How to Get a Library of Congress Control Number

Are you an independent author who wants their book to be acquired by libraries? Getting a Library of Congress Control Number is one step toward that goal.

If you’re self-publishing your book, and you believe libraries might be interested in having it on their shelves, you’ll need to make sure your book is in the Library of Congress catalog. Established publishers can apply for Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) data once they’ve published three books. But first-time authors publishing on their own can request a free Preassigned Control Number (PCN) from the Library, which will enable their book to be cataloged by any library that purchases it.

And it’s easy to get one! Just go to this webpage and follow the directions. You’ll want to read about the PCN’s requirements for publisher eligibility, the scope (which includes a list of publications ineligible for a PCN), the purpose of the PCN program, and the two-step process to obtain a PCN.

PCN Website screenshot

After you’ve fully familiarized yourself with the PCN program and process, you can fill out an application to participate in PCN. (Note the link at the top of the form, “Click here for instructions,” which will open a small, separate window with directions for filling out the application.)

Once your application has been accepted, you’ll be sent an account number and password. You’ll then be able to apply for a PCN for your book. You’ll want to apply for a PCN for your book once you have finalized the book’s title, subtitle, and page count.

Based on your publishing name (e.g., Jane Doe Books, Lee’s Press), you will be part of a group sorted alphabetically and then assigned to an LOC staff member. So you will receive emails from your assigned staff person about your PCN application.

The whole process may take a few weeks, or you may get lucky, as one Trio client did recently, and receive your PCN within a couple of days of applying for it. Once you have it, list it on your copyright page, so that librarians will find it easily when they want to enter your book’s Library of Congress catalog information into their own library’s system.

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