My cousin published our novel with (now defunct) PublishAmerica several years ago.
Up until now, I have not received any royalties and my cousin died a few weeks ago.
While I co-authored the book with her, she never put my name on the cover or inside and she didn’t include my name when she registered the copyright, nor when she submitted the book to the publisher.
How can I have the copyright transferred to my name and how can I get future royalties on the book?
– Name not published…for obvious reason
I am not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for your specific legal questions.
That said, if your cousin left your name off the cover, didn’t include it inside the book, didn’t include it on the
copyright application, and didn’t let the publisher know you were a co-author, you might be out of luck. From reading your entire email, it doesn’t appear you had a written contract with your cousin.
If your cousin didn’t have a will that specifically left the rights and future royalties to you, her legal heirs are
entitled to those. If those individuals don’t want to assign the copyrights and future royalties to you, you might
be in for quite a family fight over those. It might make more sense to simply write a book of your own. Family
fights over copyrights and royalties can cause permanent damage to relationships.
Regarding PublishAmerica, it was probably a mistake for your cousin to publish through them. See:
CONSUMER OR CRIMINAL?! Did the (Alleged) Victims of America Star Books / ASB Promotions / PublishAmerica File Complaints with the WRONG DIVISION at the Maryland Attorney General’s Office??
YOUR PUBLISHER WENT BELLY-UP? Six Ways to Get Your Book Back on the Market ASAP!
My Relative Died. Can I Have Their Book Republished Elsewhere?
Who Gets Your Book(s) When You Die? – Yet Another Case of Heirs Fighting Over an Author’s Copyrights
When An Author Dies, The Vultures Will Rise!
Never, Ever Assume You Can Use a Deceased Person’s Work By Karen Carver
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It probably depends on your family. If this cousin’s copyright isn’t mentioned in her will—and that’s surprisingly common—it will fall into the residuals and who gets those. If you family knows of your contribution, perhaps they’ll sign the over to you. And if this PublishAmerica books is out of print, they may be happy enough to let you do the work to bring it back into print.
I’d consult a lawyer about adding your name as author to a new edition. One approach might be to add you name as a “with” author. That means you contributed to its writing, as you say you did. That should be enough to link you to the book.
Keep in mind that most people regard publishing a book as a mysterious process that they could never master. They’re often happy to be free of the bother.