There are three elements that identify a book as yours, and yours only. The first is the copyright. Your work is automatically copyrighted. However, this doesn’t mean that the copyright is protected. In order to protect your copyright, you have to register it! In addition to the copyright, your book will be assigned an LCCN, as well as an ISBN.
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is exclusive legal right to the creator of original works to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same. In simpler terms, it means no one can use your stuff without your express permission or share it without accreditation. Did you know that your work is copyrighted the minute you produce it and you don’t have to do anything to retain that copyright? However, if you want to protect your copyright, you need to register it with the US Copyright office. This means that if someone violates your copyright, you have a legal basis to sue for the infringement.
What is LCCN?
An LCCN is a Library of Congress Control Number. The Library of Congress assigns a number to every publication it will acquire, and an LCCN can be requested by US publishers prior to publication. Unlike a copyright, you do not have to pay to register the LCCN but the publisher (that would be you if you self-publish your book!) must send a copy of the book to the Library of Congress upon publication. It is important to know that ebooks are ineligible for an LCCN.
What is a PCN?
A PCN is a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) Program which enables the Library of Congress to assign Library of Congress Control Numbers (LCCN) in advance of publication to those titles that may be added to the Library’s collections. The LCCN is included in the copyright page of the book and this helps the book to be cataloged. The PCN links the book to the Library of Congress records and is therefore very important. Self-published authors MAY apply for an account to register for a PCN.
What is an ISBN?
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number and is a book’s unique identifier. It tells us not just the identity of the book but who the publisher is. ISBNs are unique to each edition of a book. ISBNs are obtained by the publisher, whether it’s you or an outside publisher. We often think of the ISBN as a barcode but in reality, the ISBN is the number itself and the barcode has to be requested separately.
Each ISBN consists of 5 elements with each section being separated by spaces or hyphens.
- Prefix element – currently this can only be either 978 or 979. It is always 3 digits in length
- Registration group element – this identifies the particular country, geographical region, or language area participating in the ISBN system. Between 1 and 5 digits
- Registrant element – this identifies the particular publisher or imprint. Up to 7 digits
- Publication element – identifies the edition and format of the title. Up to 6 digits
- Check digit – this is always the final single digit that mathematically validates the rest of the number
There is quite a bit of debate on whether or not someone who self-publishes should buy their own ISBN or use the CreateSpace free ISBN. In my experience, unless you NEVER plan on distributing your book anywhere other than through CreateSpace (Amazon) you should purchase your own ISBNs. Most stores do not take books that are published by CreateSpace. (IE, with a CreateSpace ISBN.) Additionally, because of the particular identification elements as listed above, it is to your benefit to have your information attached to your ISBN. If you plan on publishing more than one book, you can create your own imprint and publish all of your books under that imprint. ISBNs can be purchased through Bowker.
If you need help with any parts of this process, do not hesitate to reach out to us, or join our FREE Write.Publish.Sell Facebook group to ask any questions!
If this is confusing as all get out and you want me to walk you through this very important process, I encourage you to schedule a 30-min call rather than spending hours of your valuable time trying to get it.
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