As my late mother was fond of quoting slightly inaccurately, “The best laid plans of mice and men are want to go astray”. When I set this blog up, I had every intention of posting on a far more regular basis but to quote another famous and sadly-no-longer-with-us bard, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Life is certainly quite challenging for me at the moment for reasons I won’t bore you with and as a result, I haven’t managed to blog for a while. However, I have made a concerted effort tonight (despite being nearly deafened by fireworks) and so here I am to bring you a quick update on where I’m at with the ongoing quest to get my collection of Ethel North’s fascinating letters to my grandmother into print.
Well, not a great deal has happened since the story was given lots of coverage on my local radio station a few weeks ago. If I was expecting a posse of publishers to come knocking on my door as a result, I was sadly disappointed. I did have a call from someone who was interested in putting the letters onto an audio CD which got me quite excited for a few days, until I discovered that because I don’t own the copyright to the content of the letters (only the letters themselves), I would be breaking the law if I recorded them without the copyright holders’ permission.
Incidentally, the current copyright situation is one of the reasons why there are very few, if any, quotes on this website from the letters themselves and also why I’m holding out for a “proper” publisher, rather than looking to “self-publish” them.
Since the Radio Leicester interview, I’ve been working hard on re-writing the proposal and sample copy in the light of some of the critiques I’ve received, ready to try it with some more literary agents. Also, as well as working on publicising this website, I’ve started typing up and researching some more of the actual letters which is the bit I enjoy the most.
I recently made contact with someone who used to be one of my editors at The Guardian newspaper when I was a freelance journalist. She is now a “celebrity” journalist and writer in America and helpfully told me about the Duchess of Devonshire’s book of collected letters In Tearing Haste, which apparently sold “like wildfire” over there. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about trying the American market so at the moment, my plan is to send the proposal for My Dear Elsie to a few more agents in the UK, then set my sights on the US.
I can’t close this post without a quick mention of the fact that there is only one more new episode of Downton Abbey left to be shown on UK television, assuming you don’t count the Christmas special. How will we survive? I watched the penultimate episode tonight and was quite tearful so goodness knows how many tissues I’ll get through next Sunday!
2 thoughts on “A Quick Update”
Who is the copyright holder of the contents of the letters then? Surely the only person who knows the content is you because you have the letters?
Copyright law states that the intellectual property or copyright of the content of letters (ie not the actual letters themselves but the words) belongs to the person who wrote them, not to the recipient. If they are no longer alive and 70 years has not yet passed since their death, as in Ethel’s case, the copyright passes to their legatees and then to their legatees and so on. There was a famous case a while back when Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, used letters that Prince Philip had written to Diana in a book that Burrell had published, without the Prince’s permission. Strictly speaking, that was breaking copyright law as Prince Philip was the still the “owner” of the copyright, even though he had sent the letters to Diana. The pubilshers probably relied on the defence of “criticism, review and new reporting” which is the defence I’m going to use if any of Ethel’s surviving relatives want to sue me!