I had a friend in college. She was cute, she made music, and she apparently landed a record deal. Unfortunately when they went to copyright it, someone already had. The record deal fell through and she currently plays in small coffee shops, having lost a lot of the inspiration to create so vigorously.
There was another friend I had in college. She wrote some of the neatest things when it came to faeries. A company asked her to write it, and she would get credit and paid. After she submitted, they said thank you, published the book with quite a bit of her information in it, didn’t credit her and didn’t pay her. “I’m just glad my work is being shared with the world,” she would say, her face red and lips pursed.
In the first case, no doubt my friend had the evidence to fight it. No doubt, she had the power to go after them and likely win the suit. But she didn’t. Why not? Because she was my friend in college, with no money to take it to court, in a proceeding which would have been drawn out because she was going after an established band, and while they aren’t hugely famous, they have far more money than she does. She should have, by the laws of copyright, had the rights to that work. But legally, they beat her.
I want to give one tip. A very important tip. I’m not simply giving this out of paranoia or tomfoolery. I’m not trying to simply give the government more money. God knows how much I hate giving them more money for all the ways they fool around with it. But copyright, if you’re serious and you’re giving your work out to beta and alpha readers you aren’t necessarily close to, is a need. Not the “I wrote it, therefore it’s copyrighted.”
Go to this website. Register. Pay your $35. Get it copyrighted. It takes a whole of five minutes. Those $35 you should really be making back. Then frame your copyright letter. Do this if you plan on using beta and alpha readers.
If you plan on going traditionally, where you find an agent or are going straight to publications, don’t waste your time with copyright. They’ll do this for you and their reputation is on the line when they do business with you. They want to make sure it glitters.