Should Books Be Released Posthumously?

Before I delve into my opinions on books being released posthumously, I though I’d share a few news pieces about me with you. Here Lies Love has now been officially released in every format available and across multiple retailers. If you love a paperback in your hands, then I’d definitely recommend The Book Depository as it has free delivery worldwide. If you love the ebook format then I have chosen to take part in Smashwords’s Summer Sale catalogue. You can get Here Lies Love with 50% off the original price. Simply use code SSW50 at the checkout. This offer lasts only until the end of July.

I’ve had an article about me printed in my local newspaper The Gainsborough Standard. If you can get hold of this newspaper, it would make a great keepsake – it also mentions my signing to Ghostly Publishing where they will be publishing my teenage fantasy novel The Black Petal – you can preorder it on the Ghostly Publishing website.

I’ve had two fantastic reviews posted online.

Jack Croxall wrote: “… a truly harrowing tale made worthwhile by a beautifully compelling protagonist.”

Read the entire review on his blog

Samie Sands wrote: “I would recommend this to fans of horror, psychological thrillers and to anyone looking for a book that stands out from the crowd – absolutely brilliant!”

Read the entire review on her blog

If you have read Here Lies Love, then please leave a small review on Amazon, Goodreads or from whichever retailer you purchased it from. Any rating and a few sentences go a long way.


“Enough of the waffle!” I hear you say, “get on with the blog.” Despite the rather macabre line of thinking, as authors we have no choice but to think about what happens to our stories and books once we enter that wooden coffin. Where do royalties go to? Who has ownership of the books when, obviously, we can no longer have a say in what happens to them. I’ve done a little research and not a lot is written on the subject, which is bizarre as death is one common factor among all of us.

islands of chaldeaI recently read and reviewed The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones. Sadly, Diana passed away before completing this novel and it was later decided by her family that her sister Ursula would complete it on her behalf. It wasn’t said in the author’s will that it was to be completed, but the family felt they owed it to Diana and her fans that they see this last ever instalment to her legacy.

Here is a snippet of my review:

“And yet, the book feels inadequate in areas. Due to passing of its author, and the story passing over to her beloved sister, I just feel that the story lost something. In the afterward, the sister speaks of people not even recognising where Diana left and she picked up, and yet I feel like I can. The ending was immensely rushed and anticlimatic. The more and more I ventured, the less and less I liked. It’s sad in a way, because the potential is clearly there for a classic fantasy story that children will fall in love with. And it is these types of fantasy stories that nurture the children’s love for the genre.”

How can someone else know exactly what was going to happen if a plan wasn’t written and followed – which in this case there wasn’t. Ursula Jones writes in the closing pages of the book that she scanned and scowled and searched high and low for clues in the manuscript on where Diana was going to venture – which eventually she did find. I’m still not convinced.

After he died of cancer in 2008, Michael Crichton left an unfinished micro-paperback-covermanuscript – namely Micro. The Michael Crichton trust went on a search to find an author to finish the book and Richard Preston was that man. A friend of the Jurassic Park author, Richard Preston says himself “At first I thought I would be intimidated, but I became entranced by Michael’s materials. It became an act of friendship, and I developed a feeling of affection for Michael even though I had never met him.

I feel like this says it all really. Friendship got in the way of what was mostly a set of notes rather than a real manuscript. I guess it was more of Crichton’s idea and Preston’s writing. Despite some rave critic reviews, the general consensus was that this wasn’t a great novel and one that won’t go down as one of Crichton’s best.

I’ve tried to find evidence of titles being released posthumously that worked, but even the likes of JRR Tolkien even fall victim to this – especially The Silmarillion , which I found difficult to read and enjoy. It seems to me that his son Christopher has made a career from publishing his father’s lost and unfinished tales. Harsh? Probably, but also fair I hope.

If I was to die tomorrow, would I really want someone finishing my current WIP for me? Would they get my intentions? Would they stick to my plan, or would they have their own voice and try and implement their own way of things somewhere in there? I’m afraid I would have to say I wouldn’t. My voice and way of description is important to me – very important to me as one of my editors will tell you! I can get extremely defensive of how I would like things to be and as a result, I would be worried another may not be able to pull things off successfully.

But then I guess you have to think of your readers. Would they want one last novel to remember you by? I’m not entirely sure – what do you guys thinks?



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7 thoughts on “Should Books Be Released Posthumously?

  1. Very interesting post Dan. One such novel that absolutely works is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, from notes and an unfinished manuscript by Siobhan O’Dowd. Such a beautiful story and one of my fave YA titles ever. As for releasing my own stuff posthumously, I’d personally want it finished if I was significantly into a project, if only to give a group of relatives/friends one final experience with me 🙂

    1. Great suggestion, Jack – I’ve not heard of it myself and one I should probably check out if it is one of your fav YA titles.

      That’s why I wrote this post to see what people think – I can definitely see your point though 🙂

  2. Thought-provoking stuff, Dan! For me, I have so many finished manuscripts on my computer and if something happened to me, I wouldn’t want them to just be lost. I’d want someone to get them edited and published, but it’s a bit different with unfinished manuscripts. I just can’t imagine that anyone would ‘get’ my characters or stories the way I do. When I’m writing, I love my characters and I keep writing because I end up feeling that they *need* to have their stories told, I owe it to them to give them an ending, and I don’t think anyone else would feel that way. To someone else, they’d just be words on a screen. Also, no one would be able to decipher my rambling, chaotic notes of an outline!

    1. Very well put, Jaimie. Thanks for reading 🙂 I agree with you on the unfinished manuscript point – we love our characters too much!

  3. This post reminds me of the storm caused when Stieg Larsson died. The entire debacle would make a best seller in itself.

    I have in my will that my daughter will inherit all rights to my books and finish any unfinished novels (if she wants to). I think it’s good to choose someone just in case 😉

  4. I have my copy of the book and am looking forward to reading it.

    On a side note – you may need to update your Smashwords author page.

    On another side note – I’ll do a review (but I’m no good at them and this is why reviews from me are rare) 😉 Best of luck with the reviews. Last month after 500+ downloads of Let Sleeping Gods Lie I only received two new reviews. They’re as rare as hens teeth lately.

    1. Thanks, Dianne. And thanks for the Smashwords tip – I’ve updated it now 😉 500 downloads! That’s an amazing amount of books! I’m very jealous!

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