When famous and beloved authors die, we always mourn both them and the fact that there will be no new titles forthcoming, although that is not always the case. I remember when V.C. Andrews of Flowers in the Attic fame passed away. Her books continued to come out for years afterwards under her name but obviously "ghost" written by others. Long lasting favorites like Agatha Christie never go out of print. Her heirs are probably still receiving royalties. I'm not sure what the British copyright law is, but last time I heard in the USA, it was forty years for the author and then another forty for their family.
But what becomes of the rest of us, the indies, the small press authors, the one book wonders? In my contracts, there is a clause that says all of my works, which now number twenty-three, will immediately be taken down. My heirs will receive my last quarter royalties, probably not enough to buy flowers to cover my coffin. That will be the end of my books and me. I have taken the precaution of naming one of my children as my literary executor. She has a background in journalism and can reclaim my rights from the publishers. Should she choose, she can reprint them or offer them to other publishers. Of course, covers would have to be changed and the books reformatted which is considerable work. As she has a career of her own, she simply may not have the time or interest to do any of this, knowing I certainly did not get rich from my efforts. She is also instructed to share any royalties with her two siblings. I certainly hope they don't get into a fight over that eighty-eight dollars I have coming!
Mostly, I hate to think of all my characters dying with me. They become so real when I am creating a tale. As it is, I sometimes get inquiries about what happens to them after I've written "The End". What did they do in the future? How many children did they have, etc. So, I occasionally work them into new stories and give them cameos. For instance, Merlin and Jane of A Trashy Affair, easily my most successful book, appear in Putty in her Hands. Jane is now a mother of two boys and still an environmental activist. Merlin serves on the parish council. Both help Julia in her fight to save an old hotel from demolition. Celine Landry, now wife of billionaire Jonathan Hartz from A Taste of Bayou Water, also joins the cause. They are aided by Miss Lolly and Miss Maxie, two every elderly former teachers, who are willing to chain themselves to oak trees to save the building. These two characters have appeared in my Sinners sports romances and jumped into several of my single titles as well. They always add humor, driving around in their big boat of an old Lincoln and feeling free to say whatever they want as age hath its privileges. They must be pushing a hundred by now, but I still hate to have them die with me.
My family will have to deal with the stacks and stacks of books I have in our storage area, some good sellers, some gathering dust. As I grow older, I order fewer copies to resell at conferences and book signings as storage is becoming a problem. I imagine each child might each take a set of my complete works, all pre-autographed, and donate the rest to the library book sale where they will resurface for years until they fall apart. It is nice to think of someone reading my now out of print books.
All of this makes me rather sad. But, it also gives me incentive to keep on living as long as I can just to keep my characters and their stories alive.