PrePub Book Link is the new, modern online system for requesting a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN). It replaces the 1990’s-style web portal that publishers and self-publishers used to submit LCCNs and CIP requests.
Notably, it turns the formally two-step LCCN application process—establish an account, then apply for a number—into a single session for self-publishers. Publishers must still apply for an account, wait for approval, then submit a request for an LCCN.
This article highlights the key enhancements and will be updated as PrePub Book Link gets up-to-speed. See below for an updated list of issues, observations and advice following the May 2019 launch of PrePub Book Link.
What is a Library of Congress Control Number, or LCCN?
It is a unique identification number assigned by the Library of Congress to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use an LCCN to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. (Source)
What books are eligible?
Before talking about the now 3 account options (up from 2), keep in mind these 3 qualification requirements that apply to all types of publishers submitting requests:
- You must register your book before its publication date. An LCCN will not be assigned to books that have been published.
- Only books in print can be registered—no eBook-only registrations. eBooks can be included when registering a printed book, and they must have their own ISBN.
- You must be a U.S.-based publisher.
What’s the difference between the Cataloging in Publication (CIP) and Preassigned Control Number (PCN) programs?
The world’s largest library has two programs, and they are mutually exclusive—you do not participate in both. The CIP program is for traditional publishers that meet certain criteria while the PCN program is for everyone else.
Here are the key eligibility requirements for a CIP account:
- A publisher must have already published at least three titles, by three different authors. All three titles must have been acquired by at least 1,000 U.S. libraries, either in print or eBook format.*
- No print-on-demand books are accepted. This means the books can’t be printed by Amazon’s KDP Print, or Ingram’s Lightning Source or IngramSpark, to name three popular POD printing options.
- No books paid for or subsidized by individual authors are accepted.
- No eBook-only titles are accepted. (Titles published simultaneously in print and eBook are eligible).
- Fee-for-service publishers, book distributors, book printers, and other intermediaries are ineligible.*
*Two of the above criteria have been clarified and updated since I first published my how-to manual on this topic (Register Your Book):
- Regarding number one above, the Library used to simply specify that the three books must be “widely acquired” by libraries. I suspect many applicants figured the Library would not or could not verify this, so the LoC added the 1,000 libraries requirement and a warning label of sorts: “CIP Program staff search in WorldCat to determine how many libraries hold a copy of the titles.”
- Regarding number five, the company (or individual) that owns an ISBN is the publisher. They might hire someone or another firm to perform the various publishing steps (book design, eBook programming, and so on), but they are still the publisher. What the Library is referring to are vanity presses and other book intermediaries—even Amazon’s free KDP Print ISBN—that use their ISBN to publish a book on behalf of the author. This is why it is so important to own your ISBN. If you hire someone or a firm to help you, and they represent that your book will be part of the CIP program, you are most likely being duped.
Note that the list of 5 eligibility criteria above are highlights. If you think your publishing company qualifies, you should visit the About CIP page for complete details.
Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program
The PCN program is available to authors/self-publishers, and publishers that do not qualify for the CIP program. There is a separate application process for these two types of publishers:
- Authors and self-publishers use the PrePub Book Link’s Author/Self-publisher Portal. In this case the application to the program and application for an LCCN are completed in a single session. There is no waiting for account approval.
- Traditional publishers use the PrePub Book Link’s Publisher Portal. As mentioned earlier, this is a 2-step process: first you apply for an account, then you apply to receive an LCCN. (Traditional in this case means that the author is not paying the publisher to publish their book and the publisher is publishing books by more than one author.)
Issues, observations and advice
Conversion to the new system began May 20. Consequently, there are still many unanswered questions and several differences between this new system and past policies.
I’ve noted my observations here based on using the system for several of my publishing clients and will return to update the list as kinks get worked out and information becomes available.
- If you have previously registered for a PCN account, you still need to apply for a new PrePub Book Link If you are a CIP publisher, you can create an individual account then activate your publisher account using your current CIP account ID.
- If you own your own ISBN, there does not appear to be anything preventing a self-publisher from choosing the Publisher Portal. I’ve setup self-publisher accounts using both. The difference is that using the Author/Self-publisher Portal is faster. Also, those that use the Publisher Portal can click a link in that interface to apply for CIP status once they meet the eligibility requirements noted above. I assume someone with the Author/Self-Publisher account would need to contact the Library and this may need to be a manual process.
- Using the old system, the Library said it could take days or weeks for processing, but that was not the case for my clients the past 3 years. Approval and assignment of an LCCN was at most a week. I applied for an LCCN using the Author/Self-publisher Portal and it’s now going on 2 weeks. UPDATE: it took 10 business days.
- The old system made a point of saying you cannot get an LCCN unless you own your ISBN. It went so far as to clarify that CreateSpace is not a publisher, therefore you cannot get an LCCN. There is no such messaging in PrePub Book Link so I’m assuming they will reject requests manually if you submit a free CreateSpace or KDP Print ISBN. Perhaps they will add some kind of verification check in the future.
- PrePub Book Link requires an ISBN for eBooks, if you want to tell the Library that your print book is also available as an eBook. Again, I recommend using an ISBN that you own and not a free one from Smashwords or Draft2Digital. It remains to be seen if they have a way of preventing you from using those but doing so might delay or cause problems with your application.
- The Publisher Portal allows the publisher to assign more than one person to manage their account and it can be someone outside the organization. However, it isn’t clear that this second liaison can manage other PCN accounts on behalf of publishers. They imply you can, but so far you cannot.
- One criterion for getting an LCCN is that your book cannot already be published. However, their question about publication date asks for month and year. Anyone requesting an LCCN in the same month as their pub date will receive an error message that the book is ineligible. Clearly you need to plan further in advance or perhaps you can enter a future date and hope they don’t find out (I don’t know the repercussions of doing this, but it doesn’t seem worth it).
- If you choose the Author/Self-publisher Portal, there is a field to enter the name of the publisher with a help prompt that says: “If you are a self-publisher, please enter your name in the field below.” I don’t understand why they say this. I ignored it and entered my client’s publishing imprint name assigned when we bought his ISBN.
Start here to read more about the two programs (PCN and CIP) and to follow updates about PrePub Book Link: http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/
Copyright is not the same as securing a Library of Congress Control Number. Click here for copyright information and registration.
Do you have questions? Or care to share your experience using PrePub Book Link? Drop them below.
If your book was an e-book already but is coming out in print, is it eligible for the LCCN? I mean, will the upcoming print date qualify it, or will the past ebook date disqualify it?
It sounds like your book is already published and you are just adding an additional format. In this case, no, your print edition is not eligible.
Excellent article, David. Very informative and useful. Thanks!