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Publishing | Copyright

Before you send a single manuscript it’s worth knowing a tidbit about copyright law. You can guess from the name that it protects your work from being duplicated by someone else. You can’t really copyright an idea, but if someone else's book resembles yours too closely you might have a case.

The good news is you automatically own the copyright to anything you write whether you declare it, register it, or know it yourself. But relying on the law alone is a tricky business and there is a process to go through to protect yourself.

For the US:
The best method to register a work is to e-file through www.copyright.gov and upload a pdf version of your file. Do this before it’s published and it only costs $35. Otherwise, sending a physical manuscript requires downloading a form and a check for $65. If you are going with publishing on demand, protect your work before it goes live so you can pay the lower fee.

This is not required, but it is recommended. Registering your work gives you the right to statuary damages if you need to take someone to court for infringement. And, provided you win it, ensures the defendant is required to pay for your legal fees which is not typical in a civil suit.

These two benefits are only possible if you register your work within 90 days of publication. (Or before) If you are going with print on demand you definitely want to go with the cheaper $35 prepublication copyright unless the company you go with offers protection as part of their service.

If you go with a traditional publisher they will again register the book but this time it will be for the book as bound, they will pay a significantly larger fee and and usually send out two published versions. One to the copyright office, another to the library of congress.

I don’t know if the library of congress accepts print on demand books and a cursory search yielded no helpful information. Frankly I doubt it. But if you are going the independent route I urge you to protect yourself. You will not need to send a physical version. The advantage of the digital age and total control.


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