Your Books Will Live On…
By Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. You should consult an experienced and licensed attorney regarding wills, trusts, copyright, intellectual property rights.
You are going to die, but your books don’t have to. (How’s that for a grabbing first sentence?) My list of EC authors has “Deceased” next to nine names. Most of them still have books for sale through EC—the author’s death does not mean the death of her or his published books.
Your books (copyrights, intellectual property rights) are assets you own, just like real estate or investments or family heirlooms. So you need to make plans for what will become of your literary assets when you pass on.
Your publisher most likely continues to hold the right to publish and sell the book for the term of the contract, even after your death. Standard publishing contracts typically state something to the effect that the contract terms are binding on your heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns. Check each of your book contracts for wording dealing with this. But the publishing contract does not cover who inherits your royalty income or your copyrights, who has the right to make decisions—you need to deal with that in your will or trust.
~ Make a will! Consult an attorney with the appropriate experience and knowledge. The family lawyer may know little about intellectual property or copyrights, so you may need to consult a specialist or do thorough research yourself.
~ Create a file for your executor and heirs with all the information about your books: copies of contracts and correspondence, any other relevant legal documents, contact data for publishers, agents and editors.
~ Make sure someone (your executor?) knows to notify your publishers/agent in the event of your death. Check with your publishers—would it be helpful for you to provide them a letter stating who to deal with when that sad event occurs? Because your editors/agent/publishers are likely to find out about it pretty quickly via social media. Right now I’m dealing with a situation where I do not know anything about a recently deceased author’s family, all I have is the author’s email/phone/mailing address. It is uncomfortable to just call her number and say “Hi, who do I talk to about the dead person?” How long should I tactfully wait to do this, will I even reach anyone, and will they assume I’m another casket salesperson and hang up on me?
(As an aside, I strongly recommend Good to Go: A Guide to Preparing for the End of Life by Jo Myers. She makes the topic entertaining while being practical and realistic.)
Publishers have a legal process to go through when a contracted author dies. They may require a copy of the death certificate or other legal proof. Once the estate is settled, they need legal documentation about the heir. They can’t make royalty payments based on “Hi, Annie Author has died, I’m her spouse/sister/son; send me the money.” And only the legally designated heir can act upon any contract terms. A quick summary: http://www.dklex.com/payments-under-a-publishing-agreement-after-the-death-of-an-author.html
So plan now to ensure your books are cared for as you want them to be after you are gone.
BTW, I intend to die with a book (or e-reader) in my hands.
Raelene Gorlinsky has been with Ellora’s Cave for twelve years, starting as an editor, becoming Managing Editor and then Publisher. She loves books in all formats, and collects antique dictionaries and the most beautiful of illustrated children’s picture books.
Ellora’s Cave is a digital-first publisher of erotic romance (Romantica®) and erotica fiction (Exotika®). Founded in 2000, EC has published over 5600 ebooks from more than 800 authors. EC is always open to new submissions, plus does several special theme calls each year. Please read the Author Information brochure to learn what we’re looking for and how to submit. (Available at www.ellorascave.com/write-for-us.)
Books Published by Ellora's Cave:
Blurb: The year is 1483. Tavis Stewart, Earl of Dunmore, abducts beautiful Lady Arabella Grey, cousin of King Richard III, as she is about to marry Sir Jasper Keane. Tavis wants revenge for Jasper’s murder of his fiancée. Irresistibly, deliciously, Arabella surrenders to her enemy with fierce abandon--knowing that there may be only one way to get what is rightfully hers.
Cowboy Gone Wild by Brit Blaise
Blurb: Cowboy Ray Wilde has a secret. To the fans, he’s a bull rider. But in private, when the moon is high over the Arizona desert, he gets more than a little hairy. Rachel Benson is searching for her missing sister and she suspects one of two men is involved in the disappearance, but which one? Is it the doctor or a handsome, shape-shifting bull rider who’s into bondage?
Blurb: Nothing extraordinary has ever happened to Maggie O’Brien until the day she plays a fantasy game called Tolemac Wars. When something goes awry, Maggie finds herself a slave in a very frightening world engulfed in war. How can she escape this strange place where men carry swords and others perform magic? When Kered comes to Maggie’s rescue, she cannot fight the attraction she feels for him. He casts a spell over her heart that has nothing to do with magic, and when she falls in love, she realizes she must choose…his world or hers.