Learning the copyright page basics as a self-publisher is a necessity for publishing your book. There are lots of resources out there on this subject, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming to figure out. Here, we hope to shed some light on this subject so that you can be on your way to making a well-informed copyright page.
What is the copyright page?
The copyright page is an important, but usually skipped over, page of every published book. Most readers won’t give this page a second glance, but that does not mean it’s unimportant.
This page establishes the copyright owner and publisher of the book. For self-publishers, the copyright owner and publisher is the same person (yourself!), as you have both created the work and are funding the publishing process.
The thing about copyright many people don’t realize is that copyright is automatically granted to the creator of a work, the moment it is created. The minute you write that first chapter, the text is copyrighted automatically to you; there is no need to go through any special procedures to secure that copyright. Copyright is granted whether the creative work is published or unpublished.
However, you can opt to register your book through the Library of Congress to establish “official” copyright. The process of registration is voluntary and is not a requirement for self-publishing your work. (Continue reading for who we recommend go through the registration process.)
While establishing copyright is the primary reason this page in a book exists, the copyright page often includes secondary information to the book, such as design credits, publisher information, and more.
Why do you need a copyright page?
Since copyright is an automatic process, it’s technically not an absolute necessity to include a copyright page in the book. Nonetheless, we recommend including a copyright page for several reasons:
- It establishes your copyright, clearly and succinctly. There will be no questions as to who owns the work.
- It will make your book look more professional. Every professionally published book includes this page. Including it will be a cue to a reader that you are a legitimate publisher (even if you are a self-publisher).
- It will deter any ill-intentioned people (or someone who just isn’t aware of these basic copyright principles) from stealing your work. Without this copyright notice, somebody may think they can reproduce your book without your permission.
- It’s a great spot to put secondary information that a reader is usually not interested in actually reading, but that is important to include for posterity.
There are some instances where a copyright page may not be necessary. These usually include incredibly small print runs for books that won’t be circulated to the public (for example, family books).
When in doubt, it’s better to include a copyright page than to skip it.
When to Register Copyright through the Library of Congress (LOC)
Registering your work through the LOC is voluntary. Registering your work is beneficial if you are concerned about your work being stolen and want those additional protections. By registering, the book will be part of the official public record and you will receive a certificate of registration. Registering your work makes litigation easier, should it come to that.
Most people just starting out in their publishing journey likely don’t need to take this additional step, as their circulation is likely to be small. Books with a small circulation have a less likely chance of being stolen or infringed upon.
If you are anticipating a large circulation or are publishing the book on behalf of an organization, registering the work with the LOC is highly recommended.
For more information about registering through the LOC, we recommend perusing the FAQ section on the LOC website.
What to Include on the Copyright Page
There are a variety of things that can go on a copyright page. We’ll go over the bare minimums along with some extras (which are optional). It can also be helpful to look in previously published books to get a sense for how these things are typically formatted and worded.
The Bare Minimum
If you want to keep the copyright page basic, these are the necessities to establish the copyright owner of the book:
- Copyright symbol
- Year of copyright
- Copyright holder’s name
These are usually formatted on one line:
©️ 2021 [Name]
Some books include multiple authors. For example, an author for a foreword and an author of the main body of work. In this case, you would have two (or more) lines indicating who owns the copyright of which text.
©️ 2021, Text by [Name 1]
©️ 2021, Foreword by [Name 2]
That’s it! You don’t need to include anything else on the copyright page, if you don’t want to.
In addition to the bare minimum, some people like to also include:
- Copyright statement
- This is the line that states, “All Rights Reserved. Any portion of this book may not be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except for use in brief quotations.” There are multiple ways this can be phrased, so adjust it as needed for your work.
- Fiction statement
- Publisher contact information
- “Published in” year (this may be different than the copyright year!)
- “Manufactured/printed in” country (absolutely necessary if your book is being printed in another country or will be shipped to other countries)
- ISBN number
- Design credit
- Printer credit
- Paper information
- Typeface information
- NOTE: Design credit, printer credit, and paper and typeface information sometimes goes in the back of the book on the “colophon” page rather than on the copyright page. The decision is largely personal preference.
- Publisher description (i.e., mission statement or similar)
- Funding credits (if your book is being funded by donors)
- Author’s note (if not already on its own page)
- Dedication (if not already on its own page)
- Imprint line
- This is typically presented as: 21 21 22 23 25 5 4 3 2 1
- The numbers 21-25 indicate the year of printing.
- The numbers 1-5 indicate the print run number.
- The imprint line would be updated upon every reprinting and is particularly useful to include if you anticipate your book reprinting numerous times.
This comprises most of what is also typically included on a copyright page. Please note that none of the above is a requirement for the copyright page and there may be other things you think to include. Cherry pick what fits for your book.
The final tip for the “extra” category: Some distributors may have certain requirements for the copyright page also. If you intend on distributing your book to the trade, be sure to check with your distributor to ensure you’re including what they require on the copyright page.
I hope this has been informative and helpful in jump starting your copyright page creation! For more information about copyright generally, or to register your book through the Library of Congress, please visit copyright.gov.