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GuidesUnderstanding Publishing

Posted on Feb 04, 2022

How To Copyright a Book: A Definitive Guide

So you want to copyright your book and protect yourself from intellectual property pirates (and other potential threats on the publishing high seas)? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

In the second part of this guide to publishing copyright, we’ll explain what copyright is and whether you actually need to register it. But for now, let's get into it. Here's the simple 7-step process on how to copyright a book.

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You can find the US Copyright Office’s landing page at copyright.gov/registrations. There is the option to submit a paper application, but the cost is significantly higher ($125 filing fee) and you may have to wait between 10 and 15 months for processing.

2. Select the “Literary Works” category

copyright | a screengrab from the copyright office homepage
Screengrab: copyright.gov

If you’re looking to copyright anything primarily intended to be read — not lyrics, or a screenplay — click on Literary Works then Register a Literary Work on the next page. 



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3. Create a new account

You will be prompted to sign in to the Online Copyright Office if you already have an account. If you haven’t registered a work through this site before, just tap the link that says If you are a new user, click here to register.

Copyright Office sign up page
Screengrab: copyright.gov

On the next page, you’ll be prompted to enter your personal information, as well as a new USER ID (user name) and password.

You can register your copyright under a pen name later, so don't worry too much about using a legal name or another alias at this point.



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Once you’ve logged in, tap the Register One Work by One Author link under Copyright Registration. This will allow you to access the $45 registration option, rather than the standard $65 cost.

copyright | One work
Screengrab: copyright.gov

Note: the Copyright Office’s website advises you to use the Firefox browser for best results. Having tested this on all other major browsers, we can confirm that the Copyright Office's site is just as ugly and outdated-looking on all of them. Don’t worry, though. You won’t be here for long.

Assuming that you’re just registering one book (and that you are the sole author and copyright holder), hit ‘Start Registration’ on the next page.

copyright | start registration
Screengrab: copyright.gov

5. Fill out the details

The next stage simply requires you to fill in the details of your book, hitting the Continue button after each stage.

Screengrab: copyright.gov

Once all the details are filled in, and you have reviewed your submission, hit the Add to Cart button at the top and you’ll be taken to the payment page.

In your online ‘cart’, click the Pay - Credit Card/ACH button and you’ll be directed to the US Treasury’s website where you can complete your payment either by credit/debit card or direct deposit.

7. Submit your work to finish copyrighting your book

Once your payment has been confirmed, you will be prompted to submit a copy of your book. The Copyright Office requests authors to send in the “best edition” available of your book. Depending on how many editions you have, this will mean: 

  • A paperback version, rather than the digital version
  • The hardcover edition, rather than the paperback.

In short, they want the nicest, shiniest version of your book that you have on offer.

Now that you know how to copyright your book and protect your work, make sure you check out Part Two of this guide.

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