequency and amount of publication to be undertaken. If the publication is covering its costs, the society will often receive a royalty, perhaps as a percentage of subscription revenues or total revenues. Depending upon the situation, the costs of the editorial office may be paid by the society, by the press, or by the institution where the editor is located.

Society Financial Responsibility. In those cases where the society has overall financial responsibility, the annual net income or deficit will be the responsibility of the society. In these cases, the society will set the rates, determine the amount of publication, and be responsible for arranging payment of the editorial office expenses. When the society is financially responsible, the press may recover its costs (1) by receiving a portion of the total revenues, (2) by charging the society a fee (or fees) for its services. (3) A combination of the two systems if also possible. If the press charges the society, such charges may take the form of a single amount for everything handled by the press. For example, the press could charge $25,000 annually for all services. Alternatively, there may be separate charges for each area of activity. These charges could include an amount per hour for manuscript editing, an amount per year for subscription fulfillment, a percentage of out-of-pocket marketing expenses for marketing overhead costs, and a percentage of total production costs for production services. Such charges can be as elaborate or as simple as the ingenuity and practicality of the press and the society determine.


Clear, written contracts are essential to good long-term working relationships between university presses and societies. Unfortunately there is no standard agreement, as there is no standard division of responsibilities between presses and societies. Some of the elements to be considered, however, are the following.

Basics of Responsibility. Clauses should clearly indicate who is responsible for manuscript editing and production. The frequency with which the journal will appear and its publication schedule and page allotment by fiscal year should also be indicated.

Financial Terms. Clauses should clearly establish the procedure for setting subscription rates as well as the amount and schedule of transfers between the parties.

Copyright and Subsidiary Rights. Copyright is usually in the name of the society, but not always. Usually there is agreement that the press will handle rights and permissions requests, some times exclusively. The contract should make clear who will receive the income from grants of permission as well as income from other licensing of rights.

Other Rights. There should be clear language about who makes decisions on such matters as prices and discounts for sales of single copies, advertising, list rental, and so on. In addition, it is often useful to agree upon the press's right to include its house advertising in the journal, and sometimes on the society's right to run other ads as well.

Term. Sometimes there is a clause establishing a term and a provision for renewal. The term may be indefinite, either with or without a minimum term requirement.

Termination. Termination clauses are essential and should include notification requirements. Clarity here is very important, though negotiating the terms can occasionally be awkward. In general, contracts must be worked out within the press's usual framework for making legal agreements, with legal approval from the appropriate offices within the press and the university.

The AAUP Business Handbook >> Part Five: Journals

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