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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Copyright Protection

Greetings and welcome to Self-Publishing Central.

Today's topic is copyrighting your work. How to do it. How to maintain it. Registering your copyright.

DISCLAIMER: The following post is not be be considered legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, please contact an attorney for answers or clarification.


A lot of people ask me questions about copyrights. What are they? How do I get one? When are they needed?

I've got some answers for self- and indie-pubbed authors in this post. If you're interested, please follow along.

How do I copyright my work?

This is the easy one. According to the United States Code, Section 102(a), "Copyright protection subsists . . . in original works of authorship." This means that, as soon as you create and publish your work, it becomes copyrighted. To say it another way, the creator of the work automatically owns the copyright on that work.

Under the old system of copyright law, you could lose your copyright protection by publishing your work without a copyright statement on it. A copyright statement is something like: "Copyright 2011 by John L. Betcher." You can use the copyright symbol shown above in place of the word "Copyright." The date is the date you first published your work. The name is the name of the owner of the copyright (initially, the author).

Under the new law, it appears that leaving off the copyright statement may not cost you your copyrights. But since it is so easy, I would use a copyright statement every time I publish the work, nevertheless.

Where do I put the copyright statement?

In books, there is a recognized format for where to put your copyright. It is included with other publication data in the front matter of the book. You can follow the preceding link for details. Or you can look in any published book for a template. If you put the copyright statement somewhere else, it should still protect your work. But the front matter is where, by tradition, it belongs.

EVERY TIME you publish your work, you should include a copyright statement!

Do I need to register my copyright?

It is possible to register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office at any time after publication. There are some benefits to registration. You can check this out yourself to see if the benefits outweigh the costs for you. I do not, as a rule, register my copyrights. That doesn't mean you might not benefit from registration.

Is it really that simple?


If you read this blog post, and check out the links for supplementary information, you probably know everything you need to know about copyrights.

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by.



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Your New Friends

Hello everyone and welcome to Self-Publishing Central.

Today's topic concerns seeking out and taking advantage of a particular in-person marketing opportunity for your books - "Friends of the ___________ Library."

Here's what prompted me to post on this issue:

Speaking Engagement.

This past Saturday I spoke at the monthly meeting of The Friends of the Red Wing Library. Most of you have never heard of this organization - or even heard of the city of Red Wing, Minnesota. The Friends aren't exactly a stop on the Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang tour. Nevertheless, it was a chance to connect to readers - and the venue was a mere six blocks from my home.

The group meets in the basement at the Red Wing Public Library. About fifty Friends members were in attendance. The atmosphere was casual . . . though I needed to speak through a microphone so some of the "less spry of hearing" would be able to follow my presentation.

The President of the Friends introduced me as a local author and offered me the floor "for as long as I wanted to speak." She didn't know how imprudent it is to give a lawyer carte blanche to address an audience indefinitely. LOL.

Actually, I spoke for only about fifteen minutes, then opened the meeting to questions from the floor. Those questions extended my time at the podium to nearly an hour and a half. At that time I decided that we needed to wrap up . . . otherwise, I believe questions would have continued quite a while longer.

After the presentation, The Friends invited me to sell my books to the group. One of their members even volunteered to act as my cashier. I sold about a dozen books. Not a lot . . . but then again, a number of the audience members already owned my books.

I also received a generous "stipend" for my appearance - $150. Wow! Twenty bucks is a stipend. One-fifty is a payday. That's $75 per hour from set-up to departure - plus book sales revenue.

Can you get this sort of speaking engagement?

Absolutely. And it doesn't even have to be your local library. This is how I did it.

A few months ago I sent a copy of one of my books to the President of the Friends asking if she might be willing to give it a read. If she enjoyed the book, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Friends some time. (No discussion of compensation or book sales.)

About a month later, I had already moved on to other marketing efforts (BTW . . . Bud Light DOES NOT want to be the official beer of the Beck suspense/thriller series) when I received an email from the Friends Pres. She had enjoyed my book and wondered if I could speak April 30th. (That was about four months away at the time.) I immediately accepted the invitation.

After I had accepted, she emailed again saying the Friends couldn't afford to pay me what my time was worth, but there would be a "small stipend." I thanked her again and assured her that the stipend was not necessary. I would be happy to speak.

Most libraries have an organization of volunteers who support the library and its mission. Quite often, these groups are named "Friends of the _______ Library." If you are interested in doing what I did . . . speaking to such a group . . . I encourage you to use the library's website to contact their Friends group and follow my method - offer a free book.

NOTE: These groups usually schedule their authors at least four months, and sometimes as long as a year, in advance. So ask early and be prepared to wait patiently for a response. Don't send follow-up emails or reminders until you have already gotten an invitation to speak.

Don't limit yourself to local libraries.

Most of the authors who speak to these groups are NOT local authors. They are simply authors who have had the gumption to ask for the opportunity. And you know what? James Patterson and Janet Evanovich don't frequent this particular circuit. So it IS available to indie- or self-published authors if you take the initiative.

I do recommend that you include a free book along with your first contact to the Friends group. It allows them to readily judge your work and shows your inclination to be generous to their library.

Although it may be most convenient for you to start with libraries near home, remember to also contact libraries in parts of the country where you may be vacationing, or to which you are willing to travel. This is a terrific way to spread the geographic distribution of your book. But plan far ahead . . . or they'll be booked.


There are probably thousands of Friends groups nationwide (and even more internationally). Don't leave this potential marketing channel untapped.

O yeah . . . if you don't like public speaking, it's time to get over that!

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by.