CIP: What It Means, How to Read It, Who Should Get It

by | Mar 23, 2010

There is one place in printed books where we look for all kinds of editorial, bibliographic, legal, promotional and production information: the copyright page. But among all this information, data, legal notices and marketing and contact information, there’s one piece of content on the copyright page that is obscure to most people who pick up the book: the CIP data block, issued by the Library of Congress’ Cataloging in Publication program.

According to the Library of Congress, the CIP program allows catalogers to

complete the descriptive cataloging …, assign subject headings …, and assign full Library of Congress and Dewey decimal classification numbers. … A machine-readable version of the record is distributed to large libraries, bibliographic utilities, and book vendors around the world.

This transmission of data is what makes participation in the program useful for selling books. Being listed in the databases of large libraries and book wholesalers thanks to the Library of Congress program eliminates one of the obstacles to achieving library sales for a book. And for many books, libraries are a critical part of their market.

The Problem with the Program

Unfortunately, the CIP program excludes self-publishers from participating, and that applies to authors who have published with one of the “subsidy” presses like LuLu or Createspace. It also excludes publishers who have issued less than 3 books by authors other than themselves. This effectively bars self-publishers from the program, even those whose books would be of great interest to libraries.

The good news is that participation in the Library of Congress’ Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program is open to all publishers who list a U.S. place of publication on the title or copyright page, and who maintain an office inside the U.S. where they can answer questions from the catalogers. And once you have a PCN you can pay for your own CIP to be created.

CIP data blocks created by the Library of Congress are known as LC-CIP. Those created by a publisher, or by a third party on behalf of a publisher, are known as P-CIP. The chief source for P-CIP for many years has been Quality Books, a distributor of small press books to libraries. Their fee for this service is $100.

As with the Library of Congress, you will have to fill out their forms and supply information about your book. A cataloger will analyze your submission and produce a P-CIP data block to be printed in your book. Of course, the downside is that this record will not be distributed to large libraries and wholesalers, the way the Library of Congress’ record is distributed.

This leads to the question of whether it’s worth it for a self-publisher to go through the time and expense of having a P-CIP data block produced for her book. And the answer is actually quite simple: If you anticipate making any appreciable sale to libraries, it’s probably well worthwhile to get P-CIP. Having this cataloging information simply makes librarians’ jobs that much easier, reducing their resistance just a bit to acquiring your book for their collection.

Particularly if you publish reference books, histories, books about local events that would be of interest to libraries in your region, travel books, directories, how-to books on popular topics, or similar books, you could well have a good sized market with the thousands of libraries, both public and private, throughout the country.

What Does it All Mean?

Copyright page CIP data block

Click to enlarge

This brings us to the data block itself, and our attempts to decode the arcane notation of the catalogers. Here’s a line by line guide to what’s in the CIP in this illustration (and this is a complete invention, just for illustration).

A. Alerts the librarian the CIP was prepared by or for the Publisher
B. The main entry under which the book is cataloged, always the author’s name.
C. The title, followed by a statement of responsibility, in this case assigning authorship to John and Joan Doe.
D. Physical description of the book, almost always blank since the books are usually not yet published.
E. Notes whether an index or other bibliographical entries are in the book.
G. Subject headings, conforming to Library of Congress usage. Here’s an important note from Lisa Shiel, an experienced CIP cataloger: “The subject headings . . . MUST be authorized Library of Congress subject headings or it isn’t really CIP–and it isn’t properly cataloged. . . . Unless 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.” See the comments to the blog post for Lisa’s complete comments.
H. Indicates other ways the book will be cataloged, here by title as well as by author.
I. Library of Congress classification number.
J. Dewey Decimal classification number.
K. Library of Congress PCN. Note the year the number was issued is in the first four digits.
Note that since this article was published I have incorporated the information generously provided in the comments by Lisa Shiel, an experienced CIP cataloger.

So there you have it. Here are some resources for going further into the CIP area:

  1. Library of Congress PCN program information
  2. Quality Books P-CIP Program (No longer available as of July, 2017)
  3. Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, a freelance Cataloger-At-Large who prepares P-CIP data blocks for publishers
  4. Five Rainbows CIP Cataloging service

Takeaway: Although participation in the Library of Congress CIP program is closed to self-publishers, understanding this data block and how it’s used by librarians will tell you whether to go to the time and trouble to acquire your own.

