Copyrights – How I got screwed out of $30k because my publisher didn’t fulfill their contract obligations

Long story short: When you see a line in your contract something like

Copyright shall be taken out by the PUBLISHER in the name of AUTHOR in the United States of America, and in foreign countries as the PUBLISHER and AUTHOR may deem advisable.

make sure your publisher takes out the copyright.

US-based self- and indie-publishers should go to (non-US authors – look up the copyrighting organization for your country). Copyrighting your work is far less expensive and more profitable (in the long run) than having attorneys deal with publisher malfeasance.

I’ve attended classes and readings by “established” authors (ie, someone who’s written more books than you), publishers, and editors, and encountered something like

4. Don’t Talk About Copyright
Never say you have copyrighted your book with the Library of Congress. Your book is copyrighted the moment you put the words on paper. To have it done officially dates your material – forever.
Let the publisher do that.

Some of that advice is reasonable: Don’t say you’ve done it.

Want to know why?

Because most agents, acquisition editors, and their associated first readers aren’t lawyers, have no legal training, and to them this signals you don’t know what you’re doing.

Because when it comes to this, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Or, having copyrighted your work is a clear sign they can’t take advantage of you later on.

But the rest of the advice is dreck: Your work isn’t copyrighted simply because you’ve written it. Want a cheap alternative to Print out your work and USPO (or whatever mail service is in your country) mail it to yourself. Receive it and never open it…until an issue like this arises. You’ll still need a lawyer and the USPO’s processing mark because that mark shows the date your package passed through their system. You have proof of when you finished your project and a little evidence goes a long way when your publisher’s an idiot.

Read on for the details of my plight and an actual attorney – who deals specifically in intellectual property law – said about it.

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The bottomline here is obvious, me thinks: Copyright your work.

You don’t have to tell anybody.

Until you see them in court.