I knew self-publishing was going to be tough, but there was one thing I never expected: all the acronyms.
One of those was “LCCN.” When I first encountered it, I had no idea it stands for Library of Congress Control Number. And I didn’t yet know why those four little letters mattered for the success of my self-published book.
Since then, I’ve learned that an LCCN can legitimize your work in the eyes of many readers, and it enables your book to be carried in bookstores and libraries.
An LCCN isn’t required, but it adds professionalism to your work. You might get one for the same reasons an independent business owner applies for an LLC: it’s perfectly fine to run a business without one, but having “Inc.” or “LLC.” after your company name adds an heir of professionalism. It’s the same case with your self-published book. It’s a small way to build your reader’s trust in you as an actual published author.
It’s common to feel like self-publishing isn’t a legitimate way to become an author. But, that’s simply not true. More people are pursuing self-publishing as a legitimate way to publish their story. And getting an LCCN is a great way to legitimize the process and make you feel like a published author. Because you are.
Most importantly, if you want your physical book to appear in libraries across the country, you need an LCCN.
A LCCN is a unique-to-you number assigned to your book when it’s accepted into the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. The Library houses more than 164-million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. Over 15,000 come through the Library each business day, including books, journals, newspapers, maps, manuscripts, photographs, posters, and more.
There’s a unique benefit to being accepted into the Library of Congress. Once your book sits on their shelves, it becomes searchable by librarians nationwide. As a new self-published author, this is a big deal; all of a sudden you have the potential for extensive exposure.
Getting a free LCCN for your self-published book is a four step process:
First, visit the Library of Congress PCN Program page and click “Application to Participate.”
Second, complete and submit the application. It should look something like this.
Third, you’ll get an email with your account number and password included. Be sure to save those and keep them somewhere safe in case you want to get another LCCN in the future.
Fourth, complete a Preassigned Control Number Application Form for each title that needs an LCCN. Once the Library of Congress accepts your application, you’ll receive your LCCN in an email. Here’s an example from Aaron’s newest book, 31 Prayers for My Son.
Fifth, add your book’s assigned LCCN to your book’s copyright page. Here’s what the LCCN number looks like in Jennifer’s book, Wife After God.
Lastly, mail a print copy of your book to the Library of Congress at this address.
Library of Congress
US Programs, Law, and Literature Division
Cataloging in Publication Program
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4283
Be sure to send the most up-to-date version of your book: the one you send will be the one they catalog. In other words, don’t send in your proof copy or an older edition. Send in your best most-up-to-date print copy at the time. Each new edition after your initial publication will need a unique LCCN.
And you’re done. At this point, your book has officially been assigned an LCCN. Congratulations!
The Library of Congress may or may not decide to actually place your book on their bookshelves. To find out if the LOC has chosen to place your book on their shelves, search for your book on the Library of Congress website or go visit the Library of Congress in-person.
If you have a question that you don’t find here, you can always read through the Library of Congress’ PCN Frequently Asked Questions.
It’s free to apply for an LCCN. That being said, you’ll need to print a copy of your book through CreateSpace, package it, and send it to the Library of Congress. In total, the entire process will cost you a grand total of around $15.
If you’re not interested in spending the time or money to apply for an LCCN yourself, CreateSpace will do it for only $25.
Most published books qualify for an LCCN but there are a few restrictions:
After you send your book to the Library of Congress, it’s reviewed by a selection officer. They will either keep your book or add it to the surplus book program. If they keep your book, they will catalog it in their digital system and place it on their bookshelves. You will be able to search for your book on the Library of Congress website or in libraries nationwide.
If it is added to the surplus book program, the Library maintains your book’s bibliographic record, but it’s suppressed. This means your book will stay in the digital cataloging system, but it won’t show up in the catalog available to librarians nationwide.
As a self-published author, getting both an LCCN and an ISBN for your book is worthwhile.
They are both number systems that librarians use to find your book. They give you and your book credibility as a self-published work. And you can get them for free. But they’re not related.
Your LCCN ties your work to the Library of Congress catalog system. An LCCN gives librarians the ability to find your book.
Your ISBN is separate from the Library of Congress catalog system. It’s used globally as a unique 10 and 13 digit identification number for published books.
If you need an ISBN for your book, read about how to get a free ISBN for your self-published book.
No. Obtaining an LCCN does not mean that you’ve copyrighted your book. If you want to copyright your work, you’ll need to go through the copyright process at Copyright.gov.
Becoming a published author is tough. The process is full of ups and downs that can leave you exhausted and discouraged. (Not to mention all the acronyms that are hard to understand.)
Consider registering for BookWorthy, our self-publishing e-course. We’ll teach you the nuts and bolts of self-publishing your book—covering everything from ideation to publication (and sharing).
You’ll get 16 engaging video lessons that will help you grow. Plus, you’ll get access to a private community of future authors like yourself. And last but not least, world-class resources developed by our team.
The last thing I want is for you is to get stuck and settle with the false reality that writing a book isn’t for you.
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Instead of trudging through, go through this experience inspired. Self-publish your book with a clear direction for where you’re headed. Know what the next steps are and be clear on what success looks like for you.
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Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of BookWorthy.com. He's also a consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.MORE ARTICLES