Pretty much everybody has a story to tell, but successfully navigating the Byzantine complexity of the publishing industry can be daunting to even the greatest wordsmith.

However, the internet revolution has truly brought the power of the press to the masses. If you’re going to invest your time in writing a book, you should make sure to do it correctly. Many first time publishers simply want to see their work in a professional format, and aren’t necessarily thinking of sales. However, you can never gauge the popularity of your work, and setting yourself up correctly to receive the most profit possible is a smart business move.

First and foremost, you will want to get an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). The ISBN is unique to your book and conveys information such as the title, author’s name, publisher and subject of the work to libraries and booksellers. The ISBN tells retailers how to contact the publisher to order more copies, and it ensures your work is listed in catalogues and has a place in the global publishing supply chain. While ISBN is an international standard each country has a single officially recognized agent in charge of issuing ISBNs. In the United States, Bowker is that agent. Self-publishers can purchase ISBNs directly through Bowker. A single ISBN will cost $125, however the company also offers packages of 10, 100 and 1,000 ISBNs for $250, $575 and $1,000, respectively. A minimum of 10 ISBNs is recommended because each version of the book (i.e. hardback, soft-cover, audio book, e-book, etc.) you intend to publish requires its own unique ISBN. There are some other companies that are authorized agents of Bowker who can provide official ISBNs, but be aware that using another service rather than going through Bowker directly can have pitfalls or clauses that a self-publisher needs to be aware of. For instance, if you use a publishing on demand (POD) service to obtain an ISBN, that number may be registered to the POD service instead of to you, the author. Be sure to discuss this issue with the print on demand service provider, and learn what the pros and cons are before proceeding. Additionally, there are several companies in the marketplace claiming to be ISBN authorized agents that have no actual association with legitimate ISBNs at all. As a self-publisher, it’s easy to assume that the most important task is to finish your project and proceed with publishing. However, there are set up details that need attention as well, and obtaining the ISBN number correctly is an important one.

Another very important detail not to forget about is getting an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number). Two mutually exclusive programs for obtaining LCCNs exist – CIP (Cataloguing in Publication) and PCN (Pre-assigned Control Number). Nearly all self-published and POD books wind up with PCN because most do not qualify for CIP, which is reserved more for established commercial publishing houses. You can complete a two-step process to obtain a PCN for your book through the Library of Congress website ( There is no charge to obtain a PCN, however publishers are required to submit two copies of the work to the Library of Congress within three months of publication or face a potential fine. An experienced print on demand book printer or publishing company will have more information for you, and will guide you through this process.

Finally, you may want to seek a certificate of copyright for your work. Technically every written work is copyrighted upon completion, however if a question ever arises about the work and you don’t have a copyright certificate from the United States Copyright Office, you may find yourself in the position of trying to prove exactly when the book was created. Luckily the process of copyrighting a work has also been greatly affected by the web, and you can submit many kinds of creative work online directly to the Copyright Office ( Printing is available to answer all of your questions regarding the ISBN and Library of Congress number. We have helped writers for over 3 decades navigate the self-publishing landscape, and our customer service team is ready to help you take the next step.