Photo: BlueDiamondGallery

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Sharon Goldinger

    Gary, from my conversations with librarians, it does make it easier if you have a CIP.

    • Gary Townsend

      Thank you, Sharon!

  2. Gary Townsend

    I’ve noticed that most of my traditionally published fiction paperbacks don’t include CIP data, but some do. Those that do seem to have this line at the beginning:

    The Library of Congress has catalogued the hardcover edition as follows:
    [and then the data appears]

    Not all of my traditionally published fiction hardcovers include the CIP data, either. Some only include the LCCN.

    This makes discerning the reasons for these differences difficult. It also makes it difficult to discern whether it’s useful for a self-publisher to pursue such things. Is it?

    Do these things make it easier to get a self-pubbed novel/anthology into a library?

    • Gary Townsend

      And, actually, after going through some more of the traditionally published novels I own, I have found a couple of paperbacks that do include CIP data that doesn’t claim to be that for their hardcover counterparts (assuming that they do have such counterparts).

      Curiouser and curiouser. LOL

  3. Probal

    Hi Joel,

    I am an editor with an academic publisher. The Library of Congress will not provide CIP data for one of our books since it was deemed to contain transitory or consumable materials. We requested them to reconsider, but in vain. Could you please clarify if there are any geographical, institutional, library type or any other restrictions (specifically of the legal variety) involved for books that do not have CIP data? Would appreciate a quick reply as the book is about to be published. Many thanks in advance!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Probal, sorry to hear that. There are no restrictions that I know of, and do remember that the vast majority of books published in the U.S. have no CIP data. It is mainly of use to librarians, but if you want to include it, you can use one of the vendors mentioned in this article and it will work just as well as one from the Library of Congress.

      • Probal

        Hi Joel,

        Thanks much for the clarification. This is very helpful.

  4. David Colin Carr

    Hey, Joel – I am a publisher with several imprints for authors whose books I have edited (my main business) and helped produce. This service I provide means I can GIVE them ISBNs from the enormous number I bought years ago, which saves them the huge expense of buying a few ISBNs. Though my publishing company (Lone Wolf Consortium) does not appear on their copyright pages – their own imprint does, which is registered with Bowker as an imprint of LWC – am I qualified as a publisher with more than three titles? Or do I have to have three titles under the same imprint?

    Thanks for all your enormous service!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi David,

      Since all the titles are under your “umbrella” ISBN I believe they would all be credited to Lone Wolf, and this is reflected in the “publisher identifier” part of the ISBN.

  5. Derek

    Hey Joel,

    Quality Books is no longer accepting PCIP requests. Do you recommend a different place to do that?

    This is where I found the info —


    • Karen Myers

      Try Five Rainbows. Very professional. You buy credits, and they run occasional sales, so if you run into one, bank credits for upcoming books while they’re less expensive.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for the alert, Derek, and sorry to see QBI stop providing this service. I wonder if they are still selling books to libraries, which was their main business?

  6. Karen Myers

    With much gratitude to Joel, Lisa Shiel, and others, I’ve listed this post and referred to some of its comments as part of a 4-part blog post on “The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more” which can be found here:

    If you happen to read that, please let me know of any egregious errors you may find.

    Much appreciated.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Karen, it looks like a terrific post, thanks for including our resources in your extensive article.

  7. Sandy

    Hi Joel, I noticed on the Library of Congress LCCN site ( that when you click on “Open Account” and then click on the “Scope of the PCN program” link, the following is listed as ineligible for an LCCN:

    “Books for which Cataloging in Publication data has been (or will be) requested.”

    Is it just books with CIP, or are books with P-CIP also ineligible? If books with P-CIP are ineligible, how should I proceed?

  8. anuroop sebastian

    Hi Joel,

    How are you doing? I am a new author and I am publishing my first Christian devotional book through a small publishing company in Dallas. The publisher has got the PCN/LCCN number for me.

    I am planning to place the LCCN number below the ISBN in the copyright page. I also bought a PCIP data block which has the LCCN in it. Am i violating any rules of the Library of Congress if I place a PCIP data block on the copyright page? In other words, i am planning to place the LCCN number on the copyright page. Then, i am going to add the PCIP date block. it is going to look like this.

    ISBN: 978-0-89985-505-9 (Paperback edition)
    Library of Congress Control Number:

    Publishers’ Cataloging-in-Publication

    I really appreciate your advice.



