Copyrighting Your Book

About Writing     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

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Should I copyright my book? If you are considering applying for copyright protection, it’s a good idea to consult with an Intellectual Property attorney to determine the best course of action for your situation. My comments in this blog relate mostly to conditions within the United States. However, there may be some differences in other countries.  

Anything original that an author creates is automatically protected by copyright law as soon as it is created, with certain limited exceptions under the “fair use” doctrine. At that point, you can mark your work with “© (or copyright) with year and last name”. For some fun, let the thieves worry if the Copyright Office has registered your work or not. Seriously, if you are interested in copyright law, please click this link for an overview of the Berne Convention which sets the basis for copyright protection across country lines. The United States joined this agreement in 1988.


If you choose not to register a copyright through the U.S. government, it is essential that you maintain a computer date-and-time-stamped copy of your work in the unlikely event a plagiarist forces you into a legal situation. Publication lends more authenticity to your work, and the computer date-and-time-stamped copy may not be as vital. However, even publication does not dissuade some unscrupulous perps.

Registering your copyright in the U.S. provides additional legal protection and makes it easier to enforce your rights if someone tries to copy portions of your work without permission. If you publish your book to sell copies (like most of us), then copyrighting your work offers the best protection, especially if you file the paperwork within 3 months of publication; but it is certainly okay to file after 3 months. A U.S. copyright also protects against pirating publications and selling without providing standard royalties.

Having listed all the disclaimers above per my IP attorney in the next room, I have a thought for you “pantsers” in the DIY crowd. It’s a relatively simple process to copyright a book on your own. Visit the website of the United States Copyright Office ( and create an account. Select “Register a Copyright” from the main menu. Follow the instructions to fill out the online application form. You will need to provide some basic information about yourself, your book, and how you want to register your copyright. Pay the registration fee which varies depending on the type of work you are registering. Fees for novels, for example, are typically from $45 to $125, more or less. I believe photographs and artwork costs a little more.

Submit your application and wait for your copyright to be processed. This may take several months. When I registered my books, the Copyright Office asked for 2 copies of each book for the Library of Congress. Who wouldn’t want their books in that crusty old place? I sent the copies when they asked. Once your copyright is approved, you will receive a certificate of registration from the U.S. Copyright Office.