I’ve known many authors–dozens in person and more than three thousand online. Many of us met on a now defunct writers’ website called Authonomy. John Holt is one of those authors. He and I are in some of the same FB groups. Yesterday, I saw his posts in one of those groups and asked him to write a guest blog article about the subject he’d posted about: Transferring Book Rights. He’s done quite a bit of research on the subject and written a terrific article that could help lots of authors.

John Holt New Blog

Here is John Holt’s article:


It’s not a pretty subject I grant you, but sadly death will come to all of us. So recently I have been given a bit of thought to passing on the royalties of my novels to my daughter.

Firstly, let me say that the book market is now vastly different to how it was during the hey day of the bookshops. Certainly Waterstones, and the like, still have a major role to play, but books, especially ebooks, are now available for sale, on-line, at a vast array of sales platforms. So many, in fact, that it sometimes difficult to keep up with them, and do-it yourself marketing is almost impossible.

We have all spent hours producing our novels and, although sales might be the pits at present, those hours have value, and in time, hopefully, those books will have value. The books you have written; the paintings you have produced; the sculptures you have fashioned, are all valued items. And like jewellery, ornaments, money, etc, are all items that will form part of your estate when you die. But unlike money, which only has value for a limited period, rights to a book, or a piece of music, has a potential value for a substantial period of time. Those books are subject to copyright, your copyright. In the UK and America that Copyright is valid for the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years after their death. So the advice is quite simple. Establish Your Estate Long Before You Die. Your copyrights will outlive you. That’s how they’re designed. If you don’t know what I mean by this, then get yourself a copy of The Copyright Handbook, and start reading it now. Learn what that means, and learn how it will impact your estate, your heirs, and your legacy.

So it is well worth leaving a provision in your will to pass that copyright on to someone. A possible form could be the one shown here – http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/SIMPLEWILL.pdf.

A simple phrase like this would suffice as far as it goes:

  1. I give [insert description of gifts of property, money, etc., or a simple gift (such as “my entire estate to _________, if he/she survives me, or if not, to _______”) or a fractional gift (such as “one-half of my entire estate”)].

Certainly such a provision should be inserted into a will, but that won’t be sufficient.  Oh certainly it will be enough to make sure that so and so receives the rights to the books. But further action will be needed at each of the various sales platforms where the books are available, to ensure that those rights are actually transferred. For some that may mean providing a death certificate; while for others a simple change of account details will be all that is necessary.

Firstly, if, like me, you are self-published, and you have set up your own publishing entity, then the Tax authorities will need to be advised, and the company, in effect, transferred to someone else. A letter should be sent, to your tax authority, referring to the original registration of the company, and advising that the company is to be transferred. It is probable that a death certificate will be required.

If, also like me, you are registered with the United States Internal Revenue Service, for tax purposes, they should also be contacted. The latest address I have is –

Department of The Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia, 19255-0023

That would include (if applicable) advising the America Internal Revenue Service, and transferring your EIN number. I only know about the tax situation in the United Kingdom. You should check with the tax authorities in your own country.

Okay so that takes care of the tax situation, now to sales and royalties. My novels are currently available for sale on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing; Babelcube; Draft2Diguital, Createspace, and Lulu. Each organisation should be contacted either by your successor, or by yourself prior to death, to ascertain their requirements.

Kindle Direct Publishing has responded as follows: Once your book is published, we’ll let you know if we need additional clarification about your copyright. With regards to your KDP publishing account, it would be best if you inform your successor about your KDP Publishing account credential. So that in the case of your death, she would be able to sign in, change the details without having to contact us. In that event your successor should be advised of your Username and Password.

With Babelcube, your books are available for sale on several sales platforms. However it will be Babelcube who notifies of actual sales, and the royalties due. You should be aware that any translated books are under contract to Babelcube for a period of 5 years. During that time any Royalties are shared between you, the author; the translator; and Babelcube. At the end of the five year period the contracts will automatically renew, and run for a further five years. Therefore if contract renewal is not required, then the contract should be terminated (in writing by email, or on the web site) at least three months before the expiry date. However, it should be remembered that even if the contract is terminated, and the book is subsequently offered for sale, any Royalties would be shared between the author and the translator.

Babelcube have responded as follows: You should make sure your successor has access to your Babelcube account. In the event of your death, he or she can change the data of the rights holder and the paypal account. So once again, the successor should be made aware of Username and Password. In addition the translators should be notified.

Draft2Digital makes your books available on several sales platforms, including Barnes and Noble; Nook, and iTunes. Any sales through these sites, together with information regarding any royalties that are due, will be reported directly by Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital has responded as follows: Should you pass away, or become incapable of handling your own affairs, your account would pass on to the person you name as the executor of your account or will. In most cases, I would request both a death certificate and the will that shows who you have named as the executor of your account. From there, I will work directly with that person to get the account moved over into their name, get the password changed to a password they can access and remember. I would also work with them in regards to answering tax questions and getting the banking details in their own name and showing them the basic details of our site. I generally ask if they wish to continue to list the books, or remove the listings (I’ve seen it go both ways) and will help them with whatever they decide to do.

Createspace responded as follows: In the event of your death your successor could take control of the account and royalties by sending us a copy of the death certificate. He or she can either fax a copy of the scanned document to us at (206) 922-5928 or send an email with a picture of the document attached to [email protected]. The successor should be made aware of Username and Password.

Lulu.com has responded as follows: The easiest way of making sure your successor has access to your account is giving her all your account information like e-mail address, password as well as pay pal information. In case of death of an author a family member can also send us the following material.

a. Government issued photograph identification (e.g. passport, driver’s license)
b. Certified copy of death certificate.
c. Court order, if any
d. Copy of will, if any (you can name your successor as the inheritor of your book rights)
e. Claim with sworn statement and indemnification agreement (attached form both pages)

They may either scan and email this information to a reply email to us.

There are, of course, many other sales platforms, and many other companies that will publish your works, that I have not mentioned. It is suggested that each one, that is relevant to you, should be contacted and their requirements as to what happens in the event of your death, be ascertained. It is also essential that relevant information be left with the person who is to receive the rights to your work.

In no way do I profess to be an expert on this subject, but if this at least gets you thinking then it would have achieved what I set out to do. Research the subject. Find out about Copyright, and the transference of rights. Take advice. Consult a solicitor if you feel it necessary. In conclusion let us hope that none of us need do anything about it for many years to come. As Spock said – Live long and prosper, and keep writing.

Meet John Holt:

Born in 1943 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. I currently live in Essex with my wife, Margaret, and my daughter Elizabeth. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor, until I retired in 2008. I had always wanted to write a novel but could never think of a good enough plot. I started to write my first novel, The Kammersee Affair, in September 2005, and it was published in December 2006. It was inspired by a holiday in the Austrian lake district. We were staying in Grundlsee. The next lake, Toplitzsee, was used by the Germans during the war to test rockets, and torpedoes. There were rumours of gold hidden in that lake. Despite extensive searches the gold was never found. In my book, however, it is found, only in the next lake, Kammersee.

The books that followed, The Mackenzie File, The Marinski Affair, Epidemic,and A Killing In The City all feature Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective. In August 2012 I decided to go down the self published route, and formed by own publishing brand PHOENIX. As a complete change to my usual genre, “The Thackery Journal” is a “What If” novel regarding the assassination of Lincoln. It was published in August 2013. My latest novel, another featuring my private detective, and simply called “Kendall” was published in July 2014. “A Case Of Murder”, the sixth novel to feature Tom Kendall, was published in May 2016. I am currently working on another novel featuring Tom Kendall.