    • Joel Friedlander

      Anuroop, both the ISBN and LCCCN will be included in your CIP data block, so once you put that on your copyright page, you should delete the ones that were there before, you only need these numbers once on the copyright page.

  9. Robert moss

    Joel et al.,

    I am planning on going the P-CIP route for a book I’ve written that fits in the historical fiction genre.

    I’ve noticed a number of such novels do not use disclaimers such as, “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

    Instead they add “—Fiction” to actual people, subject headings and places. For example, “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold. Numerous characters including the lead are based on real people. The book lists in its Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication (LC-CIP) data the following:

    Carter, Charles J.—Fiction. 2. Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923—Fiction. 3. Presidents—Fiction. 4. Carter, Magicians—Fiction. I. Title.

    The author of this book has these characters/people doing all sorts of things they never did in real life; and in addition to Charles J. Carter and Warren G. Harding, several other real people appear in the story including Harry Houdini, Groucho Marx and Philo T. Farnsworth and none of them are listed in the LC-CIP. Why? I can’t believe that Harry Houdini doesn’t have a library subject heading.

    The LC-CIP data in “Sophie’s Choice” includes “—fiction” subject headings and places and reads as follows:

    Holocaust survivors—New York (N.Y)—fiction. 2. Good and evil—Fiction. 3. Flatbush (New York, N.Y)—Fiction. I. Title.

    Are you familiar with the above sort of legal wording of adding “—Fiction” to actual people, subject headings and places? Why do some of the real people/characters appear in Carter Beats the Devil’s LC-CIP and not others?

    I hope you or some of the other people in this thread can offer advice on going about this form of publication data as a means of disclaimer for works of historical fiction.

    Thank you all for your help.


    • Lisa A. Shiel


      CIP data is not a legal notice. It is a block of information that describes the content of a book. LC subject headings for fiction works must include the genre subheading “fiction”; without this, the headings refer to nonfiction. Not every character or plot element in a novel will garner its own subject heading, even if one exists in the LC database. The cataloger will choose the most appropriate headings to describe the primary elements of the book.

      Lisa A. Shiel
      Five Rainbows Services for Authors & Publishers

      • Robert Moss

        Thank you, Lisa, for clarifying that.

        How then does a book like Carter Beats the Devil not need a disclaimer such as the following? “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events … purely coincidental.”

        Is it a matter of placing “A Novel” after the title on the cover and in the LC- or P-CIP data?

        Thank you again for your help?


  10. Peter Kinnon

    I’m nearing the end of my latest book “The Intricacy Generator” It is a more follow-up on my two previous books which I made available the electronic version free from my website and downloads now exceeding 2000 per month.
    That’s the background. So, my plan was to use CreateSpace with the hope of getting LCCN by virtue of their issue of ISBN. I am resident in New Zealand but by far my biggest market is in the states.
    To my dismay, it now seems that this won’t work. In fact, from the comments above it seems that none of the CreateSpace output is eligible.
    The book is higher level popular science and very appropriate for LC and other libraries. Probably my main target! Grrr!

    I could use the National Library of NZ CIP with no problem, they don’t seem to have a problem with self-publishers, but I don’t know how far international influences extend for such things.

    Any good suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Lisa A. Shiel

      Peter, most non-U.S. CIP vendors do NOT include Library of Congress call numbers in their CIP data blocks. This is a requirement if you’re intending to publish the book in the U.S. You must make sure that your national library uses the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules AND that they create both Dewey and Library of Congress call numbers. Also, they MUST use Library of Congress subject headings. Otherwise, your CIP data will be useless to American librarians.

      An LCCN is a control number, similar to an ISBN. CIP data is cataloging information — call numbers, subject headings, and title/author info formatted in a particular way. Anyone can get an LCCN through the Library of Congress’s PCN program. CIP data can be acquired from an independent vendor, such as Five Rainbows Services.

      • Peter Kinnon

        Many thanks for your reply, Lisa.

        However, I note that “(PCN) program is open to all publishers who list a U.S. place of publication on the title or copyright page, and who maintain an office inside the U.S. where they can answer questions from the catalogers.”

        I am resident in New Zealand and don’t have an office in the US.

        So does this mean there is no possible way to get “The Intricacy Generator” into US libraries?

        If so, do you know if there is any way to establish some kind of “virtual office” over there on a paid-for basis?

        Or can you perhaps suggest any other work-around?


        • Lisa A. Shiel

          You don’t need an LCCN in order to get PCIP data. Anyone can purchase it from a non-LC vendor.

