One thing about working as a full-time freelance writer: it’s usually feast or famine.

That means exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes you’re so busy that you almost forget to market your business, and other times, you’re looking for more projects.

This month is one of those busy times.

I’d originally intended to create a brand-new blog post today, but time constraints have forced me to recycle some of my own material. Fortunately, it’s an article from last year that I planned to reference anyway, called When Do You Need to Copyright Your Work?

 

Considering the Digital Age

The idea of copyright is an ancient one, but until recently most writers figured anything they wrote was automatically copyrighted to them. As I pointed out in last year’s article, back in the days of typewriters, copyright was handled a little differently. Though many of us writers were aware of the notion that something is “copyrighted to you” the moment you put pen to paper, we nonetheless worried about people stealing our work.

One old-fashioned method of safeguarding a work of writing was to mail it to yourself and keep the unopened copy. The idea was that, in the event of a lawsuit, you could dramatically pull out the envelope and open it in court before all the witnesses, who would then be able to examine the postmark on the envelope.

Most writers still worry about theft of copyrighted work today but—to be brutally honest—it’s highly unlikely anyone wants to steal your stuff. At least, not in the sense of stealing it, slapping their name on it, and then publishing it. There’s just way too much content out there now, and tons more created every day.

When it comes to copyrighted material, a more realistic concern is that someone will take your ebook, upload it to a website, and give it away—much like music downloads depriving artists of those potential royalties. And yes, it has happened to me.

 

Making It Legal

The question of when to copyright is still an open one, but I say it’s fine to go ahead and do it right away. Once you have a few pages’ worth of something and you’re committed to seeing it through, it’s well worth spending the $75 to send it to copyright.gov. They’ll send you a hard copy of proof of copyright, which can take a few months. In theory, by the time you get your proof of copyright, you’ll have a complete, or nearly complete, manuscript.

Of course, there’s always the question of the work being “substantively different” from the original. Again, practicality should win out here. Of course it’s going to be substantively different, but enough of the original should be in your submitted manuscript so that it still resembles what you sent the copyright office. In the end, you’ll sleep better. And if it’s your first book, you’ll feel more like a “real writer” after you’ve submitted it.

One final consideration: the time of year. Copyright applies to the entire year, really. Sure, your Amazon listing may have an actual date, but most people won’t look at that. Copyright 2021 means anytime during 2021. So if you plan to milk the calendar and call something “new” as long as you can, you should publish relatively early in the year. Keep that in mind if you want to put something out late in the year—and don’t forget to update your website!

rewriting

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #6: How Much Rewriting is Too Much?

Today's blog post was supposed to be an expansive one, delving in the subject of rewriting. In my own case, I spent years obsessively returning to manuscripts, revising them again and again until they were—as far as I could tell—perfect. As perfect as I could make...
isolation

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #4: Isolation vs. Solitude

I’m a loner With a loner’s point of view —Bruce Cockburn, “Loner”   Writing a novel is a solitary activity. We all know this. And while there are some exceptions to the rule—screenwriters who work on a team in a “writer’s room,” partners who write a book...
radio shows

Radio, Radio

Normally, when I've done radio shows, it's been related to promotion of a novel, or of my novels in general. This week, it's something completely different. (If you got the Monty Python reference, kudos. If not, Google them after you read this post. Then thank me in...
ebook

Are Stories Inevitably Autobiographical?

Recently, I’ve been writing quite a bit about writing, providing some explanations about why I write what I write. I’ve even got an upcoming podcast appearance talking a lot about my background and history in relation to my works of fiction. In the case of my short...
20/20

2020 Vs. 20/20: What We Saw Then, What We See Now

Grinding through the first few months of 2021, I presume nearly everyone wants to shut the door on 2020. After all, the tragic COVID-19 pandemic and—at least in the United States—chaotic election drama left millions exhausted, overwhelmed, and just plain traumatized....
service

What’s It All About, Anyway?

As far as service goes, it can take the form of a million things. To do service, you don't have to be a doctor working in the slums for free, or become a social worker. Your position in life and what you do doesn't matter as much as how you do what you do. —Elisabeth...

Lyrics: Why I Write Them, and Why I’ve Put Them Into My Novels

Today's post might look like a lazy man's blog, because I'm copying and pasting lyrics into it from other sources. But the fact is, lyrics have always played an important role not only in my life, but also in my novels. I never gave this much thought until recently,...
procrastination

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #2: Procrastination

Last week I started a new series here on the blog, “Writer Problems.” Naturally the idea is to offer solutions, but I’m always happy to get suggestions. Feel free to reply in the comments below. Whereas last week’s blog was a lengthy meditation on insomnia, today I...
spiritual

Do You Have An Interest in the Spiritual?

Today’s post is the second of a three-part series I’m creating on some of my personal interests. Last week, I wrote about metaphysics; this week, I’m writing about spirituality; and next week, I’ll be writing about music.Of course, the metaphysical and spiritual are...
coming-of-age

Dreams, Memories, And Growing Up One Day At A Time

We use up too much artistry in our dreams—and therefore often are impoverished during the day. - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow   Boy, ole Nietzsche really had it right, didn’t he? Last night I went through mental movies that ranged from being...