Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page

by Joel Friedlander on October 28, 2009 · 155 comments

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In an earlier post on how to make a book, I explained the role of the copyright page:

Copyright page—Usually the verso of the title page, this page carries the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloging data, legal notices, and the books ISBN or identification number. In addition, rows of numbers are sometimes printed at the bottom of the page to indicate the year and number of the printing. Credits for design, production, editing and illustration are also commonly listed on the copyright page.

Now I’d like to look at the all-important copyright page in a little more detail. This page and its contents are the way your book is represented to librarians, bibliographers, other publishers, quantity sales buyers, writers wishing to use quotations from your book, and production planners of future editions.

What Has to be on Your Copyright Page No Matter What

The single most important element on the copyright page is, no surprise, the copyright notice itself. It usually consists of three elements:

  1. the © symbol, or the word “Copyright” or abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. the year of first publication of the work; and
  3. an identification of the owner of the copyright—by name, abbreviation, or some other way that it’s generally known.

Together, it should look like this:

© 2009 Joel Friedlander

At one time you actually had to print the copyright notice in an acceptable form to receive copyright protection in the U.S. but this is no longer the case.

Because the © symbol isn’t available on typewriters or computer terminals with only lower-ASCII character sets, the copyright symbol is often approximated with the characters (c). Unfortunately, this form of notice may not stand up in court.

What Else You’ll Find on the Copyright Page

Many of these items may not be applicable to your book, but this is where the publisher has to fit all the legal notices and other information for use by the book trade. Keep in mind that a reservation of rights is vital, and the publisher’s contact information is practical and appropriate. So here’s the rundown of other elements on the copyright page:

  • Your reservation of rights, where you outline what rights you reserve and which you allow. Usually a nod is made to fair use, which can hardly be prevented in any event. Because further permissions will involve the publisher’s approval, you will also find here…
  • The publisher’s editorial address. Larger publishers will likely include…
  • Ordering information including quantity sales, individual sales, college texbooks or course adoption requests and orders by trade bookstores or wholesalers. In each case specific contact information may be included.
  • Any trademark notices the publisher may hold to names and logos of the publishing company or its imprint,
  • A statement regarding the environmental friendliness of the products and processes used to produce the book, like a notice that it is printed on recycled paper or with non-toxic soy inks.
  • Cataloging-in-Publication Data, either from the Library of Congress for participating publishers, or from another source such as Quality Books, a distributor who will provide this data block for a fee. This is primarily of interest to library sales.
  • An edition of the book. For instance, a second edition might or might not be noted on the title page, but will certainly be indicated on the copyright page.
  • Printings and years indicators. These are the odd strings of “funny numbers” often seen near the bottom of the copyright page. Typically at the left margin will be years, and on the right a series of numbers to indicate printings. Next year, if a new printing is needed, the plates for the book do not need to be remade. The pressman simply erases one digit off each series of numbers, effectively updating the notice. This is for the use of the publisher’s production department, and is likely to become an artifact as digital printing takes a larger share of the publishing pie.
  • Lastly, some enlightened publishers use the copyright page to credit the contributors to the book including designers, production managers, proofreaders, indexers, and editors.
  • Think of the copyright page as the place where the publisher tries to get all its work done, take care of legal and bibliographic necessities, before getting out of the way of the author.

    When you come to creating your own copyright page, pick the elements that seem most suitable to your book. Keep the whole thing as unobtrusive as possible and you can’t go wrong.

    copyright for self-publishersWant to know more about copyright? Need some sample copyright pages to drop into your book? Confused about the things you read online about copyright? Check out this 30-page easy-to-read guide. Click The Self-Publisher’s Quick & Easy Guide to Copyright for more info, or Buy Now as PDF or Kindle.

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    { 129 comments… read them below or add one }

    Barbara October 29, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I have learned so much from your site. This is my first book and your site has helped me so much.

