“An author died and the publisher wants to put MY name on the new edition?!”

“An author died and the publisher wants to put MY name on the new edition?!”

Q –

Hi Angela,

The original author of a book I’ve been working on passed away a few years ago. The publisher, a well-known, traditional one, shifted me from being an editor to a contributor (and put my name on the front cover instead of buried inside the back). The original author’s name has remained there, but on a few variations of the book we’ve worked on, mine has appeared as the author and his has appeared as the contributor.

I just found out that, in the next editions of all the books in this series, only my name will appear on the cover and the deceased author’s name won’t appear at all.

Could this be a problem?

A  –

You provided additional information stating that, while the book has been heavily edited and expanded, much of the author’s original work also still appears in the book.

I’m sorry for your quandary but I have to admit I got pretty excited today because, in 18 years, I’ve never seen this question before!

If it was me, I would be very concerned about getting sued by the author’s estate. If some of his original words still appear in the book, yet his name is removed, that would could be copyright infringement. And, the penalties for that can be severe. Perhaps the publisher has negotiated with his estate already (I seriously doubt it) or perhaps the publisher has owned all rights all along, and has no obligation to list him as an author at all.

If things go south, you could also be the subject of a lawsuit since your name will appear on the cover of a book that was previously written by someone else, despite the fact that it’s been expanded and revamped.

I would insist they keep his name on the cover until such time (through new editions released over the years) that NONE of his work remains in the book. It would make far more sense to list you as co-authors than to remove his name entirely from the cover.


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3 Responses to "“An author died and the publisher wants to put MY name on the new edition?!”"

  1. Ronny  July 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    If this is an academic textbook, it is not that uncommon for new authors to roll on and older authors roll off as interests wane or people retire. If this is McGraw-Hill, Wiley, Pearson, or another big textbook publisher, it’s all legal and handled by their contracts.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  July 9, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      The writer confirmed that the book still contains a LOT of the original author’s material. I’d be curious how his original contract was worded but we’ll never know. 🙁

  2. pamelaallegretto  July 7, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Good advice!