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A Compliance Primer: How to Get an ISBN, LCCN, and Copyright Registration

August 14, 2009

Picture 3One of the most confusing (and least fun) aspects of publishing a book is making sure your title is in compliance with all the appropriate organizations in order to maximize its searchability.  There are so many different factors involved in this process that it’s easy to get bogged down with the amount of information that gets thrown at you.  Even though there is no need to learn all the ins and outs of the Library of Congress, the sheer multitude of acronyms alone is enough make you cross-eyed.

For those of you who don’t enjoy hours of web research on a topic that is less than stimulating, here’s a quick breakdown of the basic steps you’ll need to take. (Keep in mind that doing things in this order is important.)

Pre-production:

1. Get an ISBN.   International Standard Book Numbers are required for every book that is going to be sold in the book trade.  These can be obtained through Bowker, also known as Books in Print.
2. Register your book with Books in Print.  Once you receive the ISBN you’ll need to make sure that your title data is registered in their system.  This is important because a lot of sources (Amazon, Ingram, etc.) receive data feeds from this system—not to mention the fact that this is a resource for bookstores, libraries, and publishers around the world.
3. Create a barcode with the ISBN and price embedded.  Most trade stores require this to be on the back of your book before they will place an order.
4. Obtain a LCCN (also know as a PCN).  The Library of Congress Control Number (or Pre-Assigned Control Number) is a unique number that differentiates your book in the Library of Congress database.  Librarians use this number to access the associated bibliographic record for a given title.
5. Obtain CIP data.  Cataloging in Publication data creates a bibliographic record for forthcoming books that are likely to be acquired by librarians (and hopefully, librarians will want your book!).  This is to be printed on the copyright page, and this data is only available for works that are not yet published.

Post-production

1. Send one final copy to the Cataloging in Publication Division of the Library of Congress.
2. Send two final copies to the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress along with Form CO and the registration fee.  Alternatively, you are now able to fill out this form and submit payment online with eCO (electronic Copyright Office).
3. Wait to receive your Copyright Confirmation (current wait time is 12–16 months).

While this outline may not seem too arduous, there are many potential roadblocks in this process—so brace yourself, hope for the best, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

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