The Self-Publisher's Guide to the Copyright Page (with Template)
Imagine the day of your book release. Your book is selling fast online, your book reviews are glowing, and your scheduled book promotions are up and running. In fact, everything’s going swimmingly until you wake up in a cold sweat — realizing that you forgot to include a copyright page.
Is it the end of the world? Not quite. There’s no book police that’s going to punish you for not writing one up. But there are great reasons for making sure that you include one in every title you publish.
That, and it’s super easy to create one: we give you everything that you need. In this post, you can pick between two templates:
- Do you prefer a basic copyright page? Jump to this template.
- Do you want an extended copyright page with more bells and whistles? Go this way.
Then we give you a third track: if you want something that writes it for you (and professionally typesets your whole book), you can use the Reedsy Book Editor, our free formatting tool. The Editor automatically generates a copyright page and places it in the right place in the front matter of your book.
If you’re not sure which option is for you, that’s what the rest of this post is for! Together, we’ll de-mystify the copyright page entirely. But before we get to that, let's quickly clear something up: is one really mandatory?
Do you need a copyright page?
In a word? No.
That’s because you already own the copyright to your work the minute you create it. One more time for the people in the back: you already own the copyright to your work the minute you create it! If you’re curious about the mechanics behind this, you can read up on your rights in this comprehensive guide to copyright.
So whether or not you include a notice doesn’t change the fact that the copyright is already present. That said, it’s still recommended to create one for your book. This is simply because:
- It announces that the work is under copyright and identifies you as the owner
- It discourages infringement
- Your readers may appreciate the information disclosed in it
- It’s easy and free (we provide you the template, so all you need to do is copy and paste)
Got all that? Perfecto. Let’s begin. First up, we give you the minimalist version of the copyright page.
TEMPLATE: The ‘Essential’ Copyright Page
This copyright page template is for people who just want the nuts and bolts. There are only two staples that you really need. This version’s got both of them.
Again, all you need to do is download the template and switch in your own information. But we’ll take you through the elements below (with examples) so that you understand what’s on the page.
You’ll want to declare to readers that you are the owner of the copyright — this is the job of the copyright notice. It consists of four components:
- “Copyright”: Since the symbol isn’t recognized in some countries, it’s strongly recommended to reiterate it as its own word so that there’s no confusion.
- ©: The near-universal symbol for copyright.
- Copyright owner’s name: Assumedly, this will be your name, though it’s perfectly okay to use a pen name or pseudonym.
- Year of publication: Take note that this is the year you publish the work (not the year that you first created it).
Together, it will give you this copyright statement. Any configuration will do the trick:
Copyright © Anthony Hall, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Anthony Hall
Copyright © 2014 by Anthony Hall
Believe it or not, that’s all you need to tell the world that you own the copyright to your work.
Now we need to inform people about your rights, which takes us to the next step: the reservation of rights.
All Rights Reserved
The page will include a copyright statement that asks the reader to respect the writer’s rights. To do this, you simply need to write one of the two variations:
All rights reserved.
The moral rights of the author have been asserted.
So what exactly do these deceptively short sentences mean? All rights reserved indicates that the copyright owner reserves all the formal rights that copyright protection grants. This includes the right to publish the work, distribute the work, and make derivative works out of it.
The moral rights of the author have been asserted refers specifically to authors’ moral rights (separate from from their economic rights). This way, the author declares the right to be attributed as the author of the work. You’ll see this sentence most often in books that are published outside the United States, since the U.S. doesn’t recognize the distinction of moral rights.
These days, this copyright statement is just a formality. But if you’d prefer to be a bit more explicit, this is another popular way to phrase it:
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form on by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Ta-da! In a few strokes of a pen, you’ve successfully declared your copyright and your rights. That’s all that you really need. If you’re content with this amount of information, take our basic template and run with it.
However, if you want to include other bells and whistles (such as a disclaimer, credits, or your ISBN), that’s what the ‘extended’ version is for. Let’s see what that entails.
If you’re using the Reedsy Book Editor: You won’t need a template, as our free formatting tool will generate the copyright notice and rights of reservation automatically for you. Simply go to the “Book Settings” tab in the toolbox and fill out the fields you see in there. That’s all there is to it! When you export your whole book, the RBE will include the page in the final file.
TEMPLATE: The ‘Extended’ Copyright Page
This version is for those of you who prefer to include a more comprehensive page. Here's the copyright page template for download. Again, remember to customize it by switching in your own information.
