How to Copyright a Book

How do I get my book copyrighted is one of the most common questions new writers ask. It’s also a very important question. While most writers do not have their work stolen or copied by someone else, it does happen, and preparation is the best defense.

What is Copyright?

Many don’t know that your work is “copyrighted” the minute you produce it; it belongs to you exclusively. Once your work is in a concrete form (written down, in the case of literary work), it is yours and you have the legal ownership.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly nebulous protection, legally. You know you own it, but a court might want to see that you have registered the copyright.

Registering copyright proves your legal ownership of the work. So while you own the work immediately, copyrighting it (more accurately, registering the copyright) gives you the legal proof you need in case of problems.

If you should find yourself a victim of plagiarism, you must have the copyright registered before you can litigate your claim. Having registered the copyright as soon as the work was either complete or published strengthens your claim.

How to Register

Registering a copyright is simple and inexpensive.

When you’ve completed your book, obtain a copyright form from the US Copyright Office ( There are three forms available for copyrighting literary works, and the Copyright Office’s web site can help you choose which form you need.

You will need to submit the form, a $50 copyright registration fee, and one copy of your work in its “best edition.” If you’re copyrighting an unpublished work, you will send a copy of the manuscript; if copyrighting a published work, send the hardcover edition if one exists.

You can also register through their online site and pay only $35. Got to the Copyright Office website at and click on electronic Copyright Office.

Expect to wait from nine to 22 months to receive your certificate.

Beware of Scams

Because copyright is much easier than many people realize, there are plenty of unscrupulous people ready to take advantage of people who don’t know how to copyright their work. These scam artists will offer to “copyright” your work for you-for a fee.

You do not need to hire a copyright agent, and there is no need to pay someone else to take care of your copyright registration. Some of the agents offering to do this are reputable; others are not, and some have been known to register copyrights in their own names. All of them, however, offer to do something, for an additional fee. You can do this yourself.

Registering your copyright should be a part of your publishing process. If you work with a publisher, by sure that they register the copyright in your name, not theirs.

With copyright registration so accessible to all writers, copyrighting your new works should become almost automatic.

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