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You've worked, you've toiled and you've even cried a little, but now your book is done, completed perfect. Now that your manuscript is ready, how do you keep your masterpiece, well, yours?

Choose an Online Publishing Company

As you may know, when you publish with a traditional publishing house, you sign over all rights to your book. This means the publishing company can do whatever they want to your work including adding and deleting portions of it.

Fortunately, today's authors have a different alternative; online publishing companies. Using the latest technology and leveraging print-on-demand technology (a printing method that uses digital technology and prints books only as they're needed), online publishing companies are more author-friendly, more affordable and faster than traditional publishing houses. But, more importantly, online publishers typically use non-exclusive contracts, which allows you to keep the rights to your book, every single one.

By using an online publishing service, you can still publish, distribute and sell your book, but keep it exactly the way you want it.

Why Copyright Your Book

One of the best ways to protect your book is to copyright it. You can copyright your book whether it's published or not. Submitting the paperwork for a copyright registration is easier than you might think and only costs a $30, nonrefundable filing fee.

You must also have a copyright registration in order to file a copyright infringement lawsuit in the United States. "Timely Registration", defined as registration within three months of your book's publication date, makes it easier to sue for copyright infringement. In the United States, all copyright lawsuits are handled in federal courts, which have the power to:

  • Prevent further violations through use of injunctions and restraining orders
  • Award money damages
  • Award attorney fees

As far as worldwide protection, there are several international copyright treaties, including the Berne Convention, which provides copyright protection to authors in over 100 separate countries.

Copyright protection affects an entire book, not just portions of it. However, you cannot copyright the name or title of your book. Although there are titles for book series that receive some protection, usually it does no good to sue someone for stealing your book's name.

For example, although he was reportedly upset by the movie's title, Ray Bradbury wouldn't get very far in a lawsuit against filmmaker Michael Moore for using the name Fahrenheit 9/11 on the basis that it infringed upon his well-known novel, Fahrenheit 451. Although Bradbury's novel is protected, its title simply is not.

How to Copyright Your Book

To register your book for copyright, simply fill out a form, provide samples of your book and pay the filing fee with the U.S. Copyright Office. For more information, you can visit the U.S. Copyright office's website at www.copyright.gov.

If you're too busy or simply don't want to deal with registering for a copyright, no problem. Many online publishing services, like Authorhouse.com, offer copyright registration as one of their paid services.

Regardless of whether your book is a science fiction novel or a southwestern cookbook, if you take time to protect your rights, you can share it with the world and never worry about plagiarism issues.

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