CIP, LCCN, PCN, PCIP – what are they and does the indie author really need them? (Part IV)

There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about what Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) entails, what is or is not conferred by a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), the nature of the Library of Congress’s Preassigned Control Number (PCN) Program, and the for-profit Publisher Cataloguing in Publication (PCIP) services offered by freelance cataloguers. Worse still is the myth that the author whose book does not contain CIP data or a coveted LCCN cannot sell their books to libraries. This is simply untrue: all that a CIP data block does is reduce the workload of a cataloging librarian; the absence of a CIP block or an LCCN in no way prevents a library from buying your book and putting it into circulation. And in the United States, self-published authors are barred from the Library of Congress’s CIP Program anyway, rendering an LCCN essentially useless. In this four-part series on CIP, LCCNs, the PCN Program, and PCIPs, I take you through each program and debunk the myths that surround them.

PCIPPublisher’s Cataloguing in Publication (PCIP)

Authors who cannot acquire a CIP record from their national agency can opt to have one produced by freelance cataloguers. In this case the CIP data block in your book is headlined “Publisher’s Cataloguing [or Cataloging] in Publication”. Fees range from $60.00 to over $100.00.

There are several companies and individual freelancers who offer this service, but before you hire one there are a few things you need to consider. The first is that most of these freelance cataloguers are in the United States and have learned the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Most other national agencies use subject headings compatible with those of the Library of Congress but do not necessarily adhere to them; Canada, for example, uses Library of Congress Subject Headings but with some modifications and additions to include specifically Canadian content or a Canadian perspective. Similarly, if you are a UK author and you hire an American cataloguer to produce CIP data for your UK publication, the subject headings may or may not be correct for UK libraries.

The second issue is that many of these freelancers will require that American clients apply to the PCN Program for an LCCN that the cataloguer will add to the data block to make it look more official, but an LCCN in a CIP data block not issued by the Library of Congress is nonsensical: as has already been stressed in Part II, the Library of Congress only inputs into their catalogue data they produce themselves; a librarian who looks in the Library of Congress’s database for the LCCN in a PCIP record will find an empty record.

Some freelance cataloguers offer a service to upload the CIP data record they produce for you to the OCLC WorldCat (worldwide catalogue) database, which is another reason why the freelancer wants you to apply for an LCCN. But you can just as easily search by ISBN in the OCLC, so I really do not see how acquiring an LCCN for a PCIP is essential for anything but optics.

The third and most important issue is that Publisher’s Cataloguing in Publication is considered suspect by cataloguing librarians.

As one put it to me, publishers often try to influence subject headings to meet their marketing agendas, and one freelancer’s comment that she possesses “a willingness to revise and compromise … after all, no one knows a book better than its author (or publisher!)” seems to echo that concern. Another freelancer states that “[u]nless you are experienced with choosing subject headings you may misunderstand the intricacies of cataloging or inadvertently choose a heading that has fallen out of favor.” Although librarians concede that a certain amount of subjectivity is inherent in cataloguing, it is expected to be done in a clinical, scientific fashion without publisher or author input, or marketing concerns.

On their websites, these cataloguers usually give examples of PCIPs they have done for clients. When I checked one LCCN in the Library of Congress database, the self-published author’s book had been later catalogued by the Library — an encouraging sign — but the Library record does not match that created earlier by the freelancer: a notation is now added to the Main title, a subheading is added to the first subject heading, the second subject heading is completely different, the Library deleted the freelancer’s third subject heading, and the Library of Congress classification number is different. Since the PCIP was included in the author’s book, the author would have had to redo her copyright page to remove the PCIP and replace it with the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data block. Had she just had the LCCN on her copyright page, or nothing at all, there would have been no need to redo the print file.

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17 thoughts on “CIP, LCCN, PCN, PCIP – what are they and does the indie author really need them? (Part IV)”

  1. D.L.
    I just went to the LAC website. There is a big new warning on the CIP page that it has been discontinued for self-published titles. So this is quite recent. What a drag!

  2. Where did you see this? It’s news to me. I self-publish and all my books save the first have CIP from LAC.

  3. Quote:
    Library and Archives Canada does not discriminate; any publisher can apply for CIP data as long as they expect to sell 100 copies in the first six months, and if they honour their obligation to provide two copies to the Archives via Legal Deposit. It’s that simple. No status conferred.
    End Quote

    Thank you for this very illuminating thread. I have one question about the sentences above. According to Library and Archives Canada:
    “LAC does not provide Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) for self-publishers. Authors of self-published books may consider approaching their local libraries or bookstores about opportunities to promote their works.”
    That seems to contradict your statement. Did you to say “any traditional publisher” can apply?

  4. Hi Scott,

    Yes, that’s all you can do. Simply send your book, either in published form or in galley form, to the LoC. If they think it is likely to be picked up by libraries, they will catalogue it. And remember, you can still offer it to public libraries yourself.

