UK-based publishing journalist Danuta Kean has a piece in the Financial Times today about literary estates, and how the posthumous works of an author end up being big business. Sebastian Faulks, for example, is expected to share royalties and be paid an advance by Penguin for the May 2008 James Bond novel DEVIL MAY CARE. There’s the posthumous cottage industry of V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum. But not all dead authors need produce new books. The owner of Agatha Christie‘s rights has kept her in the public eye without resorting to new books. Agatha Christie Ltd is part of the intellectual property group Chorion, which also represents the estates of Enid Blyton, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.
“We have absolute control over what’s made,” says Mathew Prichard, ACL chairman and Christie’s grandson, of various television series starring venerated Christie characters. “The most important thing about television is that it keeps the books alive. We definitely see a rise in sales across her whole list when the series are screened.” Another layer of protection is by trademarking: For dead authors who are still in copyright, trademarking may help estates keep control after the term ends, says intellectual property lawyer Laurence Kaye. “If you intend to republish a book that has gone out of copyright, you would have to do it in a way that did not infringe any trademarks.”