You're Dead...sign here

Have you ever handled work for an author posthumously? If so, did they die midword, slumped over a keyboard in some drafty garrett somewhere, or did someone handling their estate find the sweatstained manuscript left behind and think "OMG! Bestseller stuff here!"

(I know, this is an off the wall question; must be because it's overcast and rainy looking in my normally sunny neighborhood) Thanks for thinking about it, or sorry for making ya think about it.... )

No John Kennedy Toole stories for me, sorry. I'm pretty sure I couldn't get a dead author published for a first novel today. Someone else maybe could, but not me.

However, clients do die (the miserable turkeys) and after Miss Snark dabs a tear from her cold flinty eye, she accosts the survivors and makes sure they know Miss Snark is their friend.

Author estates can go on for years. JM Barrie bequeathed the royalties for Peter Pan to a London hospital. You can bet there's an agent taking 10% who is making sure no one thinks Peter Pan is in the public domain.

Where it gets tricky is if the agent dies. That's a very very very different situation, and one of the reasons you should always ask an agent how they structure their business before you sign. I'd also want to know if the agent has any plans for the disposition of the agency's assets if s/he were to die. The thing is..the agent gets the 15% even if s/he's dead, so it's not just a matter of moving on with things and signing up with someone ..err...breathing.

No one ever really talks about this but it's something I'd always ask about were I getting ready to sign with someone.


kitty said...

Reading this, I was reminded of Olivia Goldsmith's The Bestseller:

"For anyone pondering a career in publishing, The Bestseller--a fictional account of the frayed egos, sorted ideas, and strange economics that fuel the book industry--may be a dose of harsh reality. Olivia Goldsmith has created a tale of Davis & Dash, a Manhattan house run by an unspectacular publisher and a talented, but foul, editor. The new line of books doesn't exactly threaten to populate the Pulitzer list, though there's a serious 1,114-page work by a novelist who killed herself after her 23rd rejection letter."

Btw, I really enjoyed the book. (R.I.P. Olivia!)

magz said...

a hat tip in your direction Your Snarkiness; I too think it's an interesting, albeit somewhat morbid question. (To some at least, although we all know that Miss Snark, Agent C and KY are of course immortal...)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you'e saying, Dear Agent, if you die can I have the 15%? Unless the agent is heirless, kinless, friendless, wouldn't the answer be predictable? I would think one of the attractions of the agent biz is the residual income factor. My son, all this is yours...it's a gift that keeps on giving.

Perhpas your saying it doesn't hurt to ask.

Anonymous said...

Snarky Dear;

So, if (heaven forbid) you croak, Killer Yap gets 15% of my royalties for life? Who gets them when the little darlin' goes to that great puppy playpen in the sky where the squirrels can't climb and the cats have neither fangs nor claws?

Seriously (as much as I ever get), how does your agency handle this?

Jonathon M.