  11. Nan Clarke

    Hi, Joel –

    I intend to self-publish, probably through CreateSpace, a nonfiction history of America’s first foreign mission. I will obtain the ISBN myself and be the publisher.

    I believe the book is suitable for inclusion in most libraries, and I understand that to maximize my chances of that happening, I need to set things up with the Library of Congress before publication. But the more I read on their website and elsewhere, the more confused I become about the PCN program, CIP information, and LCCN’s.

    The LoC website says about the CIP and PCN programs that “The two programs are mutually exclusive.” I take that to mean that you can have either a PCN number or a CIP number, but not both. Is that correct?

    If so, how is it that you can purchase a Publisher’s CIP block through companies like According to their website, “Once you have an LCCN through the PCN program, you can always pay somebody to create the CIP data.” You’ve already used the PCN program to get an LCCN; so aren’t you precluded from using the CIP program, even though you will list it as Publisher’s CIP data, not LoC CIP data?

    Also, the LOC says about its PCN program that “The following are ineligible: … Books for which Cataloging in Publication data has been (or will be) requested. … Items not intended for wide distribution to libraries.” Is my book then ineligible for an LCCN through the PCN program if I plan to get Publisher’s CIP data through a company like And I don’t have a realistic hope of wide distribution to libraries, so doesn’t that also knock me out of the PCN program?

    I am also ineligible for the CIP program, per the LoC: “Only U.S. publishers who publish titles that are likely to be widely acquired by U.S. libraries are eligible to participate in the CIP program. … Every publisher/imprint must have already published a minimum of three titles by three different authors. All three titles must have been widely acquired by U.S. libraries. … All other publishers are ineligible for the CIP Program.”

    I’m also confused by your example of the Publisher’s CIP data. Your item I is an LoC classification number, but I can’t find anything on the LoC website that tells me what that is. And on their website it looks like your item K should be the LCCN, not the PCN.

    Should I just print my book at Kinko’s and forget all this mess?

    • Lisa A. Shiel


      The Library of Congress CIP (Cataloging-in-Publication Data) program involves LC catalogers creating cataloging data that is printed on the copyright page of a book. This data helps librarians catalog books faster, which means the books get on library shelves faster. An LCCN is a Library of Congress Control Number, and a PCN is a Pre-assigned Control Number. Control numbers identify each book, but they do not help librarians catalog books.

      If you do not qualify for LC’s CIP program, then you must get your LCCN/PCN through the PCN program. An LCCN and a PCN are the same thing, offered through different LC programs, which is why the programs are mutually exclusive. If you qualify for the LC CIP program, then you don’t need to use the PCN program; but if you don’t qualify, then the PCN program is your only option for getting an LCCN/PCN.

      You do not need an LCCN in order to get CIP data from a non-LC vendor. At Five Rainbows, we frequently create CIP blocks for clients who don’t want to bother with LCCNs. The LC CIP program is completely separate from vendors like Five Rainbows that offer CIP data services. Different vendors have different requirements about what types of books they will catalog. At 5R, we will catalog anything that’s going to be published in the U.S., but some vendors exclude foreign language books.

      An LC classification number is NOT the same thing as an LCCN/PCN. Classification numbers (aka call numbers) are printed on the spines of books to allow librarians to locate items on the shelves. LCCNs are simply control numbers that help identify books in library catalogs — not on shelves.

  12. Sandy Nathan

    I’ve entered many book contests for independent presses and authors––and I’ve won pretty consistently. A famous book shepherd told me to get a PCIP or CIP, for all the reasons above and because book contest judges will scrutinize everything about your book, especially the copyright page. Does it look professional? I.e., like Random House published the book? I’ve always included a PCIP. To date, I’ve won 24 national awards. Did the PCIP/CIP do it? No clue. But I’m just about to contact Walt to order another.

  13. Walt Shiel


    One correction: the link to the Five Rainbows Services PCIP page has changed to .

    One addition: a few providers of PCIP services, including Five Rainbows Services, can also get your book’s metadata uploaded to WorldCat. This makes that extended cataloging data available to thousands of libraries around the world, libraries who can simply download the data into their systems rather than rekeying it. This can also be done post-publication if the book’s metadata has not already been uploaded by an acquiring library.

