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Ninc Newsletter

January 2012   •  Vol. 23, No. 01   •  Download pdf version

Protecting your Literary Legacy

BY ELAINE ISAAK

Do you have a properly executed will? And if so, does it include provisions for your literary executor? While hopefully we are all years away from needing any such thing, a recent panel at the ReaderCon Science Fiction convention has convinced me that it’s never too early to plan for the future.

The panel opened with a horror story: A local, well-loved author passed away a couple of years ago, dying rather unexpectedly, and intestate—that is, without a will. This author had been estranged from his family for some time, and, when they gained access to his apartment, the first thing they did was to destroy all of his papers and manuscripts. They had no interest in science fiction, placed no value on his work, and had no connection to the literary community at large, which would have looked forward to seeing more of his writing.

Most of us are lucky to at least have a supportive family who would not willfully destroy our literary works—but would they know what to do to protect them, and make them available to future generations?

Perhaps you are thinking that your work isn’t important or that your genre doesn’t have a long lifespan. In the new era of digital publishing, however, your shelf life is unbounded, and it only takes one instant hit or slowburning classic to make your mark on literary history.

Why be concerned about your literary legacy?

  1. Your heirs reap financial benefits. This is the obvious one that most of us have in mind when we write a will. Depending on the date of publication, the copyright on your work may last as long as 70 years after your death.

Table of Contents

President’s Voice: “Are We at an Inflection Point?”
New! Rules. New! Tools.: The Recap
    The New Publishing Landscape
    Here, There, and Everywhere: Young Adult
    E-Book Packaging: Working with a Graphic Designer
Not Your Usual Writing Advice: The Sound of Creativity
Writing Is Taxing: Peter Piper Picked a Tax Preparer
The Mad Scribbler: Showing Up
P.I. Confidential: How a Sleuth Might Track a Missing Person

  1. Your books continue to be read in the future.

  2. Your books can be reprinted—many times over.

    Editors of anthologies and reprint series, reprographic rights organizations, film makers, and college professors who wish to use them will have access to them and will know who to contact. Most authors’ work goes out of print within a few years of the author’s death, primarily because of confusion about who to contact for rights inquiries.

  3. Your name or work can create a lasting impact on the future in whatever way you’d like to see that happen.

    Scholarships? Literary awards? Charitable trusts? These are just some of the possibilities.

    Alongside the horror stories, there are also great things that can happen if an author’s legacy is handled well. For instance, the Phillip K. Dick estate continues not only to handle movie    Continued on page 4 

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