Everyone recognizes that signature symbol denoting copyright, the encircled small letter “c.” That little symbol sends a potent message, something along the lines of “Back off, Buster, this work belongs to me!”

When writing the copyright page for our book, most of us assume that registering a book copyright is a given. The surprising news is that getting a book copyright is not required when publishing a book, as current law already protects our written work.

So, if a book copyright is not considered a mandatory step in the publishing process, then why go to the bother of registering one? After all, authoring and publishing the book is already a monumental task, so why add an unnecessary item to the to-do list?

While true that a copyright is not a required element for publication, having one will add more legal protection, and credence, to the work.

Do I Need to Copyright My Book?

Most aspiring authors aim to follow timeworn publishing guidelines. They may just assume their book needs to be copyrighted, and then go about learning how to copyright a book.

However, in 1989, U.S. copyright laws were revised per the outcome of the Berne Convention. Since then, any written works are legally protected the minute you put pen to paper.

This means that all literary works are protected under intellectual property laws, whether or not they hold a registered copyright. While tempting to skip over the copyright step altogether, keep in mind that if your work is ever infringed upon and you wish to initiate legal action against the perpetrator, the book must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you have decided to rely on the words, “All Rights Reserved,” and the copyright symbol to deter those would-be plagiarists without actually registering for a copyright, you had better hope that no one ever crosses that line.

Another result of the 1989 revision in copyright law pertains to the inclusion of the date of publication followed by the author’s name.

Technically, these are no longer required on the copyright page, but most authors continue to include these details anyway. Legal experts contend that this information adds additional emphasis that the work is protected.

Should I Copyright My Book Before Sending It to a Publisher?

When you embark on the self-publishing journey, you have started your own business. The end product, your book, is going to be a source of income and should be considered an important marketable asset that is owned by you.

By approaching authorship with a business mentality, you will produce a more professional product that also carries the comprehensive legal protections of a copyright. For this reason, whether or not holding a copyright is required, it is prudent to take that important step.

Authors can register their copyright the minute they decide on a title, before writing a single word. However, most authors wait until they have the bulk of the writing and editing completed before officially registering for the copyright. Taking this step provides additional protection, and peace of mind, when you begin the task of self-publication.

If querying a traditional publisher, they will request at least one chapter of the manuscript, while others may want to see the entire manuscript. Having a copyright adds an extra level of protection against potential infringements on your work.

If an author decides to go the route of a traditional publishing house, it is important to understand that, in most cases, it is the publisher, not the author, who will retain copyright ownership.

This fact, that an author signs over their ownership rights to the publisher, offers yet another advantage to using the self-publishing option. There are, however, cases when an author gives the publisher license to obtain temporary limited permission, instead of a full assignment to the publisher.

How Do You Get Something Copyrighted?

Once you have decided to go ahead and register for a copyright, you can either do this on your own or have a company like Gatekeeper Press handle it for you. Most of the authors we work with prefer to have us register for them to save time and headaches.

If you work directly with the U.S. Copyright Office, you will need to create an account and fill out an array of forms, but it certainly can be done. To learn how to get something copyrighted yourself, just follow these steps:

  • Go to the U.S. Copyright office registration portal
  • Click on the “Literary Works” tab
  • Click on the “Register a Literary Work” tab on the right side of the page
  • Create an account with the Copyright Office
  • Go to “Copyright Registration” on the left, and then “Register a New Claim”
  • Click on “Start Registration”
  • Complete the fields of the form
  • Pay the fee
  • Mail a copy of the final version of the book to the Library of Congress

With these easy steps, your copyright has now been officially registered, and you can prove ownership of your intellectual property in a court of law.

How Much Does it Cost to Copyright?

The cost of obtaining a U.S. copyright is minimal. There are several options available for registering a copyright:

  • The Single Application costs $45 and is reserved for works where the author and claimant are the same person, there is only one work, and it is not a work for hire
  • The Standard Application is $65, which covers all other categories, such as multiple authors, multiple works, and works for hire
  • The paper registration by mail is a little more costly at $85
  • The pre-registration copyright for your unpublished book is $140

The nominal fee, for whichever application pertains to your situation, is well worth the expenditure.

Should you ever need to take someone to court for infringement, your copyright protections are now officially recorded. The peace of mind enjoyed by registering an official copyright is priceless.

What Other Steps Should You Take Before Publishing?

By the time you arrive at the point of writing your copyright page, you have probably completed the bulk of the project. Registering the book’s copyright is one of the final steps before publication. Considering the entire endeavor, could you have benefitted from some firsthand industry guidance?

As an independent author, the ball is in your court from concept to publication. Retaining control over your literary creation is a very attractive benefit when taking the self-publishing route. As great as that independence is, however, it is wise to anticipate the unforeseen snag or two you might encounter in the writing process.

If you are like most first-time indie authors, you have likely devoured dozens of DIY videos and blogs, hoping to wing it through the book writing process without needing any outside help. You probably experienced some frustration—maybe even wishing you’d enlisted some expert help.

Why not gather a team of professionals who can help you with every step in the self-publishing adventure? Instead of guessing, or hoping, that you are formatting the book properly, let the team at Gatekeeper Press apply their skills to your project for a top-notch outcome—a book that looks, reads, and feels like a professional literary work.

The pros at Gatekeeper Press provide editing, proofreading, illustration, and cover art design services, all the key ingredients that will set your book apart from your competition. DIY is great for a home improvement project, but if the goal is to publish a successful book, get Gatekeeper Press on your side!