Posted by Kristen Hamilton on February 9, 2018 at 9:00 AM
A lot of my clients have asked about whether they should register their work with the US Copyright Office.
Even if you haven’t copyrighted your manuscript yet, the moment you put anything on the paper (printed or electronically), it’s your intellectual property, and nobody can take your work and claim it as their own.
Although it’s rare, in the event that someone were to plagiarize your work, you must prove that you wrote it first (and that, effectively, the copyright belongs to you).
The best course of action to protect your manuscript from copyright infringement is, of course, to be careful who you send it to. Know that a reputable editor (or individual of the publishing industry) will not steal your work. (Check out my blog post, Choosing the Right Editor.) Despite this, as a precaution, I’d recommend you forward your manuscript only to people with whom you sign a contract and copyright agreement (which I provide in my contract—just ask me for more information about this). This would be your best course of action against plagiarism or someone else potentially stealing your work.
Still, the most prolific authors who are serious about their writing career choose to register their work with the US Copyright Office. This must be done after all editing is complete, and can take between 6 and 12 months to be approved. (You can, however, start the process of Preregistration while the manuscript is on my editing desk.)
If you copyright your work, then make minor changes (think small things, like spelling or minor editorial changes), there’s no need to re-copyright it. If you make big changes to the book, however—like adding a chapter or making “substantial and creative” changes—it’s necessary to re-register. For $35 per manuscript, you can officially register your work online at the United States Copyright Office. To officially copyright your work, go to copyright.gov, click on “Register a Copyright” then on the “Literary Works” page, select “Register A Literary Work” and follow the directions. You’ll have to create an account with the Copyright website to register your work.
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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of
Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing
services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several
authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have
topped Amazon's best sellers lists.
Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she
can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her
four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,
eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is
likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.