For Book Publishers Wading Through the Alphabet Soup: Decoding the ISBN, LCCN, Bar Code and More

As a book cover and interior designer, I often receive manuscripts from clients and prospects missing portions of or the entire content of the copyright page. This is the most important page in your book. It contains language that protects your intellectual property; has your copyright date, publishing company contact information, ISBN number and LCCN number.


Some of this information must be obtained in a specific order. The first item on the list to get is your ISBN number (International Standard Book Number). This number is part of a book identification system (sort of like the social security number is for people). Merchants, wholesalers, distributors, libraries, and search engines use this number to locate you, (the publisher) and your book. The ISBN number consists of 13 digits, and you may apply for a single number or set of 10 through Each edition and format (i.e. hard cover, soft cover, e-book, audio book) of your book must have a different number, so if you think you’ll be publishing more books or products, it is wise to buy a set of 10. Packages start at $125. When ordering your ISBN online, once you submit your payment, the number(s) are immediately available to you.


Next up is the LCCN number (Library of Congress Control Number aka Library of Congress Card Number). This is a number assigned to the Library Of Congress bibliographic record of your book. The LCCN number differs from the ISBN number in that an ISBN is assigned to each edition or format of your book while the Library of Congress number is assigned to the work itself.

This is a two-step process and can take anywhere from one to two weeks to complete. To start the LCCN application process, go to The Pre-assigned Control Number program assigns the LCCN number. This is a free service, but you must later mail a published copy of your book to the Library of Congress. Audio books and e-Books are not eligible for LCCN assignment. The LCCN does not copyright your book.


Your copyright is secured automatically when your manuscript is created, and your work is “created” when it is on paper – in book format or not. In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. But, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. You may register your work with the US Copyright office online at for $35.

Bar Code

The next item on your list is the bar code. This is the little black and white box with vertical lines that is printed on the back cover of your book. If you plan to sell your book in bookstores or online, you’ll need the barcode so merchants can scan the book for pricing and other information. The ISBN number is imprinted in the graphic, and the price can be embedded or printed above it. Your cover designer may order this for you for $10-$20. Within a few hours, the bar code is emailed as an eps file that the designer inserts into the back cover layout.

Other Content on Copyright Page

Your copyright page should have a simple notation to the copyright date and your name. It can be done with the copyright symbol © or the word “copyright.” It is printed like this:

Copyright 2010, author’s name or publishing company


© 2010, author’s name or publishing company

You should also include a statement regarding copyright infringement. Here is a typical statement:

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher.

Include your publishing company contact information and your website address. You may also add credits to the cover designer, interior page layout designer and editor.

Contact your editor to help you pull together a complete copyright page for a polished professional book.