As a reader, you might not pay much attention to the copyright page in books, which is typically located on the back (verso) of the title page. However, it’s an essential part of the book’s front matter, containing valuable information for librarians and bibliographers, as well as anyone who wants to use quotations or contact the author/publisher with content questions and order inquiries.
One of an author’s primary concerns is protecting themselves from plagiarism, and the copyright page provides a written affirmation that they own their creation. However, they’re often unsure about what information they should include on the copyright page, especially if they are self-publishers.
Why Have a Copyright Page?
Without a copyright page, your creative work can be stolen without any legal repercussions. Unfortunately, that can happen even if you do clearly state your copyright, but proving you are the original author of the work is essential to be protected under copyright law. This is why a copyright page is standard in the publishing business, even for self-publishers. And filing your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office at copyright.gov provides the most complete protection should an infringement occur.
What Must a Copyright Page Include?
The copyright page has to include the three main elements of the copyright notice. The first is the © symbol, either as the symbol itself, the word “copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
It is usually followed by the year when the work was first published and the name of the copyright holder. The name of the copyright holder should always be the author’s name (or pen name) — if a publisher wants to be the holder of the copyright, think twice about working with them.
An example of a copyright notice would be: © 2019 Jane Doe
Other Elements of the Copyright Page
You may wish to include other elements of the copyright page, such as the author’s reservation of rights, which is fairly standard as well. In it, you state which rights you reserve.
In books published by large publishing houses, you’re also likely to see the publisher’s editorial address, followed by ordering information, publisher’s own trademark notices, book edition, indicators of printings and years, as well as Cataloging-in-Publication data. Sometimes the copyright page is also used to list all the contributors to the book — editors, designers, proofreaders, etc. Or those contributors may be credited on the Acknowledgments page.
Traditionally published books may have a string of numbers counting up to or down from 10 on the copyright page. These numbers are known as the printer’s key, and it is a way to track the book’s volume printing runs. The smallest number in this line indicates the printing: if it’s 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, then it is the first printing. If the first number is 2, then it’s the second printing. For self-publishers in the print-on-demand (POD) world, the printer’s key has become irrelevant, other than perhaps as an intriguing bit of book trivia for your next writer’s group meeting.
What Do You Need as a Self-Publisher?
As a self-published author, you choose which of the optional elements you’ll include on your copyright page. Usually, the copyright notice, reservation of rights, and essential book/publisher contact information are enough. Some authors choose to include disclaimers about the content as well, and self-published authors include their author website address, too.
A copyright page is a must-have part of your book’s front matter that gives you a leg up in the battle against plagiarism and lists all the important information about your book. Knowing what copy to write for it should help you smoothly navigate your book publishing process, including working with your designer.