How to get your book stocked by libraries - CIP blocks and why you need one


How to get your book stocked by libraries - CIP blocks and why you need one

If you want to reach the widest possible audience, you need to have your book stocked in libraries. Ensuring your book is catalogued correctly gives your book the best chance of being selected by libraries. Here’s how.

Library bookshelves

Why would you want your book stocked in libraries?

In order to reach the widest market for your book, you need to be able to get your book into the libraries. A study from the Library Journal found that ‘over 50% of all library users report purchasing books by an author they were introduced to in the library’. There is a misconception that libraries hurt book sales but in fact libraries form a crucial role in introducing new readers to your work and growing your customer base.


Library cataloguing

Before we outline how to get your books into libraries, you must first understand the process of how libraries catalogue books. Library cataloguing refers to the grouping of information about books, which allows libraries to easily track and process large volumes of books across many libraries on a single network. With the invention of computers, libraries have moved away from traditionally recording and categorising their books using the Dewy Decimal System. Now, digital cataloguing allows faster and more accurate categorising of books by storing a set of information in a Cataloguing-in-Publication block. Cataloguing your book correctly is crucial as it reduces the time it takes for your book to be placed on library shelves and makes processing far easier for librarians.


Cataloguing-in-Publication blocks

In order for a library to process a book, it must have a cataloguing block printed on the back of its title page. The cataloguing block contains essential information about the book including the title, author, edition, ISBN and other metadata. It will also usually include a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) from the Library of Congress (LC), the name terms authorised by the Library of Congress, subject terms from the Library of Congress for search purposes, and the classification numbers for Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal.

There are two common types of cataloguing blocks:

  • CIP (Cataloguing-in-Publication): A CIP block created by the Library of Congress.
  • PCIP (Publisher’s Cataloguing-in-Publication): A CIP block created by a private cataloguing service at the request of the publisher.

Both a CIP and a PCIP look essentially the same and are both often referred to as CIP data blocks. To make matters even more confusing, there is a third way of categorising your book which also allows access to libraries. This is called a Preassigned Control Number and is issued by the Library of Congress if you register your book with the Library of Congress prior to publication.


Should you get a CIP, PCIP or a Preassigned Control Number?

In the US, originally a CIP block was assigned to every book submitted to the Library of Congress. But today submissions to the Library of Congress are much higher (approximately 15,000 per day) and so they’ve limited their cataloguing services to publishers that produce at least 5 books per year.

Therefore, if you don’t produce at least 5 books per year or are self-published you cannot get a CIP. You must instead get a PCIP or a Preassigned Control Number.

Here are the criteria:

  • You are from the US and have not yet published your book – You are eligible to apply for a Preassigned Control Number from the Library of Congress. You can find out more in our guide to getting an LCCN. You can also obtain a PCIP but it is recommended to register for a Preassigned Control Number as it allows for a CIP from the Library of Congress to be applied to your book in the future.
  • You are from the US and have already published your book – You cannot apply for a Preassigned Control Number. You must obtain a PCIP.
  • You are not from the US - You cannot apply for a Preassigned Control Number. You must obtain a PCIP.


How do you get a PCIP?

You can obtain a PCIP from a private provider of cataloguing services. The PCIP providers we recommend using are Parlew Associates and CIP blocks for Independent Publishers. If they don’t fit your needs there are several others, just make sure you do your research to make sure they are reputable.

For your application you will need:

  • A copy of the title page and copyright page of your book
  • Names of the author(s), editor(s), illustrator(s) and any other relevant contributors
  • Your print and eBook ISBN
  • A description of your book’s subject

What's next?

This article covers what a CIP is and why you need one to get your book stocked in libraries. Remember this is of course just one of our Indie Author Guides. Pop your email in the box to the right to sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch with our latest tips, info and specials for our author friends.


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