View Full Version : If you Died Tomorrow (publication question)

03-25-2013, 08:40 PM
If you died tomorrow would you have your survivors publish your uncompleted work


Have them finish the work and then publish it.

I would pick option 2, because I have to believe that my son and/or daughter will be more talented than me, writing wise.

This question creeps into my mind every time I think I am going to die unknown as an author.

Roger J Carlson
03-25-2013, 08:44 PM
Neither. Let them publish their own books.

There are worse things than dying unpublished.

03-25-2013, 08:45 PM
I'll be dead and wouldn't care, because, you know, I'm dead. Rotting in the earth somewhere with nothing to worry about ever again. Hmm, doesn't sound too bad when you put it like that.

03-25-2013, 08:50 PM
Have them finish the stuff! Smells like fanfic. I'd love to see my stories fanficced. :troll

03-25-2013, 08:50 PM
I wouldn't want any member of my family to read anything I've written, and I've actually had this very conversation with my only friend whom I do let read my stuff, that he's not to show it to anyone if I did die unexpectedly. He's said that really isn't an issue I should be concerning myself with, and he's probably got a point :)

03-25-2013, 08:52 PM
If you died tomorrow would you have your survivors publish your uncompleted work.

No, but I wouldn't mind if they finished the ironing.

Roger J Carlson
03-25-2013, 08:59 PM
Since commercial publishers don't publish uncompleted works, it would have to be self-published, and I wouldn't ask some to spend the money to do that.

If they (my heirs) are good enough writers to finish my work in publishable form, they should work on their own stuff, not mine.

03-25-2013, 09:00 PM
Had this conversation. Right now, unpublished, the SO can do whatever he sees fit. So probably just keep them to himself as a kind of electronic memorial.

Published, I guess it's up to the publishers and the specifics of the contracts. But for unfinished and unpubbed works, I've told him to build a site, put up everything not under contract, and slap a big old Creative Commons license on them. 'Cause you can't take it with you and you might as well give your readers one last gift.

03-25-2013, 09:15 PM
There are worse things than dying unpublished.

There are?

Although Stieg Larsson pulled it off, dying with three novels (of a ten-novel series) still in draft form. This is why the 'Girl' novels have such messy plots and unresolved subplots, etc. Even so, they managed to become international best sellers and two movies so far.

03-25-2013, 09:39 PM
I've never thought about it. I just always presumed anything of mine unpublished would remain unpublished.

03-25-2013, 10:55 PM
No, I don't have anyone who could realistically finish my stories or manage the copyrights on what's already out. So if I die tomorrow, all I'm asking is they move my Scrivener backups to a public Dropbox folder and post the links on my blog. Release it all under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

03-25-2013, 11:25 PM
Make the decision and put in your will... or not, and let your survivors fret and fight about it ad nauseum.

Nothing tears a family apart like disagreeing about resources (money and/or the potential thereof).

Susan Littlefield
03-26-2013, 12:03 AM
What a morbid question.

I don't care if anyone else publishes my unpublished works after I cross the great divide, but my family better make sure my cats go to a good home. Otherwise, I will have to come back and haunt them more than I am going to haunt them anyway. :D

03-26-2013, 12:11 AM
No one I know would WANT to finish it. It's too research heavy so they'd have to get up to speed before they could even begin and none of them are into historical fiction. It would probably stay in a box in storage and that's fine with me.

03-26-2013, 12:39 AM
Why would I care? I'm dead, remember. I'll be too busy haunting people that really ticked me off when I was alive to worry about my Amazon rank.


03-26-2013, 01:02 AM
If I died tomorrow I'd still come back and beg you to take the extra 'm' out of the post title.

Nobody in my family is going to give a toss about my writing after I'm dead. I should probably leave it to my friend in Australia....

03-26-2013, 03:09 AM
This is more for published writers (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html), but I think it's germane.

03-26-2013, 03:18 AM
I'd rather they do the thing that will bring in the most money. Mwahaha!! I'd be dead anyway, so if my family can benefit from my unfinished work, that's a bonus. But I won't care cuz I be dead.


Damn this is a morbid question. :Hug2:

03-26-2013, 04:05 AM
It may be morbid, but it's something every published author, at least, should think about. For the unpublished, the chances are that an unfinished manuscript isn't going to be of any value, and no one will lose any sleep or money if it's handled in a less than optimal manner, but for a published author, who's got a partial (or several partials) in the works for a contract, you should discuss with your literary representative (who should be named in your will) how you want your unfinished works handled.

There's been a fair amount of litigation over the years, when famous authors died, and the question of unfinished manuscripts arose. Most of the authors, that I recall reading about, wanted their unfinished manuscripts burned, but their executors, for various reasons, went ahead and published them, which generated all sorts of work for lawyers, and lots of angst for the heirs.

Two lessons: make sure the person making this decision is someone you really trust to do as you ask, and make sure to have a will naming a literary representative, so the court doesn't end up appointing someone who will ignore your wishes.

Unless, of course, you really don't care, because you're dead. But usually people do, in fact, care what happens afterwards, because they care about a) their literary reputation, and/or b) maximizing the profits for their heirs.

