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Sample Inventories of Published and Unpublished Works

If you hit the writerly version of the lottery, the production company interested in licensing your work will want copies of your publication contracts and complete information on the rights status and availability of your work. The easiest way to provide this is with an inventory. The best way to prepare and maintain this inventory depends on how your mind works.

M. L. Buchman advocates an Excel spreadsheet for published and pre-released works. The version he uses can be found here.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch assembles this information, plus data on reviews and awards, in a single detailed paragraph for each work. You can see an example in the bibliography entry for her Kris Nelscott novel, A Dangerous Road, posted on her blog entry “How to Make Fearless Inventories” in her Estate Planning Series.

Or you may choose to list the same material in a text document, including the following information:

  • Title.
  • Pen name (if any).
  • Type of work (novel, short story, poem, etc.).
  • Genre.
  • Series/Standalone (list the name of the series if applicable).
  • Location of best file copy (this could be an instruction, such as “bottom left desk drawer,” or the file name on your writing computer).
  • First publication (date, publisher, and format).
  • Other editions.
  • Foreign editions.
  • Notable reviews.
  • Awards and commendations.
  • Options.
  • Status of rights/rights reversion dates.

Although you don’t need to prepare a bibliographic listing or inventory item for all your work, it’s a good idea to prepare one for all published material and material under contract. It is also important to keep a record of the working title, genre, length, and location of unpublished and uncontracted works. Truman Capote’s last novel, Answered Prayers, may never see publication in its final form, because he failed to leave a record of where to find the manuscript.

For unfinished series, especially those with a completed outline, Ms. Rusch suggests you add the outline to your inventory and describe where the relevant notes may be found. If something prevents you from finishing the series, your outline and notes may allow it to be completed as closely as possible to your original vision.

Trademarked characters are few and far between. Most are associated with billion-dollar entertainment franchises like James Bond™. If this applies to you, the relevant trademark documents should be front and center in your Legacy Kit. Likewise, your executor or personal representative needs to know whether you have sold the rights to a character, because such characters can no longer be considered part of your estate.