Getting Your Book Noticed: Book Cataloging Explained

As mentioned in How to Write a Copyright Page, part of the content included on your page is the cataloging information for your book—or, the identifiers which make your book truly unique if someone searches for it.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

EAN-13 ISBN Bar Code
13-Digit ISBN with EAN Bar Code Source: Wikimedia

This is probably the book cataloging number to which you are already familiar, as it is included on the cover of most books’ bar code. It is also the only number on this list which requires you buy it. Currently issued by Bowker in the United States, ISBN numbers come in packs of 10, 100, and 1000 in addition to being sold individually.

When you register for you ISBN, make sure you fill out all of the information about your book. The information you put in, including the ever-important keywords in your book’s description, will be how your book is found by potential buyers.

One thing to note, which seems to confuse many first-timers, is you need one ISBN per edition of your book. This means you will need to buy a number for your ebook, paperback, and hardcover. Then, you will also need to buy a new ISBN whenever you change the book in any way other than correcting a few typos. You may not re-use an ISBN under any other circumstances.

Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) or Preassigned Control Number (PCN)

Not to be confused with a LCC (Library of Congress Classification,) the LCCN and PCN accomplish, as far as a self publisher need to be concerned with, the same thing. From the Library of Congress’ website:

 Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. The Library of Congress assigns this number while the book is being cataloged. Under certain circumstances, however, a control number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Control Number Program.

Cataloging in Publication (CIP)

For most self-publishers, it is impossible to obtain Cataloging in Publication data directly from the Library of Congress. One of the eligibility requirements is having more than three authors in your publishing house, which crosses most of us off the list.

Publisher’s Cataloging in Publication (PCIP)

This is the alternative to registering your book for the Library of Congress’ CIP if you are only registering for one author. CIP and PCIP are created using the same set of rules; the only difference is the agency which creates the cataloging. While not a requirement for your book’s distribution, a PCIP number will make it infinitely easier for libraries and other institutions to purchase and stock your book. Contained in the PCIP number are the following:

Description (author, title, edition, etc.)
Subject Terms officially used by the Library of Congress  (these allow a book to be searched and linked by common descriptive terms)
Name Terms authorized by the Library of Congress
Classification Numbers formatted in the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress systems

A mistake some self publishers make is thinking they can write the cataloging information themselves by looking at other books. However, the terms used by the classification system are very specific and should only be written by a professional.

Book Cataloging Resources

Purchase your ISBN: Bowker’s ISBN purchase page
LCCN Registration: Library of Congress’ PCN registration page
CIP Data: Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication registration page .
Publisher’s Cataloging in Publication Data: The Donahue Group Inc. (or another authorized archivist)

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