  14. spencer selby

    I hope Joel is right that P-CIP is worth it for those that have reference books, as do I. I’m not totally convinced. I read somewhere that librarians now don’t agree that CIP remains necessary. If that is true, my concern is that CIP is used now more as a stamp of approval, in which case P-CIP wouldn’t help.

  15. MrDotJim

    Thank you again, I am an undergraduate majoring in the life sciences in Taiwan. This helps a lot after searching for informations that could explain the “arcane” data block provided by the library of congress.

    Thank you!

  16. April L. Hamilton

    Joel –
    My “comment” was turning into a blog post, so I posted it as such on my Indie Author blog. The link to it is embedded in my name, above this comment.

      • Joel Friedlander

        I’ve added the link, April, so people can follow the thread if they like. I added a comment there and appreciate your amplification of the subject. Thanks!

  17. April L. Hamilton

    Joel –
    I just wanted to clarify, neither Lulu nor Createspace are subsidy outfits. A subsidy publisher retains at least some of the rights to material it publishes for a period of time, and with Lulu and Createspace, the author or imprint which submits material to be published retains all rights to that material. Lulu and Createspace are really just print and digital service providers.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for the clarification, April.

      Of course, if you use a “free” ISBN from LuLu or CreateSpace they might move past the “print service provider” classification.

      We really need an overhaul of the language used to talk about these companies to avoid misstatements like this but still make it clear what separates service providers from subsidy publishers from so-called “vanity” publishers and so on.

  18. Joel


    Thanks so much for your expert commentary. I think from your comments readers can clearly see why you need an experienced cataloger to prepare P-CIP data, it’s not something one can do themselves.

  19. Lisa A. Shiel

    I’m a professional CIP cataloger for Five Rainbows Services. Just a couple points to clarify:

    1. The main entry (labeled B in your example) in CIP data is always the author’s name. For collections, where an editor is listed on the title page rather than the authors, the main entry line is excluded. An editor’s name may appear in the added entries (labeled as H in the example).

    2. The physical descriptions is nearly always blank because the books are not yet published, and often the size and page count aren’t set.

    3. The subject headings (labeled as G in the example) MUST be authorized LC subject headings or it isn’t really CIP–and it isn’t properly cataloged. Virtually all libraries in the US use LC subject headings. Some people think they can browse the LC online catalog to find their own subject headings for DIY CIP, but this is a bad idea. Unless 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.

    You can find more info about CIP on the Five Rainbows site:

    Lisa A. Shiel

    • Deanne

      A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I cataloged and a book about a moon or a different planet (real or sci-fi) arrived with a subject heading of “geography”, I objected on the basis that “geo-” always refers to Earth. I changed the subject headings to, say, “Jupiter – surface differentiations”. Did that make the entry improperly cataloged?

      • Lisa A. Shiel


        If no such heading exists in the LC Subject Headings schedules, then yes, it is improperly cataloged. The genre/form headings (Fiction, for instance) may be added, but not general subheadings.

  20. betty ming liu

    I agree, Joel! Writers need to know everything now. It’s happened in my field too — journalism. We now teach students that they must be good at more than reporting and writing. They have to know how to handle a video camera, edit video clips, do podcasts, blog, etc. The whole world is changing.

  21. Joel

    Larry, you are welcome. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are hard to find, glad this was useful.

    Walt, I didn’t realize you did CIP, why don’t you send me the link to that service and I’ll add it to the resources at the bottom of the post?

    Betty, this is the kind of thing writers never got involved with so, consequently, don’t really know anything about. But with the world getting flatter, and people taking on more responsibility for their own publications, there’s a whole host of information that was the domain of the “back office” people that’s coming into the light, and I really enjoy delving into this arcana. Thanks for your comment!


      i am a Cameroonian and i am about to publish my first book but i dont, know how to go about it plase can you you give men and idea?

  22. betty ming liu

    It’s so helpful that 1) you post this nitty-gritty stuff and that 2) you explain things simply and clearly. Like many writers, I’m always fantasizing about becoming an author. But I doubt many of us think about these business essentials which are crucial to real success. So thanks for this info!

  23. Walt Shiel

    Here is a link to a couple of posts on my blog on why CIP/PCIP is important and how DIYers often don’t get it right:

    Also, our subsidiary Five Rainbows Services has been providing PCIP services for indie and self publishers for several years now at .

  24. Larry Elwood


    Just wanted to thank you for this article. I have combed the web looking for these details to no avail.. until now. For a new publisher, this info is vital!




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