I've been given a manuscript written by my great grandmother over 60 years ago. She never got it published, in fact, she never got beyond just writing it. My grandparents didn't get it published and it was forgotten by my mother.
It was written on a typewriter and I have typed the entire thing onto a word doc (well over 500 pages). It's currently with a proofreader. I will then go over it, edit where necessary (nothing serious), add notes and definitions (there are some archaic and old terms) and then get some opinions on it from friends and family.
Essentially, I would like to get it published because she was a fantastic writer (wrote and directed plays) but also because her personal story adds so much value to the book. It's set during WW2 in Poland & Russia and I think it has real potential. I believe she did in fact meet with publishers who wanted to take it forward but then life put a stop to it I suppose.
I am pretty sure that the first step is to officially obtain the rights, and although she had one son, and he had one daughter, and she had one son (grandfather, mother, me!) and although there's complete faith and trust, it still seems like I need to get this sorted legally. I'm not entirely sure how to do this though?
Furthermore, once the rights are obtained, I really don't know where to begin with the next stage. I'm totally new to this and haven't got any contacts I could talk to.
N.B. I am based in the UK
You need a UK intellectual property lawyer before you do anything else.
As I understand this, you are now working on a manuscript that doesn't belong to you. It belongs to whomever your Great Granny left her estate to, and if that person has joined her in the great Library Beyond, it belongs to the heirs of that estate.
Possession doesn't count here.
You're going to need real live paper documents here.
Beyond the question of ownership, you've fallen into the "this is great everyone will want to read it" trap.
You don't know ANYONE, let alone everyone, will want to read this.
You should get some objective (ie NOT family) eyeballs on this, and by that I mean a professional editor.
You can't get an agent to read this right now; because you're not the author, most agents including me won't even respond to your query. (You're not the author is #7 on Query Letter Diagnostics).
That your Great Granny had a career in the theatre is certainly a bonus point.
Any publishing contract you sign will REQUIRE you to warrant you created, or are the owner of the material. The last thing you want to find out the hard way is that Granny left all her intellectual property to the British Library, and they now want all the proceeds from the hit Broadway musical made from the book.
And if you think that kind of thing doesn't happen, you're 100% wrong.
Seek advice. NOW.