Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office ( That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2015) is $35 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly three months for the electronic application and nearly six months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:  © 2015 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2015 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.


Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other retailers


Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).

Book coaches

Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.

Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editors

Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.

Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour


Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.

Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour


Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.

Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour

Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Learn How to Make Your Book Commercially Competitive — Now Save 25%!

In the past, I have offered two related workshops, one that presents information on how to make your manuscript more marketable and another that teaches you how to take your manuscript through the publishing process. I gave these workshops often when I lived in St. Louis, and now that I am settled into life in Maryland, I am resurrecting them here!

Saturday, November 8, 2014, please join me at Kensington Row Bookshop for Crafting a Marketable Manuscript. This interactive workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and includes personalized guidance on how to make your manuscript more marketable.  Registration is required. Visit to reserve your seat.

This workshop is ideal for:

  • Writers who are interested in selling their books, either to publishers, to agents, or directly to readers
  • Writers who are in the early stages of writing (idea stage, first draft, manuscript development)

What you will learn:

  • How to catch the eye of publishers and readers
  • Why having a marketing plan upfront makes you more competitive
  • Practical advice on how to craft a marketing hook, define your audience, and research the competition

Why take a workshop from me? Read my bio here.

And these are the notes I received after presenting this workshop to the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild:

“Thank you! Loved it!”

“Excellent presentation! Thank you!”

“Thank you, Katherine, for your input and valuable knowledge on Crafting a More Marketable Manuscript! I enjoyed the class and will certainly use the marketing tools and resources from your handouts.”

Kensington Row Bookshop is located at 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895, between Silver Spring and Bethesda. $70.
Now just $50.

Save Your Reputation: Edit Your Writing and Hire Pros When Needed

It might not be clear to all aspiring authors that their reputation is at stake with everything they put out into the world. A typo in a cover letter, a small factual error in a novel, a few misspelled words in a short story — who will notice? Who will care?

The truth is, although many people won’t be bothered by little errors here and there, enough people will be, and it is often these people who are the most vocal or are in a position of power.

The repercussions can include having your query to an agent dismissed, your short story rejected from a literary mag, or your novel blasted on Amazon and Goodreads. Unfortunately, you won’t get a second chance with an agent, and those online reviews never go away. Furthermore, once your reputation is tainted, it can be a major feat to get it back.

The ease with which a writer can become published via an e-book has magnified this problem. With an e-book, you can bypass every other kind of publishing professional, upload your first draft to Smashwords, KDP, or any number of other e-book sites, and — voila — in 24 hours you have an e-book. There are no gatekeepers and no one to save you from yourself. You can put out a low-quality product and ruin your reputation as a writer with the click of a button.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take matters into your own hands and shore up your reputation by producing the highest-quality writing you can. Here’s how:

  1. Perform thorough self-editing. There are lots of tricks to this. You can read my take on it here.
  2. Work with beta readers. Belinda Pollard has a nice article cleverly titled “How to Find a Beta Reader” with some helpful tips.
  3. Hire a professional editor. Editors abound. Find a good one to help you with whatever kind of writing you do.
  4. If you are self-publishing, hire a professional designer to help with layout or, at the very least, buy a template from Joel Friedlander.

While the professional design won’t help with textual errors, it will help your reputation. When you are self-publishing, anything you can do  to improve the appearance of your book will also improve your perceived professionalism and, therefore, your reputation.

Given how difficult it is to get noticed as a writer, the one thing you have to rely on is your reputation. Respect, integrity, professionalism, follow-through — no kidding, good editing can help you demonstrate all of these important characteristics through your writing. Mind your reputation from the beginning so that you do not have to fight to get it back.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing,, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Why a Sample Edit Should Be Cheap or Free

OK, everyone. Get ready for a rant.

I have recently come across several editors who charge for sample edits, with some charging more than $100 for a ten-page sample. One woman said outright, “I do nothing for free.”

I respectfully disagree with that approach. Why? Because the sample edit is as much a tool for the editor as it is for the writer.

money-300x271A ten-page sample edit might take two hours. To give that away for free is the same as handing over between $50 and $100, depending on the editor’s rates. But is that so much to give up when a project could garner the editor $1,500-$3,000? Before paying for a sample edit, writers should understand that the editor is trying to get their business. They should also know that the editor learns as much from the sample as the writer does.

It’s true some editors will tell you that the sample is for you, the writer, to learn about the work they will do. And that is one very important aspect of a sample edit. But for the editor, the sample is also invaluable. From the sample edit the editor learns

  1. What level of edit the piece needs
  2. How much it is likely going to cost the writer (and earn the editor)
  3. Whether this writer is someone the editor even wants to work with

On several occasions I have returned a sample edit with a note letting the potential client know he or she is not ready for editing. In those cases a writing class or critique group was going to be the more helpful — and cheaper — way for the author to improve the manuscript. If I were to edit it, I would have had to rewrite the whole thing to make it good, and that is not the place for an editor. A ghostwriter, sure, but not an editor.

