On 26 June, I received an e-mail from Strange Musings Press saying they were to close and that the rights from the stories they’d published would immediately revert back to their respective authors. This frees up my short story Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, which appears in their Alternate Hilarities anthology.
It isn’t well known, even among authors, that once a piece is published, the publisher usually only holds the rights to it for a fixed period of time before said rights revert back to the writer. Some publishers accept reprints, and some original publishers insist that you credit that publication before it’s placed in a second home. It’s a good idea to credit the original publisher anyway, even if it isn’t insisted upon.
By now, it’s probably safe to resubmit my other two published stories, though I would still check the small print if I still have it, or e-mail the editors if I don’t. While it’s impossible to say how an individual editor feels, I know I’d be more inclined to accept a story if I knew it had been published before; a phenomenon known as the halo effect.
In the longer term, an author has author can retain copyright for a whole lifetime plus 70 years after death, which is why it’s so important to leave a will.
In 1971, Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was made into the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder. The author was so displeased that he specified in his will that its sequel Charlie and the Glass Elevator must not be made into a screenplay.
However, this didn’t prevent the 2005 remake starring Johnny Depp, which included some elements of the sequel. It will be interesting to see what happens when the novel falls into the public domain in the second half of this century as anyone will be able to use the work without charge. The question is whether people will still respect Dahl’s wishes at that point.