From the Archives: “The Book Doctor talks ‘Copyright’ Protection”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: June 2nd, 2010 ]

Self-publishing affords author the advantage of 100% content and property rights control, which makes copyright protection an important element to consider when choosing your publisher. Bobbie the “Book Doctor” Christmas shares some helpful tips…

Q: When I send my manuscript to readers or agents, should I put the copyright c in a circle on the title page, on every page, or anywhere at all? Should a date be there also?

A: I tend to trust people and therefore do not put a copyright mark on my manuscripts, because the laws of copyright protect us—that is, we own the rights to all our intellectual property the moment we create it. Also, agents and publishers who see a copyright mark may think the person who sent the manuscript is un-knowledgeable or paranoid, because it is not necessary to officially register the copyright until the work is laid out and ready to be published in book form.

If, however, you feel more comfortable marking your manuscripts with a copyright mark, the traditional method for showing a copyright is to use the symbol c in a circle or write the word “Copyright.” Either form should then be followed by the year and your first and last name, all on one line. It should appear on the title page only, and because it is not standard to have a copyright mark on a manuscript, there is no standard for where on the title page to put it. I would probably put it two lines below the name of the author on the title page.

Do not, however, go to the trouble of registering the copyright with the government until the book is about to be published. The content will no doubt change between the time you write it and it gets published, so wait until the book is in its final form before paying to register the copyright.

– by Bobbie Christmas

I’ll be honest with you here:

After decades of working in the self-publishing industry–as an author myself and as an advocate for other authors–copyright is still hard.  And messy.  And confusing.  For Americans at least, it shouldn’t be–the basic principles of copyright were determined (and governed) by the United States Constitution and other international copyright agreements, and have therefore been around a while.  For the the most part, after all of my experience, I feel like I can muddle along on a day-to-day basis, repeating the basic definition to myself:

Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This is usually only for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.

(Thanks, Wikipedia.)

The thing is, despite having a fairly solid understanding of what my own “original work” and “intellectual property” looks like, there are a swarm of details like the one Bobbie addresses above that end up being so complicated I can’t memorize all of the details.  And because copyright laws are serious–and I want to respect both my own work as well as the work of others–I want and even need to have full command of the necessary information to honor copyright requirements.


Which is why having the right resources on hand to turn to is important.  A good copyright resource, like the Owl at Purdue for grammar and academic writing requirements, will be detailed and thorough, easy to navigate, and always just one click away.  It really does take a load off when you’re in a pinch and need to know the answer right now.

When it comes to resources on copyright, I have a few recommendations:

  • Poets & Writers has a website dedicated to “Copyright Information for Writers” which strikes just the right balance between simplicity and responsiveness.  You have the option of starting a “Topic,” or essentially posting your own query to the P&W community for responses.
  • UW Copyright Connection may just be the most successful resource at breaking down the various complexities of copyright for authors looking to answer specific questions. The Connection looks and feels much like a Wiki–only it’s dedicated to authors, so there’s no need to skim through the white noise of irrelevant information to find the answers you need.
  • The Book Designer has a series of good posts about copyright, including one titled “Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page” that specifically addresses, well, the copyright page.  It addresses Bobbie’s comments above, and then fills in some of the white space around them.
  • The Huffington Post is also getting into the copyright game by addressing the self-publishing author’s unique relationship with copyright.  Check out the article, “Legal Issues in Self-Publishing: What Authors Need to Know” for more information.
  • Wikipedia.  It’s less of a cop-out than you think, trust me, especially if you’re looking for the historical background to certain copyright restrictions.  Sometimes the why is buried in the how it came about, and knowing the reasons for a restriction often make it easier to live within. Wikipedia also has a page dedicated to Authors Rights.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 10/23/2015


Following Webster’s legacy path, we discover that ESSAY and ARTICLE writing are a great way to exercise your creative muscles while dropping bread crumbs that will encourage Readers to discover the books you’ll write. Noah Webster wrote many such pieces which he says (in the preface of his Collected Essays) will naturally allow the writer to “give himself up to his feelings and his manner of writing will flow from his manner of thinking.” How might that translate into today’s world?


  • Webster took a season of his life to edit periodicals—the American Magazine for one year (1788–1789) and the pro-federalist American Minerva (1793–1798). Is this a skill you have, a natural talent that could build your portfolio? Seek out both paper and Internet magazine formats that interest you and begin submitting articles (400-700 words in length) to them. Follow their guidelines to a “T” while maintaining your natural and unique manner of writing and thinking to flow.
  • Webster continued to write and publish (self-publish) pieces that he knew to be valuable to the general public. Between 1802 and 1806 he issued the first three volumes of Elements of Useful Knowledge, schoolbooks to enlighten and educate the growing population of the United States of America. What subject matter interests you to the level of being passionate about it? Have you accumulated a level of knowledge about it that you could be labeled an “expert?” Too many people shy away from writing on a topic because they cannot see or accept themselves as a knowledgeable person in that subject matter when, in fact, their unique perspective is needed to advance deeper understanding.

Also, Webster wholeheartedly believed that writers—and the ideas presented in their work—needed protection from “theft.” He had experienced firsthand, and witnessed the works of other writers become plagiarized, misrepresented, and “hacked to bits” too often. In the fledgling United States “national copyright protection” for Webster’s SPELLER was limited to a period of fourteen (14) years. Although that seems like a very short time, it worked out well for him because at the end of that interval he sold the entire rights to the American Spelling Book (for its third copyright period 1818 to 1832) to Hudson and Company of Hartford, Connecticut. Those finances allowed him to focus on his major work: An American Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in New York in 1828.