I have also turned away work from people who are unprofessional, are writing on topics that don’t interest me, or are potentially unbalanced. When I was a new freelancer, ten-plus years ago, I didn’t hair-pulling-womando sample edits, and I often regretted it. Now I insist on it. If I were to then also charge the author for something that is only going to save me handfuls of hair, I would consider that a ripoff.

So, editors don’t want to give away their time. I understand. I don’t want to give away my time either. But I am not convinced that performing a sample edit for cheap or free is the same as giving away time. The editors may not be making what they would if this were an actual client (rather than a potential client), but they are learning crucial information about the project they are thinking about taking on.

In freelance work there is such a thing as non-billable hours. Sample edits, if you ask me, should be filed under that category. It is a small injustice to authors to ask them to pay for something that makes the editor’s job so much easier. It’s not like there is a dearth of editors in the world, either. Finding a good editor who doesn’t charge for a sample edit is absolutely possible.

Writers, think twice before agreeing to pay for a sample edit. It’s not necessary. And more than likely, that $100 means more to you than it does to the editor.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.

Why Does Editing Take So Long?

“Hi, I’m looking for an editor. I have all of my notes and reference books, I just need help putting it together.”

Hmm, I thought. Sounds like this guy needs more than copyediting. Maybe I can refer him to a book coach. . . .

And then,

“I need it Sunday.”

It was Friday afternoon. I’m not sure what this person thought was going to happen, but certainly no one could seriously expect an editor, or really any publishing professional, to create something out of nothing and do so in 48 hours.

This is an extreme example of the sometimes unrealistic expectations writers have of how quickly an editor can work. Still, even reasonable people want to know why copyediting takes three to four weeks, why development takes eight to twelve weeks or longer depending on how complex of a development it is. It’s a fair question. Here are my thoughts.

Editors read every word. 

As I have mentioned before in this blog, editors do not skim your manuscript. They read every word to make sure it is spelled correctly, assess every comma and semicolon to make sure it is used correctly, and evaluate every sentence and paragraph to make sure it makes sense and is in the best place for it. They check grammar and ensure consistency throughout the book, and they ensure each thought flows naturally from the one before it. Such careful reading means taking your time.

Editors read every word multiple times.

To help make sure as many errors as possible have been caught, copyeditors read a manuscript twice. Developmental editors may read the manuscript three or four times. Given that, different editors may average between four and ten pages an hour. If the development is extensive — you haven’t settled on a focus for the book, for example — the pace could drop to two or three pages per hour.

Editors research the best solution to a problem.

Four to ten pages an hour? Even when reading each word carefully, that seems awfully slow to the average reader.

The holdup is that editors don’t simply know all of the rules of grammar, spelling, and usage. They know a lot of them, but the rest they look up. Dictionaries, style guides, dedicated websites for areas of expertise — searching through these resources takes time. Experienced editors know the best places to look for answers, but they still have to look.

Related to this, editors keep a style sheet of all the terms and problem areas they research. That includes any proper names, unusual spellings, special treatment of key terms, and more that may be found in your book. Keeping the list in itself takes time. Ensuring its accuracy adds more time. However, these lists are essential in achieving consistency and correctness throughout a manuscript. They also are extremely helpful for anyone working on the project after editing, such as the designer and proofreader.

Editors have other projects.

Perhaps hardest for writers to understand is that they probably are not their editor’s only client. I like to make my authors feel as if they are my only client, but when it comes to how fast I can finish a project, the two or three other manuscripts on my desk have to come into consideration. I do not work on one project for eight hours a day. If I did, my eyes would glaze over and I would begin to make mistakes. Instead, I work on each project for a few hours every day. This helps me to stay engaged, critical for good editing.

I, as many editors do, try very hard to give my clients an accurate estimate of the amount of time a project will take. As I am a businessperson, it is in my best interest to finish a project as quickly as I can while still providing the highest quality I can. That is how I earn my clients’ trust and repeat business. That means, most likely, your editor is not dragging her feet in editing your manuscript. (It’s possible, but not likely.) More likely, she is working methodically to help you create the best possible book.

What You Can Do About It

It’s not always nice to have to wait for your editor to get through your manuscript. You might be itching to get past copyediting and on to design and layout. You may have promised someone you’d have the edited manuscript ready by a certain date. To get a good edit, however, you have to allow enough time. Take these steps to help smooth this process:

  • Build into your schedule an appropriate amount of time for each stage of editing (development, 2-6 months; copyediting, 3-5 weeks; proofreading, 2-4 weeks).
  • Contact your editor early to get on her schedule. Alert your editor asap if you will miss the date you agreed to submit the manuscript.
  • Take steps to turn over a manuscript that is as free of errors as you are able to get it.

