Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page

by | Oct 28, 2009

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.

 
Photo: Blue Diamond Gallery

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

272 Comments

  1. Joe Davis

    I published a book using a hybrid publisher. I’m now working on a revision. How might I add this information (i.e., revision, not edition) to the copyright page?

    Reply
  2. Kim F.

    Hello,
    I’m self-publishing my first children’s book. I am registered with the library of Congress. I also have my ISBN and barcode. Where do I find the template to copy for the copyright page? Also, may I use the city, state, and country as my address without the street address? I do not feel comfortable with submitting my personal address. Lastly, must I have a website created? Currently, I do not.
    Thanks,
    Kim

    Reply
  3. Sharon

    C, I understand and completely agree. I never include an author’s home address on the copyright page. Yes, a PO Box works well. And address changes happen. When we reprint a book, we change the address then. We also put the website address of the publisher below the snail mail address or at least that if no street address is available.

    Reply
  4. C

    Hi…
    I am self publishing a book. I have created an LLC which i am publishing under, however I am hesitant to put my home address down on the copyright page. I have considered getting a PO box, but what happens if i move and no longer keep that po box.

    I have delaying the LLCN and copyright process because i am trying to get the best answer as one has to put an address associated with these processes.

    Is there any way to get around putting an address on the copyright page?

    thanks in advance

    Reply
  5. Ari Paul

    What do you do if the book is a subsequent edition? For example, let’s say that there have been three editions, each one is substantially improved over the last and the copyright has been re-registered each time with the Library of Congress. Let’s say 1990, 1995, and 1998, for example. Do you put:

    Copyright © 1990, 1995, 1998 by John Doe

    or is it OK if you only mention the latest edition and say:

    Copyright © 1998 by John Doe

    Also, what if there where different publishers for the previous editions? Is it important to mention them and the year they were published in the book? Is it required? For example:

    This edition published by Echo Books, 1998

    First published 1990 by Harper Perennial
    Second edition published 1995 by Penguin

    Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Sharon

    Manuel, the copyright page goes on the back of the title page.

    Reply
  7. Manuel

    Where should the copyright page be placed in the book , front page or back page?

    Reply
  8. Bridget New

    Hello,

    I’ve already written my book, and it’s being self-published. It will print within a day. I will also apply for my copyright within the next day. The copyright page is a part of the document. Is it okay to submit the copyright page to the US Copyright Office when I apply for it, or should I remove that page from my written work?

    Reply
      • ryson

        When i send my self written book for copyright protection do they give me the ‘copyright page’ to be put inside of my book?, or Where do i get the Copyright Page from?

        Reply
  9. Roxy

    Hello

    If i am a self publisher and am having my book printed in China- who would i write down as a my publishing company?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Roxy, publishing a book and printing a book are two different things. The printer just prints/manufactures the book; they do not publish it. You are the publisher and whatever kind of company you create is your publishing company. This article offers good information on setting up a company: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/12/how-to-create-your-publishing-company/.

      Reply
  10. G.T. Catapano

    What if you are publishing through amazon? What would need to be on the copyright page if you publishing on there?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      G.T., your copyright page should contain all the information discussed in the article above–it doesn’t matter if your book is being printed using CreateSpace or a short run or offset printer or is an e-book.

      Reply
  11. Carmen Amedori

    If my work is registered with the Writers Guild and also the Library of Congress, do I need a copyright? Would a publication date page suffice?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Hi, Carmen,

      You still need to file for copyright registration within 90 days of your publication date.

      Reply
      • carmen amedori

        Cool. Thank you

        Reply
  12. Mariano George

    If I have not submitted to copyright protection, can I still put the copyright page?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Mariano, the copyright page and the copyright protection (which you get after you file for the copyright) are two different items. The article above has everything you need for your copyright page–which every book should have. This article, https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/how-to-copyright-your-book-2/, will help you with the copyright application process.

      Reply
  13. Angela

    Hi, I have simple question.

    I registered the copyright to my book in Sept. 2015. I will publish it this summer 2017. Which year do I use in the interior copyright text page? Additionally, if I’m applying to a contest that accepts books only published in 2017 or 2018, how do I make this distinction on the interior of the book?

    Appreciate your advice on this matter. Thank you for your response!

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Angela, it doesn’t matter when you registered the copyright before the book is published. The important date is the publication date. That’s the date that goes on your copyright text page. Then you need to register the book with the copyright office within 90 days of that publication date. (FYI: it can take up to 6-14 months to receive the copyright paperwork, but you are covered.) You can apply for the contest if they accept books published in 2017.

      Reply
  14. Gabe F

    Hello, I have a very silly question, almost to the point of being rather stupid, really. I self-published my own book last month, and I am currently working on my second one. In this book, I’ve concocted an imaginary publishing company one of my character uses for her own work…Now, on the copyright page, where it gives you an opportunity to put the name of a publishing company (I obviously don’t have one) on it, can I put my fictitious publishing company name there? Does this question make sense? Will I be ridiculed if I do? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Gabe, it’s not a silly question. The copyright page should have the name of your legal publishing company, which should not be the same name as the fictitious one in your book.

      Reply
    • Mizz K

      Gabe, once you self-publish you ARE a publishing house. If you plan to use that the publishing company in your story as your real publishing company, that’s perfectly fine. If not, I agree with Sharon.

      Reply
  15. Elizabeth Floyd

    I had a book published and offered in print by a company with an assigned ISBN several years ago. I have updated content and want to self publish on Amazon.

    How do I reference the updated material and date on the copyright page?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Elizabeth, the Chicago Manual of Style is the manual used by the publishing manual. They advise this: “Each new edition of a book is copyrighted, and the copyright dates of at least the most recent previous editions should appear in the copyright notice. If the new edition is so extensive a revision that it virtually constitutes a new publication, previous copyright dates may be omitted.” Here’s an example:

      (c) 2002, 2017 by The University of California
      All rights reserved. First edition 2002.
      Second edition 2017.

      Reply

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