Hi Miss Snark,
I'd like to know what the procedure(s) are/is for submitting the intellectual property of some one who has passed on.
My father left behind, diaries from his whole life, including his war years during WWII. They're fascinating. And on top of that, he's left behind three complete novels and well over 100 short stories. Some of them are fairly good, but need editing. I'd be happy to do that.
What I'm really interested in having published are the WWII diaries, they're stellar, and with the populace of veterans dying, I think it's a shame to let testimonials land in netherspace.
Any advice on how to proceed with this? Thank you.
P.S. The spell-checker here tells me to change, "Snark". :) (to what??--Snarque? Souffle?)
This is a great question, and I'm so glad you asked. Let's talk about the two things separately, first the diaries.
This project is probably not a good candidate for general trade publishing no matter how fascinating. Publishers want to sell more than 10,000 copies of anything they take on and it's VERY hard to do that if the author isn't around to be on tv/radio etc. Plus, it's also very hard to interest a publisher in diaries/memoirs unless there is a major hook (you didn't mention one, maybe there is, but in any case you'd need it).
There are other places where your dad's diaries would not have such high sales figure hurdle: university presses, niche publishers, or historical society presses.
And of course, even if none of those places are interested, you could contact the historical society or museum to ask about donating his papers so they wouldn't be lost.
They may not have room, or need, for this particular kind of historical record (they have space limitations like everyone else, sadly) but it doesn't hurt to ask.
If you want to preserve the work for your family, here's where POD technology can be very very handy. Don't go with one of the scam/bait houses. Go with something like lulu.com that offers you printing without trying to sell you on getting into BN or becoming famous.
Now, as to novels. I'm sorry but that is pretty much a lost cause. Realistically, the only posthumous novels published are from writers who have a body of work to their credit before they left us. Yes, John Kennedy Toole is an exception, and a famous one, but trust me, he's one in ten million.
However, if you want to send out queries on the novel or the diaries have at it. Writing is property so who ever inherits the estate owns the work (in the absence of a specific bequest of the intellectual property of course --Miss Snark is assembling a list of suitable heirs for her intellectual property if she gets run over by a zambonie anytime soon).
And an addition from a Snarkling librarian:
Hi -- Another place that would like to have diaries and memoirs would be a university library. Most universities (and colleges, for that matter) have Special Collections Depts. where they keep such manuscript materials. In fact, the library of the university where I work has a fine collection of war memoirs, including WWI and WWII. You don't have to give it to the first place you try -- each different library or archive has a specialty. You can do research at your local library to find out which collection is appropriate for your manuscripts.
Many libraries have this reference book, or you can borrow it through Interlibrary Loan (there may even be a newer edition):
Special collections in college and university libraries / compiled by Modoc Press, Inc. ; with an introduction by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern. New York : Macmillan Publishing Company ; London : Collier Macmillan Publisher's, c1989. ISBN: 0029216516