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What is an LCCN and Why Do I Need It?

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Want your book to be carried in libraries? Then you have to register it with the Library of Congress.

"An LCCN is assigned to a book while the book is being catalogued by the Library of Congress, if it has been selected for addition to the Library’s collections." There is only one number assigned to a book no matter how many different formats its published in.

Librarians use the LCCN to locate a specific book in the national database and to catalogue and assign a book in libraries, so the number needs to be printed in the book. That means it needs to be obtained prior to the book's publication.

"In some cases, a number can be pre-assigned to the book through the Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN). Some books are not eligible for submission for the PCN program (more on that below). It’s important to note that even if a number is pre-assigned to the book, the book may not be kept in the Library of Congress’ permanent collection. Self-Publishers can apply for an account with the PCN program."

To be eligible to join the PCN program, authors and self-publishers must be located within the U.S. and list a U.S. place of publication on the title or copyright page of their book.

Note that there are eligibility requirements in order to receive an LCCN, among them that your book has not yet been published, will not be published only in ebook format and is more than 50 pages long. The exception to the 50 pages or more requirement is made for children’s books.

"When a number has been assigned, it should be placed on the book’s Copyright page. It can also be included in other registrations/ information for your book, such as the ISBN registration. Now you’re ready to approach libraries about carrying your book.”

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It is also important to note that there is no relationship between copyright registration and the LCCN or PCN program. Additionally, there is no cost to obtain a PCN.

How do you get an LCCN for your self-published book? It's easy.

  1. Go to the Library of Congress Prepub portal

  2. Create a new account

  3. Click on "Application to Participate". There is a link for instructions, if you need help.

  4. Complete application and submit.

  5. You will receive confirmation of your request via email. And in a few days you will receive an email with a link to log in and request your LCCN. You must complete this step.

  6. Within a few more days you will receive your LCCN by email.

  7. Finally, immediately upon publication, send a complimentary copy of your book directly to the Library of Congress at the address provided in the email.

As a self-published author, this is yet another step to having your book discoverable.

How can I get cataloging for a book which is already published?

If your book has already been submitted to the Copyright Office for copyright registration then it will also be reviewed by the Library of Congress’ selection librarians. Works selected for addition to the Library's collections are assigned a cataloguing priority and catalogued according to that priority. The Library of Congress does not provide information regarding whether or not books processed this way have been chosen for cataloging. The Library of Congress catalogue, however, can be searched for works that the Library has catalogued. Self-publishers should also consider working with a professional librarian at a local library to obtain cataloguing.

Additionally, you want to have your book listed with a nationwide distributor such as Ingramsparks so that your book is discoverable and can be easily ordered by libraries that are interested in carrying your book. Be sure to select Expanded Distribution and offer your book at a trade discount.

With all that done, you’re ready to have your book in libraries across the country!

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