Shoestring Publishing, Part Five

It’s been longer than I’d planned since my last post, and for that, I apologize. Holiday season, things get busy, yada, yada, yada. Let’s jump right back in and take a look at those last couple of items on our budgeting list.

11. Copyright fees:

Your first question is probably going to be, “Is it true that anything you’ve published in a written form is automatically copyrighted, including this blog post?” Well, yes, to a degree. This blog post is “copyrighted,” in that it’s my work and my specific wording, and if anyone were to copy-and-paste it and claim that they wrote it, that would be an infringement of my copyright. The copyright that you get from publishing something online or in print is sometimes referred to as a “poor man’s copyright,” meaning that the copyright is implied and you didn’t actually pay anything to have it officially recognized as such. This means that if someone copies it and claims it as their own, then if you were to get into a lawsuit with them about it, you’d have to document that it originated with you–date stamps from the blog, computer files, etc. But getting an official government-recognized copyright for your book is something else again.

I added this item to the budget list because I truly think they’re worth it. There is nothing better to prove a work is yours than the official certificate (which looks a bit like a birth certificate, incidentally) from the U.S. Copyright Office.

How do you go about getting that for your book, and how much does it cost?

$35.00, a little bit of your time, and a couple of copies of your book. Oh, and some postage, if the book is in a print form. That’s it. No big deal. I’ll show you where to find what you need to get that ball rolling.

Online, the U.S. Copyright office has a page called eCO. This is the place where you will need to go to submit the application for a copyright.

You will need to register yourself or your business with them so that you can log into your account and register a copyright whenever you need to do so. After you fill out the information in the required fields to register an account for yourself, then just click the appropriate links to begin the copyright registration process, and follow the directions given. It’s a fairly straightforward process, thought at times the forms and information you need to provide about your book may seem a bit repetitive. All in all, it’s not really too much trouble, and when you’ve filled out all your author and book information and gotten to the last page, they’ll ask you to make an electronic/credit card payment for the $35 copyright registration fee.

They’ll also give you an address to which you should send two copies of your book if it has a print format. Otherwise you will go through an electronic download process for your ebook files if your book only exists in ebook form. Note that if you have your book in print and ebook form, you need to submit two copies of the print book, as this is the required format if you have it available. In this case, you do not submit any copies in ebook format.

Total cost to file a copyright will vary depending on the heft and weight and printing cost of your book. In my case, I paid $35 for the filing fee, about $11.25 for shipping two books to them via USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate, plus approximately $14 for a couple of copies of the book, shipped to me from my printer/distributor prior to filing my copyright form.

12. Incidentals:

Incidental expenses are things such as art supplies if you’re going to produce your own artwork, fees for font licensing or images you may want to use for your cover art, special apps or small electronic devices that you plan to use in the operation of your business, such as a special card reader for your smart phone, or even an adding machine for the occasional in-person book-related event where you may be selling your book by hand, or any other sort of miscellaneous small item, device, or fee that happens to crop up as you’re making artistic and stylistic choices during the production of your book.

I’d recommend budgeting at least $100 to $150 for those incidentals. For example, I paid about $4.99 for a writing app to use on my tablet, and I licensed a font for the cover of my book for about $39. When I was ready to paint my cover art, I bought probably ten decent-sized tubes of acrylic paint for about $4 to $5 apiece, and I bought a few canvas-covered boards on sale for around $3 to $5 apiece. A few special brushes cost approximately another $2o. I kept it as low-key as possible, and of course will be able to use the same brushes and tubes of paint for future cover art projects.

This concludes our series on budgeting. Upcoming posts (which will probably be a bit sporadic during the holidays, but I think I can be forgiven for that) will proceed into a bit more detail on some of the various topics related to actually producing a book, which free programs are worth the effort to learn to use, etc.