In a society where suing is commonplace, it’s really no wonder that disclaimers are popular among authors. Don’t sweat, though! Before you begin envisioning nerve-wracking trips to the courtroom, the good news is that a few copyright statements can cover your bases. Here are some popular examples of disclaimers:
FOR FICTION: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
FOR CREATIVE NONFICTION: This is a work of creative nonfiction. Some parts have been fictionalized in varying degrees, for various purposes.
FOR MEMOIRS: The events and conversations in this book have been set down to the best of the author’s ability, although some names and details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
If you’re really feeling paranoid, you can even go so far as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild did: “Every effort has been made to trace or contact all copyright holders. The publishers will be pleased to make good any omissions or rectify any mistakes brought to their attention at the earliest opportunity.”
Some authors gleefully seize this opportunity to make their disclaimers tongue-in-cheek. Take this example of Dave Egger’s disclaimer for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, for example:
Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if the author has been kind enough to have provided their real names and, in some cases, their phone numbers. All events described herein actually happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small, liberties with chronology, because that is his right as an American.
But it’s fine to keep it straightforward. To get the best idea of the disclaimer that you should use, spend some time flipping through books in your specific genre.
Did you get someone else to design your cover? (We strongly recommend that self-publishers get professionally designed covers). If you want to credit your designer properly, this is the spot for you. Here are some examples of ways to do this:
Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Trudy White
Jacket photograph copyright © 2006 by Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Design by Lauren Dong
Cover photography by Aaron Fedor
Depending on the book, there might be other things you want to credit. For example:
- Excerpts from copyrighted material
- Photographs and maps
How you decide to phrase these acknowledgments is entirely up to you. If you want examples, see these sample acknowledgments from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Susan Caine’s The Power of Introverts, respectively: 1, 2.
Ah, the ISBN. We all (vaguely) know what that is, right?
In case you don’t, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It contains 13 digits, and you must acquire one if you want to sell print copies of your book or stock the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores. To find out more about this oft-misunderstood creature, read this complete guide to ISBNs for self-publishers.
For this post, we’ll assume you’ve already obtained your ISBN. Congrats! Just print it on the page. You’ll note that you get a different ISBN for each edition of your book (i.e., the paperback, the eBook, etc). Be sure to record each of these ISBNs on the page and make a note of its edition in parentheses. For example:
ISBN 978-1-5011-7321-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-4767-4660-9 (ebook)
Edition of the Book
The edition information is pretty straightforward. Confirm whether it’s the first, second, or third edition of your self-published book — then put that intel right onto the page.
You can do this in a few ways, all of which work:
First Edition: January 2018
This paperback edition first published in 2018
Publishers never waste a chance to promote themselves! You’ll find their details on the copyright page of a traditionally-published book, which will include the publisher’s:
If you’re self-publishing, you should know that the publisher is you (not CreateSpace or IngramSpark, for example.) As for the address, if you don’t want to make it public, that’s perfectly fine. Simply provide the URL to your website and give readers another method of contacting you.
If you’re using the Reedsy Book Editor: The RBE makes this easy (though currently you can’t use it to print disclaimers — that feature is coming soon). Head over to the “Book Settings” tab again and fill out the relevant fields so that the RBE can create an ‘extended’ copyright page for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should the copyright page go in a book?
In general, the copyright page goes in one of two places: the front or the back of the book.
The most common approach is to put it on the verso (the reverse side) of the title page. If you’re uploading a PDF to CreateSpace, that means that you should make sure that it comes right after the title page and just before the table of contents.
Alternatively, you might decide to save the best for the end. If you go this route, it will be the final page of your book.
How do you copyright a book?
You might already own the copyright to your work the minute you create it, but registering that copyright is a different story altogether (and strongly recommended).
To register your copyright, you’ll need to go to copyright.gov. For more details, read our guide that’s dedicated exclusively to guiding you through the copyright registration process.
What else might you see on the copyright page?
The information in our copyright page templates is specific to self-publishers. But if you’re morbidly curious about everything that goes onto the page in a traditionally published book, we can give you the nitty-gritty:
- Printer’s key: This is the mysterious string of numbers. But (sorry to disappoint) it’s not going to be the riddle of the Sphinx: the printing numbers simply point to the print run. The smallest number that you see indicates the printing. For example: if the smallest number is “3,” then that’s the third printing of that edition.
- CIP data: Otherwise known as Cataloguing-in-Publication data, this is the Library of Congress’ bibliographic record for a book. It’s not available to self-publishers — so it’s one thing that you don’t need to worry about.
However you choose to write up this page is up to you. It all depends on what information you want to put out there for safe-keeping. That should be a breath of relief — there's no wrong way to go about it. That said, if you've got more questions about the subject, please give us a shout in the comments!
Have additional questions about copyright? Leave us a comment. We'll answer straightaway.