Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Self-Publishing: Library of Congress Control Numbers

Kathryn Page Camp
Do you want to sell your self-published book to libraries?* Get a Library of Congress Control Number.
The Library of Congress has a Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN) that is available to U.S. book publishers and includes self-publishers.** The publisher must maintain an editorial office (which can be your residence address) in the U.S. where someone (you) is available and capable of answering “substantive bibliographic questions” about the book. In general, “substantive bibliographic questions” means questions about the author, edition, and subject matter of the book and whether it contains references and indices. These are all questions an author should be able to answer about his or her own book.
Before applying for a PCN, the self-publisher must register online with the Library of Congress and provide the location information mentioned above. Registering also means that you agree to put the U.S. city of publication on the title page or copyright page of each book entered into the PCN program.
Once you are registered, you can apply for a PCN for your book. This is also an online process. There is no fee, but once the book is published, you must send a copy to the Library of Congress.
Under the PCN program, you may not publish the book until you receive the Library of Congress Control Number. The published book must list both the U.S. city of publication and the control number.
Certain books are not eligible for the PCN program. They include:
·         Books that are already published,
·         E-books (although you can request a PCN for a hard cover or trade paperback version of the same book),
·         Mass market paperbacks (but, again, you can request a PCN for a hard cover or trade paperback version of the same book), and
·         Most manuscripts under 50 pages (excluding children’s books).
For more information on which books are not eligible, see
You may be asking what the difference is between a mass market paperback and a trade paperback. Although there is often a difference in printing quality (mass market paperbacks are generally printed on cheaper paper), the main difference is size. A mass market paperback is one that is approximately four inches by seven inches. Trade paperbacks are larger: usually at least five inches by eight inches. In my experience, most self-published books are trade paperbacks.
Once the Library of Congress receives your book, it may select it for inclusion in its online catalogue. Because of its limited resources, however, most PCN books do not make it. Even so, having a Library of Congress Control Number increases the chances that a library will consider adding the book to its collection.
You can learn more about the program and apply for a PCN at
* For purposes of this post, “self-published” refers to any book paid for or subsidized by the author.
** The Library of Congress also has a Cataloging in Publication program that provides more extensive cataloging data on the book. However, this program is not available to self-publishers or for any book that is paid for or subsidized by the author.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her new book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013) is available from and other retailers. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

1 comment:

  1. I have a question, and perhaps the answer is up in this post, but I'm confused.

    If a self publishing author publishes a paperback (through something like Create Space), and then an ebook, are they required to do the "mandatory deposit of copyrighted works" the Library of Congress page for publishers says?

    It seems that some times everything is saying no, but it's really hard to figure out.
    Thank you!