Publishing A-Z

What Goes on the Copyright Page?

I have an odd habit born of being in this industry for four decades. Whenever I pick up a physical book, I look at the front cover, back cover, and then the copyright page. I know, it’s a rather nerdy thing to do; but you would be surprised what information can be found there and what it means.

The copyright page is placed after the title page and should always be on the left-hand side (called the verso page). Only a couple of things are critical to be included, but much more information is usually provided, including:

  • Copyright notice and year of publication [an absolute must]
  • Publisher name and address
  • ISBN [a must if you plan to sell to the general public outside an entity like Amazon]
  • Rights
  • Permissions, if needed
  • Disclaimer, if needed
  • Design, production, and illustration credits, if needed
  • Country in which the book was printed

Copyright notice and year of publication

I suggest you start with the title of the book. It is then followed on the next line by the actual copyright notice.

This includes the copyright symbol ©, the year the book is published, and the person or entity who holds the copyright. For example:

The Best Book Ever Written in All Time
Copyright © 2021 by Steve Laube

If the copyright is held by a corporate entity, then that name is used instead of the author name.
Copyright © 2021 by The Steve Laube Agency, LLC

If you use a pen name, consider who actually owns the copyright. A pen name is not a real person, so the name used to register the copyright is what should match here. If you are protecting your identity with a pen name, consider creating a business entity LLC or INC and assign the copyright to that entity.

Publisher name and address

This identifies the publisher. If the publisher is an imprint of a larger corporation, this information can appear like this:

Published by Orbit, an imprint of The Hachette Book Group [address].

ISBN

This is the 13-digit International Standard Book Number that must be included. It absolutely must match the number you have on the bar code on the back of the book. (Unfortunately, an all-too-common error.) If you indie publish and do not sell outside the Amazon sales channel, this is not necessary (because Amazon issues their own ASIN number). But if you plan to sell to libraries, bookstores, or any company outside Amazon, you’ll need an ISBN.

I wrote a lengthy article about the ISBN a few years ago. Please read it to understand its importance.

Rights

This is where the publisher or author declares the rights reserved for this particular book. This typically will read like this:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, digitally stored, or transmitted in any form without written permission from [the Publisher name].

If there are exceptions to the above, they will be stated here.

Permissions

If you quote from a Bible translation, its rights and permissions language should appear here. The correct terminology is easily found on the website for that particular translation. Each translation used should appear here. If you use the King James Version, you do not need to write anything more than “All Bible quotations within are from the King James Version.” Why? Because the KJV is in the public domain (except in England where the Crown holds the copyright).

If you have used a quotation (like song lyrics) where you’ve received permission, list it here. If there are a lot of them, list them on a page in the back of the book in a special section.

Disclaimer

Many novels have language here along the lines of: “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

Memoirs will occasionally have a disclaimer along the lines of: “Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.”

Please be very careful here. Discuss your protections with an intellectual property attorney or your publisher.

Some publishers will even add their own disclaimer on this page. Example: “The story, the experiences, and the words are the author’s alone, not those of XYZ Books.”

Design, production, or illustration credits

While you can add their names in the acknowledgments and should (don’t forget your agent!), it is a nice thing to put those details here. For example:

Cover design by Fabulous Designer Inc., www.fabdesign.com
Typesetting and Interior Design by Even More Fabulous Designer, LLC, www.evenmorefabdesign.com

Country where printed

For example:
Printed in the United States of America.

However, if a book is published in the USA and no notification is posted here, it is assumed it was printed in the USA (if you are selling your book in the USA).

But, if a book is printed outside the USA and shipped into the US to be sold there, it should have the country of origin. For example:

Printed in Italy.

This statement helps the customs inspector. Believe it or not, there are stories where the country notification was not listed on the copyright page, so customs officials impounded the shipment, the publisher was fined, and the books were not released unless a sticker was applied to each copyright page, by hand, to reveal the printer’s country of origin.

It’s rare; but when you hear a story like that, you should pay attention.

More info!

There are other things occasionally added to the copyright page. These can include publisher trademark logos, environmental notices, ordering information, literary agency involved with the project, websites for authors and publishers, Library of Congress card catalog info (aka Cataloging-in-Publication notice), etc.

Why do I look at this page?

Here are a few things that I discover about the business of your book and even the content of your book when looking at the copyright page:

  • I can quickly determine when the book was published. This is crucial if the book is on a topic that needs very current information to be relevant to the discussion but was published 25 years ago. It also helps to figure out the order in which I want to read a series of novels if the books are not numbered as books 1, 2, and 3.
  • I can see if the author used a particular Bible translation. It is here where I often discover a book is self-published because they render the information incorrectly. I’ve seen authors cite the name of their study Bible as if that were a translation.
  • I may recognize the designer. (Usually a good thing.)
  • If the literary agency is named, I particularly find that fascinating.
  • If the publisher’s name is new to me, I may discover it is a new imprint of a larger-known publisher.

Therefore, if you indie publish, make sure you pay attention to the details on this page. They can help set you apart as more professional if done correctly, according to industry standards. If you are published traditionally, make sure to read this page carefully in your galley to make sure they have everything correct.

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The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

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Our Rapidly Changing Culture

Every year Beloit College creates a “Mindset List” which reflects the culture that the incoming Freshman class have grown up experiencing. It helps their faculty know how to relate to these incoming students. Click here for this year’s Mindset List.

I download this list every year and read it with increasing wonder at the speed of our cultural changes.

The college graduating class of 2014 was born in 1992. Think about that for a second. If you are a writer, you can no longer assume that your audience will understand your cultural references. In a mere six years, today’s 18-year-olds will be adults…possibly with families and jobs and children…they will be reading your books and articles.

And you will only be six years older than you are now.

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P is for Preemptive Offer

It can be exciting if more than one publisher is interested in your book. The publishers gather their calculators and prepare to make their offers on the book. Depending on how many publishers are involved in the bidding process (we’ve had as many as nine at once for a property) …

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A is for Auction

When an agent has a client who is wanting to shop for the best deal available from publishers or if there is a particular project that is bound to garner significant interest from more than one publisher, the agent can hold what it called an auction. Or if a project …

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I is for ISBN

by Steve Laube 978-0-310-32533-8 978-0-7814-1042-7 978-1-61626-639-4 No, these are not the plays being called by a quarterback during a football game. They are the ISBN numbers on the back of three different books by three different clients. Kudos to the first person to identify the three titles in the comments …

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