Note: This discussion only applies to authors seeking traditional publishers.
Many authors have a backwards concept of copyrighting their manuscript. As soon as they complete a final draft, many start looking into copyrights, even before they locate a publisher. This can obliterate you chances for publication at all.
Many authors don’t realize the finality of a registered copyright. Once this is obtained, any prospective publisher won’t even be able to edit your work without an overdrawn process of obtaining “legal permission.” This will automatically make you a liability before you’re even accepted.
Obtaining a copyright this early also makes you look paranoid. This will tell a publisher you don’t trust them. Currently, all legitimate publishers know and acknowledge that your work belongs to you once it is created. No professional in a literary field will want any kind of bad publicity tainting their reputations. Just an allegation of plagiarism can cast a dark cloud over a publishing company.
Songwriting is the one exception in this area. Fiction and non-fiction authors shouldn’t bother with this until your work is published. Leave this headache for your publisher to deal with. Once your work is corrected and proofed, prepared and polished, then your publisher can deal with the copyrighting.
The truth is that any work written belongs to the author once it’s created. Period. Unless you are ghostwriting or freelancing with no rights retention, your work belongs to you. Once it is published, it is a formal record that your work belongs to you.
If your publisher doesn’t obtain a formal copyright (again, this is common), you can send your published book to the Library of Congress when you have a final copy. Remember, you can use the Copyright symbol ( © ) any time and on any work that is your original creation without any legal formalities.
Once a formal copyright number is obtained, you can send this to your publishing house to be placed on future editions.