As many of you know, I am about to send my novel out for the final polishing round of beta-reads. A few people have asked me, “Is that safe?” or “Are you going to copyright it first?”
The answers to those questions are: Yes, it is safe, and No, I will not be copyrighting it first. Let me explain…
I had the same hesitation when I first started sending to Beta Partners a little over a year ago. I read a few articles that said not to worry about it. The one I trusted the most was Nathan Bransford, who said there is too much of an electronic trail for anyone to be able to easily steal your work.
Recently, when I had the opportunity to discuss the topic with Best Selling Author Jonathan Mayberry. He said that many publishers will not even deal with you if you have already copyrighted the work. (Although Danielle Ackley McPhail admitted to getting her first novel copyrighted first and not having any problem.)
When I was a kid, before the World Wide Web was in everyone’s homes (Wow, did I just date myself) The way to “Protect Yourself” without actually copyrighting your novel was to get a printed copy, seal it in an envelope, and mail it to yourself. Then don’t break the seal when you get it. This way there is an official post mark on it. This would probably work today. However, there are easier ways in this new Cyber-Era. And I am guessing a lot of you don’t know it, but you are already protected.
Jonathan Mayberry pointed out that YOUR HARD DRIVE is admissible as evidence. Where is your novel stored and date-tagged? On your hard drive? Well, lookey there!
You can also simply email your novel to yourself, and then save the email. Boom! There’s your date stamp.
Are you worried about your Beta Readers stealing it? Did you just email it to them? Guess what? That email is evidence that it was yours first. There are just too many electronic data trails out there today to make it easy to steal someone else’s work.
I’ve also protected myself unintentionally by getting my novel printed on-line so my sister could read it. (Just a copy, it was not published) It was cheaper than going to Kinko’s or using up my toner. So there is a permanent record on file with that company.
These are all ways you can protect yourself. You can, of course go for the copyright, but after hearing Jonathan’s comment that some publishers will not look at you if you are copyrighted, I’d be cautious (maybe check the requirements of some publishers, first)
If you do copyright, be prepared that you will have to “re-copyright” once your actual final draft is approved by your publisher. Anyone who thinks their novel is so perfect that there will be no changes at all is just being foolish.
Note: You might want to be careful if the publisher copyrights for you, to make sure that you still own the copyright. If you will not, make sure you and your lawyers are comfortable with that agreement.
If you are self-publishing, you need to make a choice. I think I’d copyright before I self-published. It’s easy to do, and doesn’t really cost that much. You also don’t have to wait to hear back from them. You are good to go as soon as you hit the submit button.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and I am in no way qualified to give legal advice. These are just my opinions based off what professionals I have met (or read) have offered as advice. If you have any real concerns, talk to your agent or lawyer.
Hope you find this helpful!
- Does a copyright need to show the copy symbol before one exists (wiki.answers.com)