A common concern during the writing process is copyright. As an author, you want your work to be protected and you want to be able to take action if someone tries to plagiarize something that you've worked hard on and possibly spent a lot of money on before publishing. The good news is copyrighting your novel isn't a hard process.
Disclaimer: The following information only applies to writers living in the United States. For more information on how to copyright your novel in your country please contact the Office of Copyright in your area.
You can't copyright a story idea. You can only copyright something that is tangible or physical/real. In fact, you don't even need to file papers to protect your work. Once something is tangible, it falls under copyright protection.
If you are going the traditional publishing route your publishing house will more than likely take care of this for you. However, be careful because smaller publishing houses often leave this to the author's responsibility.
Some authors prefer to do the poor man's copyright or email themselves a copy of their manuscript to show proof of ownership and prove the time and date they finished writing. However, this may not hold up in court and it is best to file official paperwork so you are assured your work is protected. According to the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ, your work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. And, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
Be careful about where you post your work. Don't just post on any forum. Read the forum's guidelines first. Also, vet betas and consider having them sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before sending them chapters of your novel. In this agreement, you could state that they can't share, copy, discuss, or use anything found in your novel without your permission.
Ready to copyright your novel?
It's a super easy process. If you live in the United States, visit the U.S. Copyright Office's website to view guidelines and access other helpful information. If you want to go directly to the good stuff and are registering a book (fiction and/or non-fiction) you can go here to start the application process. Read everything, follow all the guidelines, complete the application, pay the required fee, submit your work, and rest easy knowing your work is protected.
If you have any other questions or concerns please leave them down below. Also, if you've personally copyrighted your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, let us know about your process down below.