Copyright laws protect your creative work from misuse by others. Legally, you have control over how your work is published and placed before the public. This is true whether or not you have found a traditional publisher, or you are self-publishing, and whether the work appears in print or in an electronic form, such as an e-book. You automatically hold a copyright on any work you have created, whether or not you register the copyright. Registration provides significant legal advantages like the ability to file an infringement suit. A law known as the Berne Convention also protects your copyright in other countries.
Insert the copyright symbol into the front matter of your children's book. If an illustrator worked on the book as well, he can also claim copyright to the images used. The symbol should be followed by the date of completion of the work and the name of the person or organization that is asserting ownership of the work. Word-processing software allows you to insert the copyright symbol and other special characters by using a special key code; consult your Help section or written instructions.
Register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office, a division of the Library of Congress. Use Form TX, which is available online to download and print. As of the time of publication, online registration is $35.00, while a hardcopy application costs $65. You must supply information on the nature of the work, the date you created it and the publisher of the work, if you did not self-publish. Registration makes it easier for you to prove your claim of copyright if legal issues arise.
Deposit a copy of your work with the United States Copyright Office. If the work is unpublished, you will need to deposit only a single copy; you must deposit two copies of published works. You may upload an electronic copy if you register online. If you first published the book outside of the United States, then you must deposit a complete copy of the first edition. You must complete registration of the book before you can make any claims in a U.S. court.
The Copyright Office will return your registration number in three to four months. Most book publishers register books on behalf of their contracted authors, so you may not have to take this step yourself if you have a publisher.
If you have any collaborators, make sure to include their names in the registration application. You may also register a copyright as an anonymous author.
The effective date of the registration is the date your application arrives at the US Copyright Office, not when the registration is complete.
Some self-publishing firms offer copyright registration on your behalf for a fee. The registration process is fairly simple and inexpensive; your best course of action is to register the book yourself to make sure that there are no mistakes or oversights.
- Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images