In “Copyright: Keep It in Your Name” I explained the importance of keeping the copyright to your book in your name even if your publisher pressures you to give it to them. If you succeed in hanging onto your copyright, your publisher will then contact the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress to register the copyright in your name. If you publish independently, you will contact the Library of Congress and handle copyright registration yourself.
In either case, make sure you do register your book. Copyright registration is your officially recognized notice to the world that the work belongs to you. It gives you the right to take copyright infringers to court and collect any damages that result.
Copyright Registration a Simple Process
And the process of registering is so simple: Go to https://www.copyright.gov/registration/, set up an account, and register online. It takes twenty minutes.
In most cases, you choose from two forms: single author of one work ($45) and standard ($65):
- You use the single-author form to register one article, one nonfiction monograph, one essay, one novel, one poem, or one short story.
- If you choose to compile a series of articles or essays into a collection, you use the standard form. Your co-authored book does as well. The standard form covers most works including an original work, a derivative work, a collective work, or a compilation.
Note: Both costs represent $10 increases that took place on March 20, 2020.
Is Your Book a Collection?
A key word is “collection.” I was told by a friendly voice on the phone that my book, Ken Wachsberger’s Puns and Word Plays for the Job Seeker, had to use the higher-priced standard form because each pun counted as an individual work.
Likewise, Your Partner Has Breast Cancer: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person on Your Journey from Victim to Survivor counted as a collection because the journal entries in part two of the book counted as individual items in a series.
For a brief moment I thought, “They’ll never catch me if I use the single-author form.” For just as briefly, I next thought, “But what a pain in the butt I would feel if they did.” I paid the extra $20 apiece for peace of mind that my applications would go through each without a glitch.
Meanwhile, Never Be Afraid: A Belgian Jew in the French Resistance required the standard form because I co-wrote the book with the hero of the story.
No Need to Mail Two Print Books
In years gone by, you had to mail two print copies of your book to Library of Congress along with a check for payment. Now you just pay online and upload your book files, one each for the main text and the cover. The instructions state clearly: “You may (1) upload electronic files if the work meets the requirements; otherwise, you must (2) send the work by mail (do not do both).”
That’s it. The copyright belongs to you, your work has copyright-protection, and now it’s registered. Remember to include a copyright notice in each copy of the work.
If you don’t want to register online, you can fill out Form TX and return it to the Copyright Office along with two copies of your book but make that check out for $125, up from $85 with the price increase. You can see the Library of Congress prefers online registration.
Any Questions about Copyright Registration?
If you have questions, call them at (202) 707-3000 or write to their help line at www.copyright.gov/help. In my experience, they’ve been helpful on the phone, always my first choice over the help line. You have to listen to a tape but then you will hear a menu of options. Choose 1, then 0 to get a real English-speaking person. To hear Spanish on the other end, hit 1, 0, and then 2.
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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].
Do your members need to understand book contracts? Contact Ken at [email protected].
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