We’re proud to share a guest blog post about the role of a literary executor written by Raelene Gorlinsky. Raelene is the managing editor of the Ellenberg Agency’s back into print initiative. Royalty Reminder will continue to share key information and insights from fellow industry professionals that support its goals of empowering Authors to inventory and exploit their books.
If you missed part 1 of this 2 part series, entitled “Back Into Print: A Guide For Experienced Authors,” check it out here.
Who is your Literary Executor?
You may not be immortal, but the books you’ve written have a chance to be, IF you make arrangements in your will for who will manage your literary estate after you are gone.
This is not necessarily the same person who inherits the income from the estate, or the general executor of your will. A literary executor is the person entrusted with the management of a deceased author’s literary property (published and unpublished), including overseeing copyrights, making and maintaining contracts with publishers or book retailers, licensing rights, and collecting royalties. This is not an easy or simple job, and usually involves compensation for the work (fees, commissions, reimbursement of expenses).
You can designate any willing person to be your literary executor, but it is best to pick someone who understands publishing, who can ensure your works are handled so that they continue to be available to readers and generate income for your heirs.
If you have an agent, that’s a good place to start.
Does your agent/agency handle author estates? Can they give you advice on setting up a literary estate, explain how your book contracts and copyrights would be handled, what your heirs need to know? Or is there some other experienced publishing professional whom you trust with this responsibility?
In some cases, an author can create a literary trust and transfer literary assets to the trust.
And the assets—including literary assets—of authors with significant estates may be subject to valuation and estate tax. So if you anticipate either of those circumstances, you should consult an attorney with knowledge of the publishing industry, and include questions about a literary executor in those discussions.
Be sure your literary executor will have all the information needed to administer that portion of your estate!
You should have a file that lists all your:
- publishing contracts
- agent agreements
- rights licensed, and
- everything there is to know about your books, to keep them “alive” and active.
Or, better yet, you should have a Royalty Reminder account that indexes all your literary contracts, making them understandable to anyone, and stores files of all your agreements, creating a lasting legal and financial basis for your career.
This is more important than ever because now books can be re-published inexpensively as eBooks and exploited across many more formats and territories. Books really can have a second life and earn income. This is something every Author has to consider.