Dead authors as brands

We’re advised to become our own brand these days, to be as much a part of what readers buy into as the stories we create. This is all part of the relentless marketing that’s needed to get known, and is something that’s alien to most writers, who shun the limelight and work reclusively.

Once an author achieves a level of success that sees their name as recognisable as that of their literary creation, then that’s something publishers will capitalise on – even after the writer dies.

It’s happened with the James Bond series of books, where nine authors have written continuations of the secret agent’s adventures since his creator Ian Fleming died in 1964. These include well-known writers, such as Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd and Jeffery Deaver.

Stieg Larsson’s untimely death has seen some nasty squabbling between his civil partner of many years and his family, about the fate of the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, including the continuation of the series. A fourth Millennium novel is about to be published, written by David Lagercrantz, a chameleon of a writer who specialises in mimicking the voices of others.

This has caused much controversy, but I can’t say that I’m surprised it’s happened. After all, if J.K. Rowling or E.L. James dropped dead, do you really think that more novels would not appear, using their brand name?

What do you make of this practice? Imagine your own identity as an author being continued after your death – would you be pleased for the ongoing fame (and income for your family), or offended that you were being exploited?

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Stieg Larsson

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