I hope this finds you in good spirits! I was hoping you could help me out a little bit here. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about registering a work for copyright. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to whether or not you need to do it. Should I register my work or not?
Good question. There are actually a few schools of thought on this one. We’ll look at them in some detail and then we can decide whether or not you actually need to. First off, we’re going to assume you’re self-publishing. This is really a non-issue otherwise as your publisher will take care of this in most cases for you unless you’ve worked out a deal where you retain the full rights to your book. (very rare in traditional circumstances)
The primary arguments against doing it have always centered around if someone wants to buy the rights to your work. They argue that your work is copyrighted the moment it’s put on paper and that’s literally all you should need until/unless you need to file a copyright claim and go to litigation. They argue that if you register your work for a copyright, it takes a lot of time and money to transfer that registration to another party if you sell the rights. Most companies tend to shy away at that point, so if you’re looking to sell the rights to your book, or you’re attempting to shop the book to a traditional publisher, then it makes sense to avoid registering your work.
In choosing not to register your work prior to publication when you send it off to publishers/publishing agents, there is a small risk that someone will steal your story and publish it themselves. However, most of the agencies lifeblood is on their reputation, an accusation and litigation of theft would be extremely damaging to their business. So be aware, there is a chance, but it’s relatively small.
Those in favor argue that it’s a way to protect yourself and your work from the above. They also stress that if you’re already publishing your book by yourself, the ISBN will cover some things, but not everything. So in cases where you’re already published, it makes sense, but again, if a traditional publisher wants to pick you up, this will complicate the process.
So what do I think?
Well honestly, both sides have a good argument and I think it largely depends on your circumstances. If you are self-publishing and/or retaining your rights, then I think it’s a good idea to register your work. You absolutely don’t need to, but keep in mind, if you need to file a copyright claim later, you’re going to need to register at that point. Given how long it takes to register a work, you’ll need to request an expedited registration, at which point, the price goes from $35-$55, well into the hundreds… and not the low hundreds either. At the same time, what’s the stop the thief from registering it on their end?
But what if a publisher comes to me and decides he wants to buy the work?
You’re talking about an incredibly rare situation, typically rarer than actually getting a traditional publisher to pick you up in the first place. If it does happen where a publisher is that interested, you’d think they would be willing to do the extra work, or I’m sure you could work out something with them to transfer the rights. I wouldn’t worry about this too much.
Now, if you’re shopping around for a traditional publisher, that is a different story altogether. Do not register your work, because a traditional publisher likely will not go through that headache right off the bat, especially if you’re new to the field. To them, it shows a lack of trust on your part and makes extra work for them. They’re already going to be taking a gamble on you, don’t increase it.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the whole ordeal. Readers, do you have experience dealing with this situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going!
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
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Catch you on the flip side!