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FAQ: The Next Step

FAQ Index
The Next Step:
ISBN, LCCN, CIP, SAN and other Alphabetical Considerations

Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.


What is an ISBN and why do I need it?

What is an LCCN and why do I need it?

What is a CIP and why do I need it?

Is there any way for me to get a CIP?

How do I get a Copyright and why do I need it?

Why do I need to enter data in Books In Print?

What is a BISAC code and why do I need it?

What is a SAN and do I need it?

What is an ISBN and why do I need one?

An ISBN is the International Standard Book Number necessary for each book marketed to the book trade (bookstores and libraries). Bookstores will not order a book without an ISBN... mostly because they can't. Without an ISBN, there's no number for them to look up.

How do I get an ISBN?

Go to the R.R. Bowker website

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Wait a minute, these are expensive! Why can't I buy just 1?

ISBN numbers are sold in blocks of 10, 100 or 1000. We've heard that you can buy just one, but the price is about 1/2 of what 10 costs and the number will not identify your company.

People who tell you they'll sell you one of theirs are NOT doing you a favor. That number will tell the book-selling world that it's THEIR book, not yours. Wholesalers and bookstores won't know who to order from and you'll miss sales.

In many cases, a book comes out in hardback, paperback, eBook, and audio book. That's four ISBN numbers right there (and you may want different ISBN's for each type of  eBook file (ePub, Mobi, PDF...).

You may also wish to change the original ISBN if you have major redesigns, price changes and updates of your book. (However, you do not need to change the ISBN number for reprints, minor cover changes or for superficial editorial changes).

If you don't wish to get involved with ordering ISBNs and the like, perhaps subsidy press is the route for you. (see explanation.)

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Once I have it, where does the ISBN go?

You put the ISBN on the Copyright Page (see explanation) of your book. It will appear above the bar code on your cover. Also, you should include it in every piece of advertising you do.

When should I order my ISBN block?

The minute you decide to be a self-publisher—come what may. (Long before the book is finished.)

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What is an LCCN / PCN ?

An LCCN (Library of Congress Catalog Number) and/or PCN (Preassigned Control Number) assigns a library cataloging number to your book (remember the Dewey Decimal system? This is way more complicated, but the intent is the same). If you want your book to be ordered by libraries, you need this number or a CIP (see below).

How do I get an LCCN?

Go to this Library of Congress website.

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Once I have it, where does the LCCN go?

The LCCN goes on the bottom half of your book’s Copyright Page.

When should I get an LCCN or CIP?

When you are typesetting the book (see explanation).

Remember that after you have the printed book, you must send 2 copies to the Library of Congress.

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What is a CIP?

CIP or Cataloging In Publication is a data block giving information required for proper library cataloging of the book.

How do I get it?

If you are eligible for the program, go to this Library of Congress website.

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Why can't I get a CIP?

The CIP program excludes self-publishers and subsidy press authors. They also exclude publishers who have produced less than 3 books by authors other than themselves.

Will not having a CIP disqualify my book from libraries?

If your main customer is libraries, possibly so. Otherwise, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference if you use an LCCN or CIP.

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Is there any way for me to get a CIP?

There are companies that offer a Publisher Cataloging in Publication Service (PCIP). They take your LCCN and other data and create a data block much like a CIP. It is important to note that, since this does not come from the Library of Congress, the book is not in the CIP system. However, many feel this makes their book look more professional. Some feel there is value to librarians in that a PCIP (and CIP) provide them with the book's subject category. If your book is targeted to the library market, you may want to consider acquiring a PCIP.These companies offer PCIP services:

Quality Books
DRT Press
Donohue Group

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What is a Copyright?

A Copyright protects your work from others, establishing it as yours and yours alone. Copyrights exist automatically as a matter of law in any original work of authorship, and are enforceable if notice of copyright is given in the form of "Copyright © 2004 by John Doe." Registration of a copyright is a formality required as a prerequisite of filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement, but registrations, while important, neither establishes or validates the copyright. The rights of the copyright holder are limited by the doctrine of "Fair Use" which generally permits limited, insubstantial reproduction of copyrighted work for academic purposes. There is no "Fair Use" for commercial purposes. For more about "Fair Use" please see Lloyd Rich's or Ivan Hoffman’s webpage [see note] for an explanation

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I’ve heard that if I mail myself the manuscript, that will prove a copyright. Is that true?

No, not really. While you can prove copyright to your self-published book by it’s physical existence, you must register it with the Library of Congress. See this website for straight facts about copyright myths.

Where does the Copyright go?

You will place the mark © and the words "Copyright 200_ [your name]" on the copyright page of your book.

How do I register my Copyright?

After you receive the finished books from the printer, complete the application and send in copies of the book with the application and your check. You can get the application and instructions at this Library of Congress website.

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Why do I need to enter data in Books in Print?

Book-sellers and libraries will not be able to find you if you don't do this important step. Go to the Bowker Company’s website and sign up. Do this as soon as you know your final page count. They will ask you to categorize your book by choosing a BISAC codes.

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What are BISAC codes and where do I get them?

BISAC or Book Industry Subject and Category codes are numbers given to book subjects. To fill out the Books in Print form, you must choose three BISAC Codes that best describe your book subject. Baker & Taylor also require them when registering a new title. You can get BISAC codes for free at the BISG website.

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What is a SAN and do I need it?

Standard Address Numbers (SAN) are used in some specific cases. Very few self-published have had occasion to use it. Read more about it on the R.R. Bowker website.

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Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ

Ivan Hoffman is not affiliated with and not connected in any way with our company or our web site or otherwise with us.


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