Book Compliance Decoded

Compliance is an essential part of the book publishing process, yet it is often very difficult to navigate the details of each step along the way. When done correctly, the proper registration of a book maximizes search ability, but all the weird lingo and tedious applications can be daunting. While the compliance process is unnecessary to memorize in its entirety, here is a general overview of how it works.

First and foremost, an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) must be purchased for and assigned to the title. This number is the book equivalent of a Social Security number, and it can be purchased through MyIdentifiers in a block of ten, which is recommended—each binding will require its own ISBN. Once these have been purchased, they are ready to be assigned to an individual title via BowkerLink. This step officially links a specific ISBN to a single title. While performing this step, attention to detail is a must! You don’t want a slip of the finger to delay the setup process. Although the assignment is still technically pending at this point, it is usually safe to begin associating this ISBN with your title.

Next, an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) must be assigned through the Library of Congress. (When the LCCN is obtained in advance of publication, it’s known as a PCN, or Preassigned Control Number). This fairly simple step includes a brief application that requires the book’s ISBN, among a few other details. Once the application is received, the Library of Congress will notify the applicant via email that the request is being processed. Usually about a day later, sometimes even sooner, the applicant will receive a second email containing the title’s LCCN.

Requesting CIP (Cataloging-In-Publication) data for the title is the next step. This can be done through companies such as The Donahue Group, but there are many others. The CIP data is designed to describe the bibliographic characteristics of a work to facilitate access to it in library catalogs; you can find an example of it on the copyright page of any book. The application for this one is a little more detailed and requires an actual PDF sample of the book, as well as specific information regarding the book’s interior. Turnaround time for this step is a bit longer. Unless the request is marked “rush,” which expedites the process to about a three-day turn around, expect to receive the CIP data roughly two weeks after it is requested, usually via email.

After a book has been published, its author or claimant must file for copyright registration. The copyright application is longer than both the ISBN and LCCN applications, but it is the last step in the compliance process. It is here that the copyright holder—not necessarily the author of the book—is selected. Once the application is completed, two copies of the title, along with shipping slips from the website, must be sent to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. This last step can take up to several months, but it ensures that every aspect of the book is registered and protected.

Although the process may seem tedious and scary, it is essential that each step be completed with care and patience—so take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!