    I am working on my copyright page and I am confused about the year. Although I finished writing the book in recently. It will most likely not be available or published until 2015. choose my year be 2014 or 2015.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Barbara,

    You’ll want the copyright date to be 2015, for two reasons. First, because the book will be published in 2015 and, second, because if you use the 2014 date, it will appear “old” on January 1, 2015.

    Reply

    shiv October 26, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Sir,
    I am reprinting an very old indian historic book, and want to publish the same on my name and copywrite it. The book is with the family of the legend who composed the book. Plz suggest how to go about it.

    Reply

    Sunil October 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Interesting…
    I also like to know its answer

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Your question is not specific enough for a definitive answer. How old? In what country was it originally published? If you think it’s in the public domain, and you can publish it, why would you try to copyright it in your own name, since you are not the creator?

    Reply

    Paul T. Goldman October 20, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Hi,

    I copyrighted my book in 2009. Now, I am changing the title. Everything else is the same. Do I have to re-copyright with the government?

    Please advise,

    Paul

    Reply

    Sunil MV October 7, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Dear Sir,

    Is the Publisher’s full address is a must in Copy right page?
    What is the4 legal position in it.

    Advanced Thanks

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    There is no “legal” position, but this is where people will look when they want to contact the author or the publisher.

    Reply

    Sue September 30, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Hi Joel,

    Are you familiar with Five Rainbows? Are they legit? I sent an email inquiry and never received a response. I telephoned (and it wasn’t easy locating their number), but they just hung up on me when I said I needed help with the check out process.

    Thank you for your help!
    Sue

    Reply

    Casper September 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I m a graphic designer and as apart of my degree I made a recipe book. I however went the extra length and made up the recipes, baked and took photos of everything. I got 50 printed for family and friends but now I want to look at getting it published correctly. So many websites are telling me I need to do different things. I understand I need to get an ISBN to sell it but seeing as this is the second edition I need to up that but I’m not sure about the copyright stuff and who I need to see or apply to that for. Can you help me?
    Cass

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Casper, see this article: How to Copyright Your Book

    Reply

    Maria September 22, 2014 at 6:13 am

    Please how are if I am not the author.
    But a written permission is granted. Where do I place it. And how do I mention the authors name in the book and lastly there is aanother contributing author who helped in the translation of a page and I was told to mention her. Where do I place her. Thank you.

    Reply

    Roger September 22, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Hi Maria,

    You are saying you have a book that was written by someone else. You have permission to print it. This makes you the publisher?

    Then the author name should be on the cover, title page, copyright page etc. It appears to me the author owns the copyright of the book, you being the publisher only?

    Reply

    Carey Conley September 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    If I am both author and publisher, which owns the copyright for my book? Should my copyright read;

    (c) 2014 Carey Conley, or:
    (c) 2014 WriteSpeak Media & Publishing LLC?

    Reply

    VM Gautier August 11, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Help! I don’t see this particular question. I’m publishing my new book under a pseudonym. Copyright already taken care of. I realize that if I want to do direct with DRM for Kobo and I-Tunes, I’ll need to get my own ISBNs. If I purchase under my real name are they traceable to me? I mean Kobo and Itunes have my real name, but I don’t want sellers to. Am I worried about nothing?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 11, 2014 at 10:03 am

    VM, best strategy is to purchase your ISBNs under the name of your publishing company or imprint.

    Reply

    Roger July 25, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Hello Sydney,
    You should have some sort of contact address, home address, PO Box, E-mail? In my books I use a web site address as I sell online. So if someone sees my book and wants to buy one they can go direct to the web page. I don’t know why someone will contact you for permission, to do what?

    I have heard you don’t need an ISBN for a kindle book, some say its a good idea to use one though. Your ISBN for kindle and print book cannot be the same, each one has its own ISBN.

    Reply

    Sydney July 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Hi,

    Is it a good idea to put a PO BOX as the publisher’s address? If not, how will someone contact you for permissions?
    Also, if after publishing the book I get kindle edition, I don’t need the Kindle ISBN on the copyright of printed book, right?

    thanks for the help!

