Should You Copyright Your Book Cover? [How to Decide]

Copyrighting your artistic work is often a great way to protect yourself so that no one can use it or claim it as theirs. But should you do this as a book cover artist? Is it necessary?

No, you don’t have to copyright your book cover, but copyrighting may be beneficial depending on how you want your work used. You don’t have to copyright if you just want to sell it to an author or publisher and then move on to your next project.

There are many instances when you should copyright a book cover while simultaneously having reasons not to copyright it. Continue reading to figure out the best option for you as an illustrator.

Should You Copyright Your Book Cover? How to Decide

Copyrighting your book cover is not always a necessary process to partake in. There are many situations when it wouldn’t be the best fit for you, but then again, there are some situations where it would be better for you.

Most of the time, the publisher or author (if it is an Indie or Self-Published author) will own the copyrights to your book cover after you have sold it to them. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. 

The Benefits Of Copyrighting Your Book Cover

When you copyright your book cover, you own the rights to that image, which cannot be used without your permission. This can be useful if you think your cover or any of its characters will become the face of a brand.

Here are some of the potential benefits of copyrighting your book cover:

  • More income
  • People cannot use it without your permission
  • More control over your work
  • Easier to sue for plagiarism and other reasons
  • More recognition

Copyrighting your book cover can open doors that you have been reaching for, especially as a new illustrator, but there are some risks to it as well.

The Risks Of Not Copyrighting Your Book Cover

The publisher often copyrights book covers, but there are characters out there that have become popular and are now being used because the artist didn’t copyright their work or signed their work over to a company without a second thought.

Let’s take the character Harry Potter for example. The illustrator did not copyright that character and didn’t get any royalties or income, not even recognition for the character created. Now the publishers and author can get the income from how that character is used for the brand.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Copyright Your Work

Even though copyrighting can benefit you and give you more control over your work, it can be frustrating to do so. There are many upfront costs that you will have to consider and many other reasons as follows:

  • The cost of copyrighting your book
  • Clients may be less inclined to buy your work upfront
  • It may not bring your more income
  • Fair use law still allows people to use your work under certain circumstances

Just because you copyright your work doesn’t always mean you will make more money. Many clients may decide to go elsewhere if you retain the copyrights for the book. They may want just to purchase the copyrights.

There are other options to only provide temporary copyright of your work to a company or client. You can discuss this with them so that after a few years, you can get the copyright book and pull in that income if your cover and characters become popular.

How To Copyright Your Book Cover

Books are automatically considered copyrighted, and although there is a legal process to secure that copyright, book covers are a separate issue. When you create a book cover, you do own some basic copyrights, but there is a way you can ensure it is such:

  1. Go to 
  2. Scroll down and either choose “digital content,” “photo content,” or “visual arts,” depending on your book cover medium.
  3. Create an account.
  4. Fill out the application for your single work.
  5. Complete the steps required, whether it is to submit the work electronically or provide it to the office.
  6. Pay the fee to complete your submission ($40 or more, depending).

You can pay via direct deposit or credit card. Ensure you keep all receipts and emails, just in case.


Your book cover already has some copyright protection as the illustrator, but you can add extra protection by copyrighting it. Ultimately, it is up to you what you can afford and what is best for you when copyrighting your work.