    The Duplicate Materials and Surplus Books programs both offer to public libraries the copy of your book you sent to the LoC if in published form. If anyone wants it, they can have it for free. So, yes, that is a good thing because if someone wants it, they will catalogue it for their library and add it (hopefully) to the OCLC. If no one wants the book, it gets recycled I think.

  5. Ok, well said; this confusing process is sinking in.

    I was about to fork out the money for a PCIP but had this nagging check in my spirit that I didn’t understand the whole process.

    Thankfully, I searched for three more days online for more answers, with several calls to the LoC. But all the disparate concepts weren’t put together as I had seen in these articles.

    Just two follow-up questions. Now that I have a token LCCN, is true that I merely send in my published book to the LoC in Washington where a reviewer decides if it is worthy of inclusion in the LoC collection? Is that all I can do now?

    They also said, if it doesn’t make it for inclusion in the LoC’s Collection, the book then goes to the Duplicate Materials Exchange Program and the Surplus Books Exchange Program, which “are good things.” What are these?

    Thank You

  6. Don’t get a PCIP, especially if you think the LoC will in fact catalogue your book. And don’t bother with MARC21 for the same reason; MARC21 is just a digital format for transmitting the same information found in a CIP block/national catalogue.

    The main purpose of the OCLC is for libraries to identify what is in their collections; this facilitates inter-library loans. So how does it really help to have your book’s PCIP data there if the book is not in a library? And again, you have to remember that what matters is the source of the information. A data block in the OCLC that was made by a for-profit agency instead of a national or other recognized library (university, public, etc.) will automatically be considered suspect, and thus other libraries may not replicate it for that reason; it will be at their discretion. There is no need whatsoever to procure PCIP, MARC, etc., on your own. Just get your book into a library and they will do it, and the information will be valid and respected in a way no privately produced data ever will.

    On your copyright page (or back cover) you may include BISAC categories but not subject classification headings found in CIP. And know that printing BISAC categories on your copyright page is rather pointless because you will have to identify these when you upload your book to CreateSpace or KDP or Ingram Spark anyway, and the categories will form part of the data that is sent to booksellers. More importantly, you may later want to change your BISAC categories if you find that, for sales reasons, one works better than the others. And BISAC is continually expanding. When I published my first novel, which has Native American themes, there was no BISAC category for Native American literature (don’t get me started on the inherent biases of BISAC). A few years later, one was added. So I updated my BISAC categories with my distributors.

    And consider this: remember that CIP subject headings are not identical across all jurisdictions. So let’s say your book does really well in the UK and a library there decides to buy it. Even if it has a Library of Congress CIP block, a British library might modify the data to meet the needs of their own system.

    I cannot stress enough that these PCIP/MARC21 services are just parasites preying off the anxiety of indie authors who mistakenly believe that unless their book has CIP data included, their book will seem amateurish or illegitimate. The problem is particularly acute in the U.S. because of the policy of the CIP Program. By comparison, Library and Archives Canada does not discriminate; any publisher can apply for CIP data as long as they expect to sell 100 copies in the first six months, and if they honour their obligation to provide two copies to the Archives via Legal Deposit. It’s that simple. No status conferred.

    By the way, that same first novel has never had CIP data produced, yet it was still accepted for inclusion at the Vancouver Public Library, which was my local library when I lived there. Libraries simply do not make purchase decisions based on the existence of CIP data; it’s just a convenience when the national library does it for everyone.

  7. Hello:

    Thanks for this series of articles. I have seen information here I haven’t seen in other places, and may just help me make the right decisions. I have a few questions relating to my situation, questions that others may have as well.

    First, I already have an LCCN through the indie publisher and have considered a PCIP, but now I am not so sure. One of my goals is for my book to be accepted for inclusion in the LoC, and it could qualify from the criteria I read from the LoC website.

    The service I considered for a PCIP also does a MARC21, whereby they send it to OCLC and SkyRiver, which is also seen in Worldcat. But you say this is not necessary because libraries can access the book already from the ISBN? Is that just as likely and easy for them to do?

    Also, is procuring a MARC on my end possible, important and necessary? Should I just try to go to a participating OCLC library and try to get them to receive my book, and then the MARC is taken care of? Can one get a MARC without a PCIP (if one has a preliminary LCCN)?

    Also, I was told that because I have a “hollow” LCCN already, to just send my book to the LoC when it is finished and that’s all I can do. They will review it and consider it for inclusion and they create the CIP block etc. from there.

    Also, since I don’t have a PCIP, should I include my own 3-4 subject classifications on the copyright page, or just leave them out and just include the ISBN, LCCN, and imprint?

    Thanks so much

  8. Ah you caught my typo, I meant to say PCIPs (not PCNs) need to be updated, thanks for keeping me honest! And again, I am very grateful to have month’s long deliberation on this issue finally resolved, a very big thank you!

  9. The best format to apply for the LCCN is the first format, regardless of whether it is hardcover, softcover, etc. It doesn’t have anything to do with which format a library is likely to buy.

