Hi, I am wondering how to actually get the work copywrited before you send it in to a publisher. The book is not yet finished, does that matter?
I passed your question to Kevin Savetz, author of Copyright Your Web Site, a helpful e-book that shows how and why to copyright your online work and author of quite a few books of his own. Kevin wrote:
I recommend registering the copyright on your book — finished or not — before you submit it to a publisher. It’s just cheap ($45) insurance that you work won’t be used without your permission. Certainly, major publishers are generally quite ethical and wouldn’t dream of publishing your work without your permission, but why take the chance?
Registering the copyright for a book (or portion of one) is quite simple: just download the PDF of Short Form TX and fill out the one-page form. If you’ve co-written the book or the manuscript incorporates uses
some previously published material, you’ll need to use the longer version of Form TX instead. (Don’t worry: it’s only two pages.)
Both versions of form TX are straightforward, with clear instructions. If you haven’t sent the book to a publisher yet, write “unpublished” in space 4 of Short Form TX. If you have sent it to a publisher, write the date that you mailed it in that space. (To the Copyright Office, “published” simply means distributed, not necessarily printed in a book and sold.) In space 5, “Type of Authorship”, you define exactly what you have created: if the book is text only, write “text” in space 5; if it also includes diagrams or photographs that you created, write “text and diagrams” or “text and photographs”.
Now, print out your manuscript. Print one copy if you are registering it as unpublished, or two copies if you’re registering it as published. Send the completed and signed form, the printouts, plus a check or postal money order for $45 made out to “Register of Copyrights”, to the Copyright Office at the address on the form.
It will take several weeks or months before you receive confirmation of your registration back from the Copyright Office. You don’t need to wait for that confirmation before distributing your book to publishers: the copyright registration date will be retroactive to the date the Copyright Office receives your registration packet.
Thanks for that helpful answer, Kevin. Again, if you need more information about the strange world of copyright and how to ensure that your intellectual property is protected under the law, you might well invest in a copy of Kevin’s Copyright Your Web Site.