What Can Your Book’s Copyright Page Tell You?
It’s the fine print page we always skip past as we flip to the first page of our novel. Unassuming. Utterly forgettable. And yet, there’s a lot you can learn from all that tiny text. For instance, do you love that book cover? You can find out who designed it. Want to know what font the book is using? You know where to look.
Your novel’s copyright page.
Let’s explore the anatomy of a typical copyright page so you know what all of that fine print is telling you about your book. Although copyright pages may be written differently or include/exclude certain bits of information, most of them will have the key sections outlined below.
We’re going to do this with a fictitious novel, let’s name it Displaced Matter, written by up-and-coming author Maeve Bernard, and a publishing company I built from the ground up just now: Grimmauld Publishing. Let’s get to it!
17 Cherry Tree Lane, Chicago, Illinois, 60626
The book’s publisher name, logo, and mailing address may appear at the top.
“This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
Ahh, the work of fiction disclaimer. This disclaimer has a fascinating origin story. The film industry adapted it to avoid libel suits after MGM was slapped with one in the 1930s by an exiled Russian princess and her husband who, uh, kind of killed Rasputin. MGM made a Rasputin biopic covering the events, to which Prince Yusupov said, “Excuse me, you got the details of how he died wrong — I would know — also I know those characters are totally me and my wife.” Since Yusupov couldn’t build a libel case, having actual facts killed Rasputin and all, ex-Princess Irina Yusupov did, and won. Thus the work of fiction disclaimer was born to avoid getting sued by other infamous ex-royals.
Text copyright @ 2020 by Maeve Bernard
The text copyright gives the author the copyright of the work. If it’s a novel published after January 1, 1978, the copyright is valid for the life of the author plus 70 years after. If it was published after 1923 but before 1978, it’s protected for 95 years after the date of publication. You may also see multiple years listed; this means the book has had multiple editions, and each of those editions are also protected. If you see no copyright symbol or year, then the book is in the public domain and the copyright has expired. This is true for all works published before 1924.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Grimmauld Publishing Subsidiary Rights Department, 17 Cherry Tree Lane, Chicago, IL 606026
The “all rights reserved” line means that the copyright holder (the author) retains all of the rights to their work provided to them by copyright law. A Subsidiary Rights portion would mean that the author granted their publisher the right to sub-license their book for things such as various print formats (hardcover, mass market paperback, ebook, etc.), audiobooks, foreign translation, movies, etc. So if a producer was interested in adapting the work into a film, or a publisher in Japan wanted to acquire the rights to publish a Japanese translation, they would contact the Subsidiary Rights Department of the book’s publishing company.
Cover photographs copyright @ 2020 by Random Stock Company
Book design by Very Talented Book Designer
Acknowledgements like this give credit to those who made the book beautiful. It will tell you what book designer is responsible for the gorgeous cover that was like 40% of the reason you picked up the book in the first place, as well as who to credit for any stock photography used. If “cover” and “jacket” aren’t mentioned, it usually means they’re referring to the typesetting or interior design of the book.
The text for this book was set in Caecilia LT Std.
If you ever wanted to know what pretty font your book is using, the font name is sometimes also listed.
For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Grimmauld Publishing Special Sales at email@example.com
For more information or to book an event, visit our website at www.grimmauldpublishing.com.
Sections like this let people or businesses interested in ordering more copies of the book know who to contact, which usually applies to bookstores looking to make bulk orders. It may also include contact information if an organization wants to host the book’s author for a live event.
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Grimmauld Publishing paperback edition February 2020
Also available in a Grimmauld Publishing hardcover edition
3 2 5 7 8 7 6 3 2
This section tells you a little about the book’s physical creation; where it was manufactured, who printed it, what format edition you have (paperback in this case), when it was printed, and any other edition types that may exist. Now, what about those evenly spaced, random numbers underneath? That number line is the print run number. Whenever there’s a new print run, the last number is removed. So if this book went into a second print run, they would remove the “2.”
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Names: Bernard, Maeve, 1985- author.
Title: Displaced Matter / Maeve Bernard
Description: First edition. | Chicago; Illinois: Grimmauld Publishing 
Summary: Dolores is a teleporting bounty hunter on the last mission of her career through the cosmos. The mission sends her to uncharted galaxy territory, looking for an escaped prisoner with secrets darker than dark matter. Will she bring the prisoner in…or join the escapee’s cause?
When a book is born, it is registered with the Library of Congress. This section contains all of the identifiers registered for the book, including the author’s name, year of birth (and death, if applicable), the book title, the publisher, and which edition you’re holding. That’s especially useful if you’re dealing with a college textbook and need to confirm which edition you have. And sometimes, you may get lucky and it’ll include a plot summary, just in case the book’s back cover is chock full of blurbs and light on actual plot.
Identifiers: LCCN # | ISBN # (hardcover) | ISBN # (pbk) | ISBN # (eBook)
The book is assigned an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This is like the social security number for books. Each version of the book needs its own ISBN, hence a different one for the hardcover, the paperback (pbk up above), and the ebook. While it is possible to sell an ebook without an ISBN, a print book cannot be sold without one. The ISBN is a huge help for booksellers to catalog and search for titles. You may also notice an LCCN number, which stands for Library of Congress Control Number. This number can only be obtained by U.S. book publishers, and if your book has it, that means the book can be acquired and added to the Library of Congress’s book collections (Editor’s Note, added 4/27/20: self published books don’t typically get a Library of Congress LCCN number, but they are allowed to apply for a Pre-Assigned Control Number (PCN)).
Subjects: BISAC: FICTION / Science Fiction / Displaced Matter. | FICTION / Science Fiction / Action & Adventure.
Classification: LCC # | LC record available at https://lccn.gov/ #
BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications. All the genre information about the book that follows it has been selected from a list of industry-approved genre types that help the book get shelved properly. These genre “codes” are reviewed by the Book Industry Study Group every year to remove outdated codes and add new ones. In our example, Displaced Matter is shelved under Fiction / Science Fiction (genre) / Action & Adventure (sub-genre, if applicable). LCC stands for Library of Congress Classification, and that LCC number can help you locate the Library of Congress record of the book in the Library Catalog.
And that, my friends, is the anatomy of a copyright page.