By James M. Jackson
One thing I know for sure is that today each of us is one day closer to taking our final breath than we were yesterday. When we take that final breath, we no longer can make life easier for our heirs.
As an author, you leave behind words. Thousands of words, maybe millions, collected in an assortment of books, stories, blogs, poems, articles, etc. Some you may have published. Others not. Yet copyright laws in most countries mean your words can still have value after you die.
If you’re thinking, oh criminy, my novel isn’t published, this doesn’t apply to me. Let me whisper John Kennedy Toole’s name in your ear. His mother found the manuscript Toole, which had desperately tried to get published, hidden in a drawer. She finally got Confederacy of Dunces published, and it won a Pulitzer. Unlikely? Sure, but hey, you never know.
These days a novel or memoir or non-fiction book is more likely to be on a computer hard drive than printed out sitting in a drawer. Would whoever takes care of your estate know where to find it?
Or if you are traditionally published, where are your contracts? Who gets continuing royalties? If you are self-published, where are your books published? Where are the most recent “final” manuscripts (which if you are like me, may not be the ones listed as “final” on your computer)?
Who is going to decide how (or if) to keep your author business going? Where are the passwords to your accounts?
I could go on, and for a class I’ll be teaching in March, I do go on. However, I’ve covered enough ground to give you the idea. Even if you have everything organized and know where it all is, good luck to the person who must find it and figure it out.
Which brings me back to the resolution all authors should make (and then follow). Create a detailed roadmap so the right people can easily find everything about your creative works they need.
Here’s my promise to my daughter (who will inherit my writing business, including copyrights): I will make it as easy for you as I can. I won’t try to accomplish this in one day or one week. But I will chip away at it day by day. And once I have it done, I’ll continue to maintain it.
That’s my resolution. How many of you authors are with me on this for 2023? (And if you’ve already done it, please crow about it in the comments.)
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.
Good food for thought.
I'm afraid no one in my family is particularly interested in my written work. In my will, I do leave all rights, etc. to the daughter who will handle it, but I doubt she will bother with it.
KM -- I suspect a lot of authors are in the same situation, in which case, the best we can do is make it easy on our heirs.
Thanks for reminding us, Jim. I have this partially done. Your thoughtful post is the kick I need to update it all.
This is so important, Jim. I've neglected it but will now get on it. Thanks!
Great advice, Jim. As a former probate paralegal, you have no idea how important this is. Oh, remember to add passwords to your list – to your computer, your files, and if you’re self-published to your KDP and like accounts at other venues.
Susan -- You and I are in the same place.
Molly -- good to hear.
Kait -- great to have your expert agreement. And you are so right about passwords, and people shouldn't forget social media, their phone. The list (as I am discovering) goes on and on and on.
It's a little overwhelming, which I suspect is why so many of us put it off. But someone needs to inherit, right? They could go have a coffee with my royalties—maybe even two!
Hey Lori -- a coffee or two without worries is much better than several drinks trying to figure it all out!
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