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Congratulations on writing a book! Now how do you find readers?

Usually we think of labels as a bad thing, but the truth is that labels are how readers search for new books. Labeling your books correctly will help your readers find your book. And it’ll help your friendly neighborhood librarians and booksellers promote your book.

So what are all these acronyms, and how do they help?

ISBN: A Book’s ID Number

This one’s easy—ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s like a fingerprint or an ID card for a book. With very few exceptions, every book in print has a unique ISBN. Even separate editions of the same title will each have their own ISBN. So if you want know which edition of Jane Eyre is on that Amazon listing, check the ISBN.

In the US, ISBNs are assigned through a single company, and they’re required by virtually all retail outlets where you may want to sell your book. Sounds simple enough, right?

There’s one more important detail about ISBNs, and it’s one that vanity presses will never mention up front: whoever owns a book’s ISBN also owns the sales and distribution rights. It’s not hard to see how someone else owning the sales rights to your book could cause big problems. (That’s why at My Word Publishing, authors own their content and their ISBNs—and keep all the associated rights!)

Do you need an ISBN? Absolutely—and make sure you own it by opening your own publishing company. Whoever owns your ISBN owns your sales and distribution rights, so please own your own!

What’s an LCCN?

Ah, the Library of Congress. Keepers of our most cherished national artifacts, and catalogers extraordinaire. We love the good old LoC, but a Library of Congress Catalog Control Number, or LCCN, is actually not required for every book. It’s not necessary to establish copyright, or to sell your book in the US. Some authors or publishers send their books to the Library of Congress, hoping to get it added to their collection. The LCCN is a byproduct of that process.

Here’s how it works:

  1. On the Library of Congress website, you apply to participate in the LCCN program ahead of publication.
  2. The Library of Congress assigns your book a tracking number—the LCCN – that you will put on your copyright page.
  3. When your book is complete, you’ll send them a book, and they decide whether or not to supply it with Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) data. If the LOC gets a million books a year requesting this CIP data, about 25% actually do.
  4. If they do add your book, it will be cataloged. That means, in part, creating “Cataloging-in-Publication” (CIP) data. This data will also be sent to your publisher and they will add it to your book’s copyright page.

Think of the LCCN as a pre-CIP number. And the LCCN program with the Library of Congress is a way to get CIP data free of charge. But your chances are slim.

Do I Need CIP Data?

This one is more complicated, because Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) data is useful for certain books, but not incredibly necessary for others. Big publishers get this data from the Library of Congress (see above), but self-publishers or indie presses can get cataloging data from a freelance cataloger (usually a librarian with a Library of Sciences degree).

What is CIP data, and which books need it?

CIP data is printed on a book’s copyright page. It includes basic stats like the author’s full name, suggested subject headings, and Dewey Decimal Classification numbers. Books published after 2015 will also have info like BISAC categories and publisher information.

Having these stats in one place, in an easy-to-read format, allows librarians and booksellers to quickly ascertain all of the vital information about a book. They can add relevant tags to their web site, shelve it in the right place, and get an idea of who might want to read it.

Did you write a cookbook about vegan Lebanese baking? CIP data will ensure it’s shelved correctly. Is your masterpiece a noir mystery about quantum mechanics? CIP data means your book will turn up in searches for either topic on a library’s web site. In short, CIP data helps your readers find your book! Fortunately, at My Word Publishing we have our own resident cataloger, who can add CIP data to your book prior to publication.

Do I need CIP data? That depends!

Probably, if:

  1. You want libraries to carry your book
  2. Your book is nonfiction
  3. Your novel contains an unexpected mix of genres or topics

Probably not, if:

  1. Your book is genre fiction
  2. You plan to sell your book direct-to-readers, at conferences or other speaking engagements

I hope this short explainer cleared up the mystery surrounding ISBNs, LCCNs, and CIP data. Check out the complete list of services that My Word Publishing offers, no matter what stage of publishing your book is in.