• Esther Harder

Front, Back, all the Matters

Updated: Jan 9

Are you one of those people who closely reads the copyright pages of books? Believe it or not, there's quite a bit of interesting information that can be gleaned there, in addition to the warning that one should not reproduce the book without proper permission.

Three pink zinnias in a bouquet on top of portions of old books.
Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

When self-publishing a picture book like Quarantine Kids, the copyright page is easy to overlook in your layout plans. Your focus is on how to organize your story on the page count you are working within, and if you have quite a bit of text, holding a page for your title and another page or two for dedication and copyright can be downright painful!

While in the layout stage, you should make a decision on whether your copyright page will be positioned with the title page, as front matter, or if it will come at the end of your text, as back matter. In picture books, you will see both formats. Often, this format decision depends on the structure of the opening images, and whether there is space for a page that is mostly legal/informational text within that art.

No matter where it ends up, here are the important items you should consider including in a picture book copyright page:

Dedication

If you have the space to have a page reserved for your dedication, great! If it is combined with your copyright page, this will likely be a sentence or two centered at the top of the page in a slightly larger font than the legal info.

Copyright Information

Technically, your artistic work is your intellectual property and you hold the copyright for it as soon as you start typing. But, it's helpful to have reminders, so the copyright section notifies your readers of who holds the copyright(s) and how to get in contact for permission questions. In a picture book, there will be a text copyright and an illustrations copyright; if you are self-publishing and contracted your illustrator as work-for-hire, you likely hold the copyright for both text and illustrations and can credit your illustrator for their contribution in the credits section.

Most copyright sections have a simple statement identifying who holds the copyright, such as:

Text copyright © [Year] by [Name]

That statement is followed by the reminder of what this copyright means, whether reproduction in part or in whole is allowed, and who to contact. I found these statements to vary somewhat across my picture book shelf. Some publishers are very concise, while others are very explicit and attempt to enumerate all forms of reproduction in order to disallow them; others use more author-supportive language, reminding readers that your purchase supports the artist. From my brief research, and I am not a legal representative in any sense of the word, it doesn't matter a whole lot what you put in this statement. Essentially it is interpreted as a reminder not to copy the book, and to reach out to so-and-so if you have questions about use.

It's the so-and-so bit that is a little tricky for self-publishers. Traditional publishers print their address and contact information, but you may not want your personal contact information published. Another option is to print your professional website as your contact info (assuming you have a contact form on your website), as you are both author and publisher.

Credits

There is usually a section that lists who worked on the book. In publishing companies with multiple editors and contributors to one book project, that section can be quite long. In a self-published picture book, it's quite the opposite; in fact, if you have already listed yourself and your illustrator in the copyright section, you might not have much need for this section! But it's worth considering if you want to take the space to give credit to anyone who contributed to the process along the way. You can format this section as you like; it's essentially a giant thank-you!

Design Information

Many books list what fonts were used, and what media was used for illustration. I noticed some humorous attributions in some picture books, where illustrators mentioned that they used odds and ends out of their children's craft supplies to complete illustrations! You never know what you might find revealed if you look at this page closely!

ISBN and Library of Congress Information

Your ISBN should be dictated on this page, as well as your Library of Congress information. Both of these items need to be requested and/or purchased in advance, so as you start the layout of your book, it's a good idea to research how to acquire these and get that process going.

That's It! Sort of...

When you get down to laying out your copyright page, you may find that you have other categories of items you want to include. Maybe you are excerpting or using someone else's work with permission and need to cite that usage. Maybe you have a logo for your press and want to feature that. If you printed your book outside the United States, you may have to identify where, for customs information. You might want to list what edition your book is in. There are many possibilities for this page!

Hunt down templates to help guide you in what to include and how to format your material. Between researching online and simply opening all the books I owned and layering them over my living room floor, I developed the material for my copyright page and decided what layout I wanted.

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