Siri Kirpal
03-26-2013, 05:47 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Don't think the question is morbid at all. It's one we all need to consider. I think it would be neat to ride to fame after death.


Siri Kirpal

03-26-2013, 05:54 AM
Pff. I am so incredibly special and fantastically sparkle-pregnant that no one could possibly finish my work for me and retain ANY of my magnificent vision.

I want my writings printed out, piled on a Viking boat, and set on fire.

Oh wait...maybe that's my corpse? Or no--I wanted my corpse to be torn apart by hippos and--

No, hippos is how I want to die.

Dammit. I'm getting it all mixed up. Eaten by bears? I think I want my manuscripts eaten by bears. So they will have to be covered in jam first and possibly printed on salmon.

Erin Latimer
03-26-2013, 10:35 AM
Creepy question...

I'd want my writer friend to finish it for me and have it published. I will live on through words! *Shakes fist at sky*

French Maiden
03-26-2013, 11:07 AM
Even if I did ask them to do either, they wouldnt.

03-26-2013, 11:21 AM
My family still thinks writing is a phase I'll grow out of, like My Little Ponies.

No survivors, I imagine, as I have no kids. Can't imagine anyone would want to publish my unfinished stuff. No one wants to publish the finished stuff...

03-26-2013, 12:08 PM
"All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain...." -- as a great poet once said.

Heh, I've had this conversation before, with relatives... who said they'd wipe everything they found on my laptop/netbook/backup drives and sell 'em on eBay, the dastards.

So I'm gonna find me a data buddy -- a trusted person who will keep backup copies of my stuff, while I keep copies of theirs -- and if either of us gets retired, the other will upload their unpublished material to a memorial website, an everlasting tribute to our literary genius!


03-26-2013, 04:23 PM
You can instruct your Executors to arrange for your work to be finished and published if you wish but be warned - unless you put a cap on the amount of money you want your Executors to spend achieving this you may find it soaks up far more than you expected.

Without going into details, I know from experience administering an estate with a request along these lines. We had no choice but to comply with a deceased's wishes to have her papers sorted and to attempt to publish the result.

As it happens the estate was not large but it took years and the money ran out before anything was finally sorted or published, so be warned...

03-26-2013, 04:31 PM
I'd want my cousin to finish up my work and try to get it out there for me if unfortunate circumstances kept me from it myself. At least the first two are done, she'd need to finish #3

03-26-2013, 06:17 PM
I wouldn't wish anything this horrible on my family. Why should they work to finish what I started? They all have lives of their own.

But there won't be much unfinished work when I die. Probably one or two manuscripts that I'm in the middle of. If the publisher wants to hire a GOOD ghostwriter to finish them, it's all right with me. Otherwise, just leave it alone.

03-26-2013, 08:41 PM
Make the decision and put in your will... or not, and let your survivors fret and fight about it ad nauseum.

Nothing tears a family apart like disagreeing about resources (money and/or the potential thereof).

Personally, I would have my will saying that any proceeds from my literary estate would have to be donated to the Trimontium Trust, in Melrose [Scotland.]

Erin Latimer
03-28-2013, 01:35 AM
My family still thinks writing is a phase I'll grow out of, like My Little Ponies.

No survivors, I imagine, as I have no kids. Can't imagine anyone would want to publish my unfinished stuff. No one wants to publish the finished stuff...

Ugh, my family was the same way. Just keep on talking about it and they'll clue in eventually. My sister at one point was like, "GOD, it's all you ever talk about". That's when it started to sink in for them...:D

Ryan David Jahn
03-28-2013, 01:42 AM
Neither. If I die with work unfinished, it should stay unfinished. I'm unhappy with the stuff I send off; I can't imagine trusting someone else to complete my work.

And the stuff that's already written but unpublished remains unpublished for a reason.

Burn it all.

James D. Macdonald
03-28-2013, 07:34 AM
Nevertheless, naming a literary executor isn't a bad idea. Specifying what the executor must do ... not so much. Pick someone who's familiar with publishing, and whose taste you trust.

See the discussion here (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/013080.html).

03-29-2013, 07:17 PM
I'd love for someone to continue trying to get my finished stuff published posthumously, but not the unfinished stuff. That can just stay unfinished.

...not that I plan on kicking the bucket any time soon.

03-29-2013, 08:17 PM
I guess it would depend on whether or not I'd already gotten published before dying. If there was any chance of my heirs getting a little extra income, I'd have them turn any unfinished/unpublished stuff over to an author friend to finish, a co-author, as it were (and someone who knew my writing style/methods), and get it out there. If I hadn't yet been published, why bother? Let the family have it as a keepsake.

04-01-2013, 12:22 AM
For me it's important to separate finished and unfinished work. If I had a finished novel, I wouldn't mind it being published posthumously. Unfinished work on the other hand... I have yet to read a collection of unfinished works that reflected well on the author. That's why I password protect everything I'm currently working on. Even if I don't have a will, if no one can open the files, they can't do anything with them.

04-01-2013, 02:44 AM
When I'm dead, nothing matters.

04-01-2013, 03:48 AM
When I'm dead, nothing matters.

Are you sure? Have you ever been dead?