Even though your book is copyrighted as soon as you produce it, you may want to consider going through the copyright process.  I recommend waiting until you have the final (published) version of the document available. You’ll need to submit a copy with your application. If you submit a draft, it won’t match up with the published book and will be difficult to defend legally. That’s really the purpose of going through the formal copyright process. It gives you the ability to defend your ownership of the book in court.

Personal information such as your address, telephone number, and email address, included on the registration application becomes part of the public record and may be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases. For that reason, you should provide only the requested information.

If you choose to register a copyright, the steps are pretty simple. I’ve outlined them for you below.

1.) Prepare your book for submission via the online copyright registration system (eCO).

Acceptable formats are:

  1. doc (Microsoft Word Document)
  2. .docx (Microsoft Word Open XML Document)
  3. .htm, .html (HyperText Markup Language)
  4. .pdf (Portable Document Format)
  5. .rtf (Rich Text Document)
  6. .txt (Text File)
  7. .wpd (WordPerfect Document)
  8. .wps (Microsoft Works Word Processor Document)

2.) Visit http://www.copyright.gov/eco and click on Log into ECO to create an account

Your email address will be required but won’t be made public.

3.) Pay online using pay.gov

You’ll be sent to the pay.gov site to process payment and returned to the eCO system. You’ll be required to pay the submission fee before being allowed to upload your book. At the time of this writing, the submission fee is $35 USD for one book with one author.

4.) Upload a copy of your book being registered via the online instructions

As an alternative, you can mail a physical copy of your book, but it will extend the approval process.

5.) Prepare to wait for your certificate of registration

At the time of this writing, it takes eight months for your application to be processed if you fill out the form and upload your book electronically.

Sending a paper form and physical book extends the processing time to fourteen months. Check the status by logging in to the eCO site and clicking on the blue case number associated with your claim in the Open Cases table at the bottom of the Welcome screen.

I have seen some web articles which advise you to mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself as proof of ownership, however, the copyright office says this provides you no protection in a court of law and doesn’t substitute for formal registration.

Finally, the United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights.  The United States does not have copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright, visit copright.gov.


Linda Griffin
Linda Griffin

Linda Griffin is the author of the book, Maximum Occupancy: How Smart Innkeepers put heads in beds in every season and the founder of ExpertAuthor411.com She is currently working on her second book, Book Smarts: The ninety day guide to writing and self-publishing for busy professionals.

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