I will say again that the best thing an author can do is find the right editor for you, one who can meet your budget, your schedule, and your expectations for quality. If you have doubts that your editor is using her time wisely, ask for an update.  If you determine your editor really isn’t performing to your standards, you may opt to pay for the work thus far and find someone else. Just keep in mind that a lot goes into good editing and often a little patience now pays off in the long run.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Is Money the New Gatekeeper?

In publishing, the gatekeeper is the person who keeps your book idea from becoming a reality. Traditionally that has been the publishing houses and the agents who say “No, thank you” to your proposal. But self-publishing has eliminated those forces. Authors can circumvent the whole agent-publishing house system and put out their own book, in a matter of hours if they so choose, and no one can stop them.

To create a book that people will actually purchase, however, you need to do more than just publish your first draft. You need a professional editor and a professional designer (the designer so people will open your book, the editor so they will continue to read it). And those things cost money. So I ask you, Is money the new gatekeeper?

I posed this question to some colleagues online and the response from some was that quality is and always has been the only gatekeeper. Having read some of the awful books that have been published, both traditionally and independently, and having read some of the terrific books that may never be published, I can’t say I agree. Quality, while not irrelevant, is only part of the issue. How will you achieve quality? All on your own? Not so for most of us.

Curiously, money has become a barrier for those looking for a traditional publisher as well. Particularly with fiction writers, who are expected to approach agents with a completed manuscript, the new expectation is that authors will turn in manuscripts that are publication ready. In fact, one agent I know said while she used to accept a manuscript if it was 99% ready, she now only accepts those that are 100% ready. That was demoralizing to me, and I don’t even write fiction. And for nonfiction writers? Even these authors, who often have their book ideas accepted before the writing is complete, may be asked to pay for editing before submitting the final manuscript to the publisher. If they don’t, the house is fully prepared to end the deal.

I have explained before why editing costs so much, and I would not argue that editors or designers should charge less than they are worth. But if you believe as I believe that everyone needs an editor (that is my company motto, by the way), you have to admit that money plays a significant role in whose books get read and whose don’t, whose books get published and whose don’t. In the past that investment came from the publishing house. Now more often than not it is laid at the foot of the author.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Cost So Much? (Part 2)

It’s the rare book that doesn’t require a good stiff edit.

–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

The Breakdown

With the importance of editing well established, it’s time to find out how editors figure their fees. It may seem mysterious, but it’s really quite a simple formula:

amount of work × rate of pay = the cost of editing

Different editors may charge by the hour, by the word, by the page, or a flat fee. However, all of these metrics translate into an estimate of how much work will be required of them. The other variable in the equation, rate of pay, is based on the service requested.

Here’s a breakdown of how the two variables are determined.

Amount of work

Length, complexity, schedule, and level of edit are the main factors in determining how much work a particular manuscript will demand. Very long manuscripts, even the well-written ones, take a lot of time to read and edit. Very complex manuscripts, such as those with a significant number of references or large amounts of artwork, take a lot of time and even more brain power to keep the details straight. Short deadlines mean the editor may have to put other projects aside and work nights and weekends to finish on time. A stiff developmental edit, which covers high-level issues such as arrangement of individual chapters, transitions from chapter to chapter and paragraph to paragraph, and organization of the book as a whole, requires vision, attention to detail, and an impeccable ability to work with authors at their most vulnerable.

An editor evaluates these factors and balances them against her experience as to the amount of effort it will take to complete the project on time and with the highest possible quality. Cost estimates based on word count, page count, or a flat fee all attempt to capture this amount of work. Pay by the hour is easiest for most people to understand, and often these other metrics come down to how much of the editor’s time a project will take.

Rate of pay

Different services are charged at different rates. Often the rate is commensurate with the amount of work required, so developmental editing is more than copyediting, and copyediting is more than proofreading.  Why is this? As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, the cost of editing tends to be a question of value added. If your book is in terrible shape, the value your editor brings to the project increases significantly. At times it would seem the editor deserves coauthorship. In place of that, the editor is paid up front for her work.

For standard rates you can expect to pay, see the Editorial Freelancers Association rate chart. These rates are based on a national survey of what publishing professionals charge. If they seem high to you — “$45 an hour? I wish!” — remember that the self-employed pay higher taxes and are responsible for their own health insurance, a significant burden for some.

When looking at rates, particularly per page or per hour, it’s important to note that your editor does not skim through your work. I recall one author saying to me, “Four dollars a page? I can read a page like that!” as she snapped her fingers. That may be true if you’re simply reading for pleasure. Editors, conversely, who question every word and every sentence as they read, are generally able to edit between 5 and 10 pages an hour. This takes into account the two or three passes through the manuscript needed to ensure as many errors as possible have been corrected.