    Reply

    Kevin July 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Joel,

    Thank you so much for everything. I’ll send you a copy.

    Reply

    Kevin July 24, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Hey Joel,

    You have been extremely helpful throughout this process more than you know. I decided to put it on the copyright page.

    Do you think this is good??

    Photo Credit:
    1 “Majesty of Egypt” (cc) 2013 is copyright by flickr.com member Christopher Michel and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
    2 “Tour Effiel Panoramic Shot” (cc) 2006 is copyright by flickr.com member Richie Diesterheft and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
    3 “Panama City from the Sky” (cc) 2005 is copyright by flickr.com member “dsasso” and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
    4 “China-6417- A Branch in the Great Wall” (cc) 2006 is copyright by flickr.com member Dennis Jarvis and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
    5 “Le Meridien Bungalos (Motu Tape – Bora Bora)” (cc) 2007 is copyright by flickr.com member Sergio Calleja and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Looks good to me, good luck with the book.

    Reply

    Kevin July 24, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks Roger for you responding….

    Joel, thank you for your fast response. I guess I’m just having trouble figuring out where in my book to put the link back to each image. All the images (a total of 5) are on the same page. I used them for a sample vision board. I want it to look as professional as possible.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Kevin, you can put them on the page with the photos, on the copyright page, or on a “credits” page you can add to the back matter of your book.

    Reply

    Roger July 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    If the photos are still under copyright you will need written permisson from the owner. The owner of the image is the person who took the photo.
    If you have many photographs you could make a page at the back of the book. Listing page numbers and names. One of the best ways is just at the bottom of each image in brackets eg. [Mr. John W Reed]

    Reply

    Kevin July 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Joel,

    Thank you for all of your articles. They have made this self publishing venture a lot easier.

    I have a question. I have created a goal setting workbook in which I have included a few images that I got from flickr.com under the creative commons licensing rule. In order to comply with the terms I must give appropriate credit to the photographers. How do I do that, do you have any sample, and should I add that to the copyright page?

    Thank you in advance

    Kevin

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Kevin, if you go to the individual pages for the photos you’re using, click through to the Creative Commons license and it will indicate the kind of attribution that’s requested. Usually it’s a link back to the original photo on Flickr.

    Reply

    Roger July 19, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Well there are two ways to publish, go to a publishing company or do it yourself? Are you expecting to make money from your book?

    Try some publishing companies, see if they are interested?

    Otherwise you can do it youself. Softcover or hardcover, what size? You will need to format and have it print ready. Then go to a book printer, print run, 500, 1,000? Then see if the bookstores will sell it.

    Reply

    Sean Motis July 19, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Thank you. I was mainly just looking to get 20 copies made for friends of mine.

    Reply

    Roger July 19, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Ok, only 20 copies, its easy enough, just go to those POD web sites, they can be setup and small numbers printed.

    Reply

    Sean Motis July 19, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Thanks!

    Reply

    Sean Motis July 18, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    How would I go about getting my book published without too much hassle? I am currently working on finishing a poetry book I have been working on the past 4 years and would like to have it published.

    Reply

    Richard June 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Joel, I am going to POD from a previously published book and am not sure how to indicate this on the ISBN page. It will be the first reprint and I don’t want to change the information every time. Is there a generic form to use? I was thinking “Subsequent reprints begin 2014″ but don’t feel that will be adequate in a few years. Thanks for your help.

    Reply

    Roger June 29, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Richard,

    From what I have seen around, here are my thoughts. You will republish a book, which means a new copyright page and ISBN or are you just going to reprint of your book, with no changes? I have republished a couple of books. If you are changing details, design, text, images etc from the original maybe then its a new book. If you are just doing a reprint only, it seems nowadays nobody worries about adding the new year each time. Eg. “Published 2012″ “Reprinted 2014″, “Reprinted 2015″.

    Maybe Joel has different thoughts on this?

    Reply

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