Self-Publishing by the Numbers – ISBNs and LCCNs

by Janica Smith on November 12, 2012

Have you ever looked at the page at the front of a book that has the information about when a book was published? This page can be found on the back of the interior title page of any book – it is called the verso page in the publishing world. The page holds information about who the publisher is, when the book was first published, who holds the copyright and other important information.

There are two important numbers on the page. One is the ISBN or International Standard Book Number. The other is the LCCN or Library of Congress Control Number. The publisher (that would be you if you are self-publishing) is responsible for acquiring these numbers. This is a task that the Author’s Assistant typically handles for the self-publishing author, like I am handling it for Susan.
The ISBN is a 13 digit number that is a unique number assigned to each format of each book. If you publish your book in paperback, hardback and eBook formats you will need a different ISBN for each one. ISBNs are purchased from Bowker and a block of 10 is $250. (A single one is $125 and since you will need one for each format and each addition it is much more economical to purchase a block of 10.) Your Author’s Assistant will set up a form for you to track and record the numbers as you use them. They will also help you record all the information about your book to be tied to the ISBN in Bowker’s Books in Print.
The LCCN is a numerical cataloging system for the US Library of Congress. You must first establish an account with the Library of Congress. The account application requires you to give one of the ISBNs you own – this establishes you as a publisher. After the account is approved, you can request a LCCN which will record the information for your book. When the book is published you will be required to send two copies of the book to the Library of Congress to be filed with the number. Other countries have similar systems.
The ISBN and LCCN numbers are administrative details that can seem confusing to a new publisher but are easily taken care of by a Professional Virtual Author’s Assistant.

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