How You Can Save on Editing Costs

Look at what the variables are that drive cost. Which of these can you control? For example, is the length of your book on target? Does it pass the bikini test — short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject? Is your art program (photographs, drawings, charts, and graphs) appropriate for your genre? Have you set aside a reasonable amount of time for the editing to take place? Have you done everything you can to achieve a manuscript in tip-top shape?

Some of the more expensive aspects of your manuscript may not be up for debate. If you are writing an exhaustive history book, for instance, you probably need a long manuscript with lots of artwork and plenty of reference material. In that case, to save money you need to have a flexible schedule and to prepare a manuscript that is as clean as your ability allows. If you opt not to perform a thorough revision of your own work yet want a high-quality product, you are essentially choosing to pay someone else to do those revisions for you. If you are concerned about costs, do your part to alleviate some of your editor’s work.

As with all services, you are encouraged to request bids from multiple editors until you find the one who can both meet your needs and meet your budget. Part of finding the right editor is finding someone you trust is earning what you are paying her.

(Read Part 1 of this post here.)

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

Why Does Editing Cost So Much? (Part 1)

“If there’s only one thing you’re able to spend money on, it should be hiring an editor.”

–Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

In Defense of Editors

If you have ever looked at a cost estimate for having your book edited, you may be scratching your head. More than $1,000 for copyediting? More than $3,000 for developmental editing? And that’s for a regular old 250-page manuscript! That seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a book that you can’t be sure will make a profit. How do editors justify charging so much?

Here’s the short answer: Without a thorough edit, your book won’t sell.

For years I didn’t believe that. How would readers know the book was poorly edited until after they bought it? But in the era of ubiquitous book reviews, it is absolutely true. Either no one will buy the book to begin with or a few people will buy it, pan it in the reviews, and dissuade anyone else from buying it. That means whatever money you spent on services other than editing — design, marketing, printing or converting to e-book — was wasted.

Professional editing isn’t a guarantee of success, but it gives your book a fighting chance and keeps you from embarrassing yourself. And for that kind of value added, you have to be willing to put forth some money.

Now, contrary to popular belief, the going rate for editing does not support a lavish, high-flying lifestyle. Rather, it affords the usual comforts of life, and it is only reasonable to expect a full-time professional to earn a modest living. She does that by charging her clients what her time is actually worth.

Nevertheless . . .

Some authors still feel if they are only going to make a certain amount of money on a project, the editor doesn’t have justification to charge more than that amount. That notion, however, ignores the fact that you are not paying your editor based on the book’s potential earnings. You are paying her for the work she is doing today.

If you question whether your editor is going to be worth her fees, get a sample edit before you hire her. This will give you an idea of what kind of changes your editor will make and you can decide for yourself if it is worth the expense.

Time and time again my authors tell me I have saved them from major embarrassment; I have found errors they never knew were there; the editing phase gave them the opportunity to improve their writing in ways they didn’t expect. If you work with a qualified, professional editor, there is a strong chance you will have a similar experience. And when that happens, when you see just how much better of a book you have due to your editor’s efforts, you will understand why editing costs so much.

(Read Part 2 of this post, “The Breakdown,” here.)

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

A 9-Step Checklist for Reviewing Page Proofs

You’ve just received a set of page proofs for your book and you have no idea what to do with them. “Review them,” you are told. OK, but what are you reviewing them for?

The following checklist outlines the tasks of a professional proofreader when editing page proofs. As the author, you should be on the lookout for many of these same problems.

  • Ensure all pages are included.
  • Check pagination to ensure pages are numbered consecutively. There should be no page number on blank pages and a “drop folio” — a page number at the bottom of the page — on chapter openers.
  • Check running heads to make sure they are correct and that none are missing. Check spelling carefully. Note that there should be no running head on blank pages or chapter openers. Running heads for fiction are usually author name on the left and book title on the right. Nonfiction generally uses book title on the left and chapter title on the right, or part title on the left and chapter title on the right.
  • Check the table of contents against the text to make sure everything matches. If the word chapter is used in the TOC, it should also appear on the chapter opener, and vice versa.
  • Read through the entire book to correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, consistency, sense. Remember, you are not copyediting the book; you are polishing it.
  • Check cross-references and fill in any missing information.
  • Watch for bad breaks, such as widows, orphans, or broken contractions at the end of a line.
  • Ensure design elements are treated consistently. All first-level heads should look the same, all second-level heads should look the same, and so on. Pay particular attention to spacing.
  • Check twinning. Facing pages should align top and bottom.

Most traditionally published authors don’t check twinning or mark bad breaks. They leave those steps to the proofreader and in-house editor. Self-publishers, even those who hire a proofreader, may want to go through all of these steps, as they don’t have an in-house editor to monitor the work of the proofreader and ensure quality.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014