    The LoC database does not distinguish between author-published and traditionally published books. The only way to know if a book is self-published is if a) the author is listed as the publisher (as opposed to creating your own imprint); b) if someone checks the publisher database and sees who the contact person/people is/are and they are the same as the author; or c) they find your imprint’s website and your books are the only ones there.

    LCCNs are not updated when a new format is released; the CIP data block is updated and another LCCN may be added to the data block. It depends on whether or not the new format is print or electronic. In the new RDA CIP data block, print and digital formats are given different control numbers (the LoC has adopted the RDA format; you can see this on their website: So if the first format is released in print and you later add an ebook, a second LCCN will be added to the data block. If, however, you first released a hardcover and then later release a softcover, the data block will be updated with the softcover format and its ISBN but an additional LCCN will not be necessary.

    The LoC may be denying that you do not have to apply to the PCN Program because they make money off it. The fact is that if the Library hears about your book and deems it worthy of adding to its collection, it can do so. It will then contact the author for information and request copies (this is known as Legal Deposit, which print publishers are required to fulfill voluntarily in the first place).

    Yes, don’t bother with the PCIP. It’s suspect and a waste of money. And yes, if the LoC produces a data block, you have to remove the PCIP from your copyright page. That will cost money, and all those earlier copies will potentially have the wrong information, which would be embarrassing.

    You’re very welcome. Glad I saved you from the PCIP.

  10. Once again, thank you so much, I think I get it!
    Would this be a fair recap: In the best case, it is ok for a small publisher or self published author to apply for PCN program in the hopes that the LOC later decides to acquire the book and add a full CIP record for the book into their national database, (a record that would be in the same database as, and undistinguishable from the CIP records for major publishing house books)? And that the LOC could do that anyway without a PCN produced LCCN (although they have all denied that to me on the phone) but the advantage to having a PCN produced LCCN is that the original book edition will have the LCCN number pointing to the later filled record. In the worst case the book is not accepted and the LCCN points to an empty record. Also, the best format of book to apply for a PCN if the publisher is applying for only one format (PCN’s need to be updated to include data on additional formats) is the hardcover format, because that is the format libraries typically purchase. Do NOT however purchase a PCIP Block (“Publisher’s Cataloguing in Publication”) for the copyright page from freelance cataloguers: such blocks are suspect by librarians regarding self serving subject headings, they still only upload the CIP data record they produce for you to the OCLC WorldCat (worldwide catalogue) database that can be searched by ISBN and they do not update the LOC national database, still leaving an empty record there. Additionally, if the later entered Library CIP record does not match the PCIP data created earlier by the freelancer, the author will have to remove the PCIP on their copyright page and replace it with the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data block. Again, thank you so much, information from your article has changed my decision to include a purchased PCIP block on the copyright page prior to receiving it directly from the LOC.

  11. What they mean by mutually exclusive is that if you apply to one program you cannot apply to the other (and to do so would be pointless anyway). Since self-published titles are not accepted by the CIP Program, the ONLY option available is the PCN Program.

    The PCN is not a number; it is a program that produces LCCNs for self-published titles. If your application is successful, you are provided with an LCCN that is identified on your copyright page as “Library of Congress Control Number: [number].”

    If the Library at any time decides to acquire your book, they will build a CIP record for it and use the existing LCCN that you acquired through the PCN Program as the control number. If you were not granted an LCCN, then they will provide one at the time they produce the CIP record.

    I will rewrite a few sentences in my post to make that clearer.

  12. I think I am missing something simple here and was wondering if you could please help clarify: The Library of Congress website says ” The CIP program and PCN program are mutually exclusive. Titles processed in one program are not processed in the other program.”. That makes it sound like a book that has a PCN assigned to it it will never have a CIP record created by the LOC even if they decide to acquire the book. I was just told on a phone call with LOC that in a PCN program, if a copy of the published book is accepted by them, it will be added to their database, but the person on the phone could not clarify the contradiction with their website nor confirm whether that addition to their database was via a CIP record or something else.

  13. Yes, if the LoC decides to produce a bibliographic (CIP) record for your book, the LoC will assign an LCCN for that data block. It is only when the production of the CIP data block is author/publisher initiated that it must be done prior to publication. The LoC can decide at any time that they wish to add your book to their collection; it is not the decision of the publisher.

  14. As stated above: “However, if a librarian produces a bibliographic record for your book and includes the LCCN, then uploads the record to the OCLC, that does not mean the Library of Congress will replicate it and add it to the Library’s database; the data record will only be added to the Library’s database if they decide to acquire your book.” My question is, can the Library of Congress add a CIP Record to their National database for a book that does not have a LCCN/PCN assigned before the book’s publication? I ask because Part 1 of this Series states “Cataloguing (or Cataloging) in Publication is a service offered by national libraries (or their designated agents) whereby a bibliographic record is created prior to publication and disseminated to libraries and booksellers, who use it to plan purchases ahead of publication and then to confirm their purchase when they receive the book. (An author must therefore acquire CIP data ahead of publication.”

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