It is not necessary to copyright your book (with the United States Copyright Office) before submitting it. The publisher just handles the paperwork on behalf of the author, and the author retains ownership of the copyright. (On the copyright page, the author's name appears after the copyright sign.) However, if you want to be sure that nobody will take legal action against you if someone else uses parts of your book without permission, then you should file for copyright protection.
In fact, many famous books did not receive copyright notices. For example, Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol was written over many years and published in 1843, 1844, and 1845 without any copyright notice. It wasn't until 1847 that Dickens gave his consent for the publication of his work by allowing its copyright to be assigned to Charles Fox.
Books are protected by law because without books there would be no way for us to learn anything. If you write a book and don't protect it with copyright, then someone else could copy part of it and sell it as their own. This would leave you with nothing out of what you had originally put into it.
The only way around this problem is to register your book with the United States Copyright Office. They will give you number words which must appear in order for the copyright to be valid. These numbers can then be used as evidence in any future disputes over copyright ownership.
Is it necessary to copyright my novel before submitting it to editors and agents?
However, many publishers require you to register your book with them as a condition of publication. This means that the publisher will have legal rights to sell copies of your book. Generally, they can do this without paying you anything.
The reason most publishers request registration is so that they can claim authors' royalties if their books become best-sellers. If you cannot be contacted after three months, then the publisher has decided not to pursue representation of your work.
It is up to the publisher as to how they want to handle royalty payments. Some prefer to wait and see how many copies are sold before paying out royalties, while others may pay you upfront with no right to back-out if your book isn't successful.
So yes, it is advisable to register your book with the United States Copyright Office before submitting it for publication.
A provision in most contracts between publishers and authors establishes an arrangement in which the publisher acquires copyright in the author's name. As a result, even if you do not file copies of your work with the Copyright Office, your employer or agent should be able to provide this service.
The only time you need to file copies with the Copyright Office is if you want to claim copyright renewal for your work-then, by law, you must file within three years after the last edition of your book is published. Otherwise, you can let your employer or agent handle all of that for you. If you go through a publishing company, they will usually take care of filing copies for you.
In addition to being unnecessary, filing copies with the Copyright Office can also be problematic. The first issue has to do with cost. The Copyright Office charges $125 for a partial copy and $1750 for a complete copy. That means a full copy costs about as much as a partial one! And since many publishers will send out copies of your book without asking for payment, you may find yourself stuck paying for files you don't need.
The second issue has to do with availability of information.
Your book is legally protected from the moment it is written. However, in order to maximize your legal rights and fully safeguard your work, you must register your book with the Federal Copyright Office.
Who can register books with the federal government? Only individuals or organizations that do not own a copyright interest in the book can register it. Non-profit educational institutions are among those who are permitted by law to register their works with the federal government. Private companies can also register their books with us, but only if they have a registered agent located in the United States. This agent must be an individual who is at least 18 years old.
How does registration protect my book? Upon registration, your book receives number increments for each subsequent edition. If someone attempts to sell an unregistered copy of your book, they would be violating federal law. Also, upon publication your book becomes part of the public domain unless you expressly reserve your copyright by including language in the title page or throughout the text.
Does registration guarantee me money? No, registration does not provide any additional protection against infringement. It is important to remember that while copyright exists from creation, registration is needed before we can enforce our rights under copyright law.
Can I charge people to read my book? Yes, but only after it has been registered.
You may register a copyright for your book by submitting an electronic registration or sending in a hardcopy application. Registration using electronic means
Is it necessary to copyright your work at all? Surprisingly, you do not even need to register your work with the US copyright office to be protected by copyright. So, as soon as you finish your self-published book or eBook, you get copyright protection.
The only time you would want to file for a copyright is if you were going to sell copies of your book or eBook. Then you would have to file for copyright in order to retain ownership of your work. There are website such as Google Books that allow you to upload your work and make it available online. If you assign copyright to your work to Google (or another company) then they can sell copies without having to pay you.
For most people, filing for copyright is overkill. You should file for copyright only if you plan to sell copies of your book or eBook. Otherwise, you don't need to file for copyright because you already have it.
How to Obtain a Copyright for a Book