How To Copyright and Apply For An ISBN

How to Get a Copyright

After you have spent hours, days, weeks, months, or even years–the last thing you want to happen is for someone to come along and steal your work and redistribute it or copy it.

Copyright infringement is a big deal all over the world. Some companies, writers, and artists lose millions by having their work stolen or redistributed illegally.

Thankfully, there are national and international laws that are in place to help protect your work. So while you may run into a situation where someone infringes your copyright, you do have direct protection and legal options to ensure your work & rights are preserved.

In this article, I will explain how to copyright you work and other basics about copyrighting. This will mostly deal with the Unites States copyright laws, although many things will apply to international copyrights as well.

Do You Have To Copyright Your Work at All?

Surprisingly, you do not have to even register your work with the US copyright office to have copyright protection. The law clearly indicates that as soon as the work is finished, you own the copyright, and therefore, have copyright protection. So as soon as you are done with your self published book or eBook, you automatically have copyright protection.
Not registering a copyright officially may be the best thing for certain publishing mediums where it would be impractical to attempt to copyright something (such as a website, eBook you will distribute for free, etc.). Instead, you can simply publish and distribute your work at your will, and you still have protection.

Should You Copyright Your Work At All?

While the law clearly provides protection for your copyrighted work even if you don’t register it with the copyright office, it may be a very good idea in many cases. For example, if you really spend a lot of time on your work, and want to ensure you get full protection (and suspect you may get infringed and have to later bring a lawsuit), I would highly recommend registering you work.Copyright info

Registering your work can provide substantial benefit, and I would recommend anyone seeking to sell or distribute their work on a large scale to do so. Some of the benefits of taking the time and money to register your copyright include:

  1. It gives you a much better case in a court of law if someone later tries to infringe your copyright. This way, you have a clear record of proof of your publishing/registration date. This will help to ensure your work is protected, and you are much more likely to win cases of infringement.
  2. It makes you work appear more professional.
  3. It gives you peace of mind to know that you have legally protected your work, and also can freely sell or distribute it at this point, and more.
  4. The law states that there is a mandatory deposit requirement when you publish a work. You are supposed to submit a copy of the published work within 3 months of completion. If you register your work, you can do all of this together.

So while you may not have to register your copyright protection in all cases, it may definitely be beneficial to do so in some instances. Again, if you plan to publish an eBook or real book, I would highly recommend you take the time to register it.

How Do You Register for Copyright on eBooks or Self Published Books?

If you live in the United States, you can register for copyright protection via the internet or mail. The copyright office has a great website, and you can find loads more information about what copyright protection includes, how long copyrights last, registration requirements, and much more.

The general fee ranges from about $35-200, depending on whether or not you take advantage of any copyright searches or other services.

A Few Other Words on Copyrighting Work

Another thing you want to beware of is that while you may totally come up with the writing yourself, you must ensure that someone else hasn’t written a similar work that is still under copyright protection first.

It may surprise you that someone out in the world may very well have written a book very similar to yours. You may share similar ideas, phrasing, and so forth. This can happen even if you have never even read their work (or vise versa).

So it may be beneficial to do a quick search in the library of congress to ensure you aren’t using a copyrighted title, phrase, etc. It would also be a good idea to ensure that your work isn’t too similar to someone else’s. Again, it may seem unrealistic to you, but I can assure you it happens. There are billions of people in this world, and more than one may have used the title, “How to make money online,” or “How to cook.”

Conclusion: To Copyright or Not to Copyright? That is the Self Published Question

I think the most important issues to consider are what your ultimate goals are, and whether or not you feel your copyright may be infringed (and if it would bother you or financially harm you if it was).

If you are creating a simple eBook to distribute for free, you may want to pass on the copyright registration process. In this case, it may be an unnecessary expense and waste of time.

If, however, you plan on selling your eBook or self published book, I would highly recommend you take the time to actually register it. This way, you will feel more professional, have a strong legal record of your copyright, and be able to defend your work in a court of law.



Once you have decided on whether or not to register a copyright for your eBook or self published book, you can then decide if it is necessary to obtain an ISBN.

What is an ISBN Number Anyway?

An ISBN number is a number (typically 10 digits long) that helps to recognize your book, eBook, or work. It works similarly like a bar-code works in a retail store. It helps to identify your work. By the way, ISBN stands for: International Standard Book Number.

If you take a common book and look at the back, it should have a clearly printed ISBN number. In many cases, they will also have a bar-code that is used for retail stores, wholesalers, and distributors.

Do You Need to Obtain an ISBN Number for Your eBook, Self Published Book, or Other Work?

This is a tricky question because just like with registering copyrights, it really depends on what you plan to do.

For example: If you are just going to distribute your own eBook on your own website (as an instant download),, or–then you don’t really need an ISBN at all.

If, however, you have plans to distribute your book on sites such as,,, or try to get your book in retail stores, then it is a good idea to get an ISBN number.

So try to determine your plans on selling and/or distributing your work, and then you will be able to easily decide whether or not you need or want an ISBN number.

How Do You Get an ISBN Number? How Much Does an ISBN Number Cost?

If you decide you would like to obtain an ISBN for your eBook, self published book, or other work, you can easily do so. There are approximately 160 ISBN agencies worldwide that can help you register your work and obtain an ISBN number.

If you are going to get published through a book publishing deal, they will most likely get the ISBN for you.

If you plan to market and sell your book through a self publishing agency (such as ), then you can actually get an ISBN as a part of their package. If you decide to go this route, Rochester Media would charge 10% of the gross sales of the book after it is published. If you choose to independently get an ISBN, then you may do that as well.  Go to or to find out how to do this. They have application forms you can fill out online or download. The cost can range from about $80-200 depending on how many ISBN’s you get, and other factors. It generally takes about 2-3 weeks to obtain your ISBN from this site.

Conclusion: To Get an ISBN or Not…That is the Question!

Once again, whether or not you actually want to spend the time and money acquiring an ISBN number really depends on your goals. If you are writing an eBook to sell on your own site, I would suggest you skip the hassle and expense. If, however, you have big plans and want to distribute this on sites, in stores, and more, then an ISBN would be a great idea.

Just take the time to set a goal of what you want to do, and then you can decide whether or not an ISBN number is necessary for you situation.

Tom Gendich
Rochester Media
About Tom and Ann Gendich

Founders of Rochester Media. Looking to provide great local news to all people in and around Rochester and Rochester Hills. Send them a note at