Last month I wrote about goal setting for authors to help you actually finish the manuscript for your awesome book idea. Today I’d like to talk about an important task for writers: getting your book copyrighted.
Did you know that you don’t even have to be finished with your manuscript in order to start the copyrighting process? That’s right! So don’t wait. Whether your book is still in progress, is finished, or is even already published (yes!), you need to take the necessary steps to get your book copyrighted.
In this article, I am going to explain the benefits of copyrights and how to get one for your book step by step. For our purposes, we will be dealing with the US Copyright Office. (Don’t worry—if you are not American, or if you are not located in the United States, you can still apply for copyright protection with this office. More on that below!)
Why Get Your Book Copyrighted?
What do we mean by copyright protection?
Here is the definition provided by the US Copyright Office:
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
If you have a traditional publisher, you as the author might have someone apply for your intellectual property rights on your behalf. But if you are self-publishing, as many of my clients are, getting your book copyrighted is an essential task as part of your publishing process. Why?
Is it really necessary to get your book copyrighted?
You probably think it’s a good idea if you plan on selling your book on Amazon, for example. But what if you’re just selling your book on your blog or offering it as an incentive freebie to potential followers? Do you really need a copyright?
Well yes, but actually, no. (Does anyone else appreciate that meme? Just me? Okay then.)
As soon as your work exists, in hard copy or digital format, you as the creator have copyright protection. So why do authors register with the US Copyright Office and apply for protection? Here is what the US Copyright Office recommends:
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
And here is even more good news: when you protect your book with the US Copyright Office, you also protect it in most other countries thanks to existing international agreements. In fact, you do not have to be American, or even have published your book in the United States, to apply for and receive US copyright protection.
So if you claim copyright infringement, you have legal recourse whether or not you have officially registered your work. But in case someone steals your work and you take them to court, you can sue them for damages and have your attorney fees reimbursed if you win your suit.
Here’s the bottom line: as of this writing, registering your book with the US Copyright Office costs just $65. Wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind with this one-time fee? Odds are high you will make this money back in book sales. Plus you will be fully protected in case anyone tries to steal your words or disseminate your work illegally.
How To Get Your Book Copyrighted Step By Step
If you want to go on the record with the new book you worked so hard on, the US Copyright Office makes it easy! Administrative tasks are not always on the top of our list of fun things to do, and the website is a bit clunky, but you only need about a half hour to protect yourself and your hard work. Let’s get started!
- Go to copyright.gov.
- From the dropdown menu, hit Registration.
- Then select Register Your Work: Registration Portal.
- Hit Log In to the eCo Registration System. It will bring you to a different website which is their registration portal.
You will first have to create your account. You can do so with the link under the login fields. Once you have filled in the required information and confirmed your account, you can log in to the portal.
On the left menu, under Register a Work, click Standard Application (if it applies to you, and as the name suggests, it’s the standard one that would indeed apply to most folks). You can read on the next page the requirements for the standard application to make sure you are about to request the correct form of copyright protection.
From there, the 3 major steps are:
- Fill out the form.
- Pay the fee.
- Upload a file with your work.
That’s it! Just hit the Start Registration button at the top. The rest of the application takes you through several webpages, and remember, the navigation will be at the top of the page. You even have the option to save your application and come back to it later.
Protect Your Hard Work With a Copyright
At the time of this writing, the copyright protection on the standard application costs $65. It’s a no-brainer if you plan on making that money back in sales (which you should!) and if you want to avoid legal fees down the road.
In 2-4 months after applying, you’ll have your work protected by US copyright laws!
Need more help? The US Copyright Office made handy video tutorials so you don’t get stuck: https://www.copyright.gov/eco/tutorials.html
You as an author have enough to do already: outlining, drafting, revising… safeguard your hard work with a copyright. Remember, you can get your book copyrighted at any stage. It’s a quick, easy task to protect yourself legally.
And then you can leave the editing up to me!