This post, by Passive Guy, originally appeared on his The Passive Voice blog.
My grandmother died in 2004 and had 22 published romance novels. We are now in the process of getting back her rights from Richard Curtis so the family trust can publish the work as ebooks and POD.
The contract for ereads ran out after seven years, but guess what, I asked for copies of the contracts and, now more than a month later, have yet to find them in my mail box. My aunt had an old copy of a contract and now the heirs are going to write a letter to ereads asking for the rights back.
An author has more clout with his/her agent or publisher than any of the author’s heirs who are not terrifying attorneys. Even a downtrodden and mistreated author has ways of pitching a fit that will gain some notice.
One of the many strange aspects of the publishing world is that, almost uniquely among reputable 21st century business enterprises, publishers and agents feel no need to respond to emails, calls and/or letters. Think about it. If you send an email to a large pharmaceutical company asking for product information, you’ll receive some sort of response. Ditto for Ford Motor Company, Costco and the National Guard.
Other than publishers and agents, who doesn’t promptly respond to reasonable communications these days? Al Qaeda and Mexican drug cartels come to mind.
But PG digresses.
One of the lessons we learn from Christopher’s comment is to make certain you retain copies of publishing and agency contracts old and new. Ditto for every royalty statement you receive. Remember, you’re dealing with copyrights to your books that last for 70 years after you die. These days (shamefully) publishing/agency contracts also tend to last that long.