Monday, January 30, 2012

Mark Twain and the Value of your Writing

Una Tiers, author of the soon-to-be-released Judge vs. Nuts is my guest this week.
I sue by day and solve crimes at night (lawyer and author) and there is much similarity in my two roles.    In both I create documents and edit, revise and hone until I am satisfied that my point is clear.   
To improve my writing, I read and study other works, even old wills.  That nasty habit led me to the will of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens).  Some report that it was a typewritten document and other reports say that Mark Twain wrote it by hand.  The legal language in it suggests that he at least had a co-author lawyer.  His expressed sentiments about the typewriter suggest he wrote it out by hand.
In his will, Twain talks about the management of his writings, and who should have input on decisions.    The specifics were, according to the document, discussed with his daughter and close friend and are not spelled out.  The royalties for his works were paid into a trust for the benefit of his daughter and later to grandchildren and heirs. 
Shortly after Robert Parker died, an announcement was made that his series books would continue, written by another author.  I don’t know if he made these arrangements. 
It leads me to think of my writing as an asset.  Of course I may not generate enough royalties to buy lunch just yet, but they are assets with great sentimental value for me.  Royalties may not measure the value, unless of course I sell millions of copies of Judge vs Nuts.   
How do you place a value on your writing after you die?  Is there a clause in your will or trust directing the royalties?  Will it fall into the residual clause (everything left) of your estate?  Will any unpublished works simply make you more interesting posthumously?  Pet trusts are very popular, why not a plan for your books?
 At the cemetery, the funeral guy directed the cars to park two across on the narrow (but plowed) roads.
We waited while the pallbearers struggled to maintain their footing, slipping and sliding a little while they carried the coffin from the hearse to the grave.
"What would happen if they dropped him?" I whispered.
In Una's words . . .  
My mystery writing didn’t start out as a surreptitious teaching tool; it started with a need to reduce stress after a particularly awful day in court.  From time to time I added a victim and did more editing than writing.  The process was slow. 
After meeting a slew of mystery writers, I noticed that I was introduced to the day to day life of a librarian, a food critic, a minister’s family, a several detectives and more. 
Given the opportunity, I invite you to meet one attorney on a day to day basis.  We’ll untangle a murder along the way and slip in a great deal of information about the legal system.  Judge vs Nuts will be available in February of 2012.  Join my mailing list for an email for the big release on my birthday.
Thank you to Ellis Vidler, for inviting me to her magnificent blog.


Sandy Cody said...

What an interesting post. It's fascinating to think of Mark Twain sitting down to write his will. Is it on line anywhere that I could check out? I'm from MO so he's one of my favorites. Actually, I think he would be even if I weren't. Love irreverence.

Ellis Vidler said...

Mark Twain is one of my favorites too. He's definitely irreverent! His literary critique of Fennimore Cooper is one of the funniest things I've ever read.

Una, it never occurred to me to leave my books to anyone or mention them in my will. I'll have to do that (just in case, you know :-)

Una Tiers said...

Hi Ellis:
Thank you for letting me talk about wills. I think the reason Mark Twain copied the will his lawyer wrote was in the spirit of editing.
Una Tiers

Terry P. said...

That's an intereting story and will probably get other authors to think about their own works. Thanks Una for letting me know about this. Will be sharing this so others can read it, too.

Polly said...

I often wonder about what will happen to a lot of things after I die. I never thought of my books. I'd better fill in one of my sons on where to go, what to look for, and how to take care of it. Thanks for the info. And best wishes for a successful year with JUDGE VS. NUTS.

Tom Rizzo said...

I agree, your post was most interesting, especially in light of the fact that he made a substantial amount of money with his writing but forced to declare bankruptcy because of investments gone south.

Una Tiers said...

Thanks Polly, now do you want to talk about taxes? There are estates that contract with live authors to do the continuation of the dead, including Rex Stout.
Tom, Twain wrote well but didn't invest wisely. Still he was fanatical about paying his creditors.
Thanks for coming by.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller said...

Una --

What a delightful blog post! I really enjoyed reading it -- and especially appreciated the info about considering future ownership of my book rights.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I think lawyers write some of the very best mystery and crime fiction. You have more insight into the legal system than we ordinary folk. Good idea about figuring out what we should do with our books as regards inheritance. Sure wouldn't want my heirs fighting over it!


Jacqueline Seewald

Una Tiers said...

Hi Phyllis, we sometimes have a more emotional than fiscal attachment to our writing when it represents both aspects.
Hi Jacqueline, sadly the truth is stranger than anything I would write. Thanks.
Una Tiers
Judge vs Nuts
February 2012

Irene Black said...

Loved the blog and yes you and your publisher must consider your work assets and included them in a will. There are several horror stories around about what happens to copyrights when a small publisher dies.
The probate court must decided who owns said copyrights the author or the publisher's estate.
Nash Black

10 Day Book Club said...

Always a joy to hear about writers finding their niche and you appear to be at the right bar - just high enough to allow your consumption to drive you home with legalese.

Una Tiers said...

Hi Irene: You raised a very good point, my protagonist, Fiona Gavelle is a probate attorney, maybe she will find the answer. We can also look to our contracts.

Ten Day exceptional comment, would you like to review Judge vs Nuts? Thank you for your kind comments.

Una Tiers

Una Tiers said...

Before I forget, the post office has a really nice Mark Twain stamp.

Una Tiers

Sheila Deeth said...

I'd never thought about that. I suppose if the royalties were ever enough to buy lunch I could will a lunch on me to one of the kids.

Anonymous said...

Una, great point - our writing as an asset. Interesting tidbits about Mark Twain as well. I'm looking forward to the release of your book. Keep writing.