Quick Nav


ISBN Decoded

May 3, 2011

There are several (confusing, complicated, and time-consuming) compliance requirements for a printed, saleable book to be, well . . . saleable. The most important requirement is obtaining an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. (Not “ISBN number” or “izbin." Just ISBN, please.) This number gives your book a universal numerical identifier—sort of a Social Security number for your work. It lasts for the life of the book and allows bookstores, media, publishers, and consumers to order, identify, and refer to your book. In fact, almost all major ordering systems use the ISBN exclusively

ISBNs formerly consisted of ten digits, but the International ISBN Agency changed the system to use a thirteen-digit number because they were running out of ten-digit numbers. Every thirteen-digit ISBN contains five sets of numbers, each separated by dashes.

Lets decode those digits, shall we?


The first three digits are 978, the default prefix for books. When all of the current ISBNs are used, the next prefix will be 979.

The next section may be up to five digits and identifies the country, region, or language of the book; a 0 or 1 means the book is published in English. In the example, it is a 1.

The third series describes the publisher or imprint and is usually six or seven digits long—the publisher number in the example is 929774. These three sets of numbers together comprise your ISBN prefix.

The fourth set is the publication number. Usually, a 0 or 00 is used for the first book by a particular publisher, then a 1 or 01 for the second, and so on. The example’s publication number is 38, meaning it’s the thirty-ninth book released by the publisher who owns the corresponding prefix.

The final digit is the check digit, which can be a numeral from 0 to 9 or the letter X. It is calculated on a modulus 11 with weights of 10 through 2, using X in lieu of 10 where ten would occur as a check digit. Did we lose you? Basically, using an automatic algorithmic calculation (we like to call it magic), this digit acts as a check to make sure the entire ISBN is correct. The check digit in the example is an 8.

And that’s your ISBN in a nutshell!

If we’ve piqued your interest in ISBNs, visit R. R. Bowker, the official ISBN agency in the United States. There you can convert your ten-digit ISBN to a thirteen-digit ISBN, register a new ISBN, and more.

Trackback URL for this post:


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.)


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.


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!

Trackback URL for this post:


Talking the Talk: Publishing Terms and Jargon

January 25, 2007

TalkingTheTalk.jpg"It’s all pounds, shillings, and pence to me, darling." —Absolutely Fabulous

Just like most industries, book publishing has its own peculiar jargon—a language that may be confusing to first-time authors. To minimize confusion and miscommunication during your book’s production, here's a list of some of the more common terms you might come across:

General Terms

  • Back matter: The text that occurs after the last chapter in the book (or the main body of text). Back matter often comprises such parts as the index, endnotes, author biography, bibliography, etc. The pages are numbered with Arabic numerals.
  • CIP: Cataloging in Publication information is the bibliographic information supplied by the Library of Congress and printed on the copyright page. Librarians use this information when adding new titles to their collections.
  • Galley/ARC: Often used interchangeably, these two terms refer to advance printed copies of a book that are used for review and publicity purposes before publication. (ARC stands for “Advance Readers’ Copy.”) These advance editions typically come out four months before the publication date.
  • Front matter: The text that occurs before the first chapter in the book (or the main body of text). Front matter often comprises such parts as the dedication, acknowledgments, table of contents, etc. The pages are numbered with Roman numerals.
  • Imprint: The company name under which your book is being published (e.g., Greenleaf Book Group Press, Penguin Classics, etc.).
  • ISBN: The International Standard Book Number is a unique thirteen-digit number assigned to every book and obtained from the R. R. Bowker company. This is the number most often used to order a book or keep track of it in the supply chain.
  • LCCN: The Library of Congress Control Number is the Library of Congress’s system of uniquely numbering books. Librarians use this information to access the book’s correct cataloging data.
  • Trim: This is the physical dimension (measured in width and length) of your book after the printer has cut it to the desired size. Common trim sizes include 8.5 x 11, 5.5 x 8.5, and 6 x 9—in the United States, they're always measured in inches.

Trackback URL for this post:


Subscribe to ISBN

© 2014 Greenleaf Book Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use