ALL AUTHORS need to keep themselves informed about current copyright law. Best source: Copyrights DO expire after the death of the author (—plus 70, 95 or 120 years), so our heirs need to be aware that when that time comes, they may be able to sell that copyright as income to support our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Our friend, Noah Webster, Jr. continues to teach us about this challenging author/writer career. His persevering work ethic not only kept him and his family fed and housed, it has sent ripples into all future generations. Your work is just as valuable! Whether you’re creating textbooks or books of poetry—cookbooks or photography books—car manuals or political speeches—the words that you are placing together in concise structures of communication are necessary elements of life. Keep writing! Then…PUBLISH! ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Self-Publishing: 10 Things You Need to Know

If you are new to self-publishing, it can seem a little overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of great resources to help you decide if self-publishing is right for you and to answer all your questions on hot topics such as copyediting, copyrights, and book formatting. Below is a list of 10 must read articles for self-publishing authors. Each gives you helpful information to ensure you have a great self-publishing experience.

1. 4 Reasons to Fall in Love with Self-Publishing

Not only is self-publishing a huge trend among first time authors, but it is also becoming increasingly common for writers who previously used traditional publisher (and had great success) to switch to self-publishing. This article discusses the top four reasons why writers love self-publishing.

2. The Cost of Self-Publishing

The cost of self-publishing is a common question, and concern, for many writers. This article provides an honest look at the cost of publishing your book.

3. 5 Self-Publishing Mistakes You Can Avoid

Sometimes self-publishing gets a bad rep because of the amateur mistakes some authors make. This post will help you avoid those mistakes so you can be seen as a professional and your book can be taken seriously by readers and the publishing industry.

4. What is an ISBN?

This article explains what an ISBN is, if you need one, and how to get one.

5. Paperback vs. Hardcover: Which is Better?

This post discusses the pros and cons of paperback and hardcover books. It will help you decide which cover is best for your project.

6. Should You Create Your Own Cover?

A great book cover can significantly impact your book’s success. This article breaks down the pros and cons of creating your own book cover or hiring a graphic artist.

7. The Importance of a Compelling Back Cover Synopsis

The back cover of your book is also important. This article explains the importance of a compelling back cover synopsis and provides tips on creating one.

8. Copyediting 101

This article explains how copyediting is different from proofreading and why it is a good idea to consider hiring a professional copyeditor.

9. Top 7 Book Formatting Questions for Self Publishing Authors

One of the most popular topics I receive questions on is book formatting. This article tells you what you need to know.

10. Top 6 Self-Publishing Copyright Questions

Copyright is another hot topic among authors. This great article answers the most common questions, such as what is the fair use law and how do I know if something is copyright protected.

I’d love to know, what other questions do you have about self-publishing?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at

5 Misunderstandings About Using Photos When Self-Publishing

One of the most confusing areas of publishing for self-published authors is copyrights. Many authors aren’t familiar with or misunderstand copyright laws — especially when it comes to using photos in their books or on their covers. Here are five of the most common misunderstandings.

1. “Download Free Photos” Sites

Many authors misunderstand the “download free photos” sites.  Most of these sites only allow the images to be used for blogs, websites, and other personal applications; not for publication.  Also, since these images are designed primarily for use on a computer, they are typically very low resolution and not suitable for printed publication.

2. Wikipedia Photos

Contrary to popular belief, it is not permissible to publish all photos downloaded from Wikipedia.  The author needs to look closely at the annotation on the page where they found the image to see the requirements.  Some will require the author to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

3. Limitations

Some copyright holders will sell the right to publish their image, but their permission may have limitations on the number of copies or length of time.  Many self-publishing companies will not accept a limited authorization.  Authors should check with their publisher before purchasing any such rights to publish
an image.

4. The Copyright Holder

Just because a photo is in your possession doesn’t mean you have the right to publish it.  The copyright holder is considered to be the person who took the photo. Therefore, the original photographer is the one who must grant authorization to publish the image.

5. Subjects in Photos

Despite my previous point, just because you took the photo doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right to publish the photo.  If there are people in the photo, then the author should obtain a photo release from the subjects.

I’d love to know what questions you have about photo copyrights. Please comment below.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps, publishing consultants and marketing professionals; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams and on assisting authors with marketing and promoting their book once published. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing FAQ: Four Questions Answered

Throughout the month of July I discussed topics that often come up for self-publishing authors.  Without an experienced agent, many self-publishing authors find that it’s tough to get the answers to their questions about rights and permissions.  The July series was designed to help answer some of the questions you may have and to direct you to other sites where you can get more information on each topic.  If you missed the series, here is an overview of the topics I discussed and links to more information.

Parts of My Book are True, Can It Still Be Fiction?

Many authors aren’t sure whether to label their work as fiction or non-fiction, a novel or memoir. It is important that writers understand the differences between the two in order to avoid legal issues. The main message is this: if it’s not 100% true, it’s not non-fiction and readers need to be aware that at least parts of the book are fictitious.

Can My Non-Fiction Book be Considered Libelous?

Libelous statements are published statements that are false and damaging. They can be made against people or products. For someone to have a case against you, the statement must be three things: untrue, damaging, and knowingly false. Public officials and public figures must also prove malice.

Can I Use Images From the Internet in My Book?

Many self-publishing authors aren’t sure whether or not they can use internet images in their books. The same copyright laws apply to images found on the internet as any other images. Most of them are protected by copyrights and require permission to use.

Can I Use Song Lyrics in My Book?

The Fair Use rule does not apply to song lyrics. You need permission unless you are only using a song title or if the lyrics are in the public domain. You will also need permission to play recorded music in your book trailer.

For more information on these topics, you can click on the title to visit the original post, which includes links to additional resources. Also, if you have questions about self-publishing, comment below and I will try address them in future posts.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at