“Can I re-publish a deceased relative’s book that’s been out of print for decades?”

“Can I re-publish a deceased relative’s book that’s been out of print for decades?”

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Always consult with an attorney for your legal needs.

Q –

Hello,

My husband’s great grandfather wrote an amazing regional book. It is a very sought after book in (our state) and we only have one copy in our family. It is no longer in print. I’ve tried to contact the publisher, (name removed), but I can’t find any information. I’ve spoke to some bookstores who would love to have it back in circulation but I don’t know where to begin and if it’s even possible. Any advice?


A –

This is always a sticky situation. Books published long ago, that are no longer in print, may or may not be available for republishing by the author or his/her heirs. If it was a traditional contract, and if the book was published decades ago, there was probably a point when the rights reverted back to your husband’s great grandfather, or his heirs if he had passed by that time.

I looked for that publishing house online for you as well. Aside from mentions of it on the copyright pages of some books published long ago, and an old Facebook page (from 2013) that has no posts at all, I can’t find anything, either. It appears they are completely out of business and there appears to be no way to contact anyone who was associated with that company. I also can’t find any mention of the business being sold. And, as you stated, the book has long been out of print.

If I was in your shoes, I’d go ahead and republish the book, provided none of your husband’s relatives contest your and his plans to do so. Copyrights are considered part of a person’s assets when they die. Get your husband’s relatives’ approval first in writing, and have them waive any rights to the book. If it sells well, someone may become jealous and greedy, and cause problems for you in the future.

If you only have a printed copy of the book, you will need to have the manuscript typed into a word processing program like MSWord. If you need help with that, CLICK HERE.

While the manuscript likely belongs to the heirs, the original publisher probably retained rights to the cover. I recommend having an entirely new and unique cover designed so you can’t be accused of violating the original publisher’s copyrights for that.

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