Updated: Sep 12
We often see new authors with questions about copyrighting their books:
...Do I need to?
...What if I don't?
...When do I do it?
The list goes on. But the actual explanation is simple.
In this blog post, we will explain what copyright is, how it protects your book, and the steps you need to take to copyright your book.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a legal concept that grants you the exclusive right to control the use and distribution of your original work. Copyright applies to literary, artistic, musical, and other types of creative works, including books.
Copyright protection is granted automatically when you create your original work. You don't need to file any paperwork or register your copyright with the government. However, registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office can provide additional legal protection and benefits.
Let me repeat that so it sinks in:
You already own the copyrights to your book right now.
But filing for copyright with the government creates a paper trail and in turn, gives you more suing power in a court of law. If you don't file for copyright with the government, then you would have to provide timestamps and evidence on your own in court.
How Does Copyright Protect Your Book?
Copyright protects your book by granting you exclusive rights to your work, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and display your book. This means that no one else can publish, sell, or distribute your book without your permission.
Filing for copyright does NOT protect your work from being stolen by others, it helps you hold the thieves accountable when you take them to court.
How to Copyright a Book in 3 Steps
Even though you already hold your copyright automatically, registering with the government can still be beneficial. Here are the steps you need to take to copyright your book.
Note: I'm going to outline the steps to file with the U.S. government but the process for other countries is really similar. The book industry is worldwide so you only need to file with the government where you reside.
Step 1: Complete the Copyright Application
To register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you need to complete the copyright application. You can complete this online or by mail.
The application will ask you to provide information about yourself and your book, including the title, author, and date of publication. Make sure you read through everything carefully.
Step 2: Pay the Copyright Registration Fee & Submit Your Application
There is a fee to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. The fee varies depending on the type of work you're registering and the method of registration you choose.
If you submit your application online, you should receive an email confirmation once your application has been received.
Step 3: Wait for Your Copyright Certificate
After the U.S. Copyright Office receives your application, they will review it and issue a copyright certificate if everything is in order. This can take several months, so you'll need to be patient.
Once you receive your copyright certificate, keep it in a safe place. It's proof that you own the copyright to your book, and you may need it if you ever need to sue someone for copyright infringement.
The truth is...the only sure-fire way to guarantee that your work doesn't get stolen...is to never publish it. And since you're here, wanting to live your dream of becoming an author, that's not an option.
But there is good news. Because the other truth is that as long as you avoid publishing scams, the chances of your story being stolen are incredibly low.
Instead of worrying, focus on doing your research. If you're querying agents for traditional publishing, make sure you thoroughly vet their agency before you send your story.
If you're self-publishing, every professional you work with (editor, illustrator, etc.) should have a contract stating that they will only use your book for the intended service.
But the easiest way to make sure you're working with the best of the best is to hire professionals that other authors recommend and trust. Authors aren't going to recommend people who have done them wrong, so this is a simple but effective way to vet the people you hire.
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