Somewhere in a box I have poems that my father wrote over the years. He was never published, he just wrote for himself (or as gifts to others). And when he died I took ownership of his writings.
Every once in a while, I think about pulling together a book of his poems and publishing them. Not for fame or fortune, but just for love and to honor a man who gave so much to others. (So, if you someday see a Kickstarter project along those lines, it may well be me trying to find someone other than me and my brother who will want to read the completed project.)
One of the issues that raises is whether I actually have the right to publish his works. I think I do. He was divorced when he died and I doubt my brother really cares if I do it. And it’s been so many years that I’m sure his former creditors aren’t too concerned about me publishing some small poetry book. I assume they’ve long since written off any of his debts.
But for others the situation may not be so simple. Maybe you’ve already self-published a few books. Or you’ve traditionally published works. Or maybe you have ten people who could claim rights to your estate and who don’t like each other much. Or there’s one person who would passionately work to publish your writing and someone with an equal right to your estate who would burn “that garbage” you wrote.
Which is why I thought I’d share this post by Neil Gaiman: Important. And pass it on…
It’s important to think about your literary estate before, well, it’s too late for you to think about it. My mom likes to say there’s no way I’ll die before her and I like to point out that anyone can get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, including me.
Life is full of randomness and while I don’t recommend dwelling on the prospect of death, it is a possibility for any of us on any given day. So, if there’s something you care about protecting after you die, take the steps to do so now while you can.
(I say this and I have yet to put together any sort of will myself…)
Here’s a somewhat related article by the U.S. government: How and Why You Should Write a Social Media Will
Another thing to think about. I find those Facebook memorial accounts downright creepy. And I hate getting friend suggestions for people I know are dead. So, I am firmly on the side of “delete my frickin’ account if I die.” (I’m also firmly on the side of “nobody should read my private communications after I die.”) But, without that written down somewhere, it’s no longer in my control.
So, think about it. And take the steps you need to to get things in the order they need to be. Because the only certainty in life is that we will all one day die.