You and the Library of Congress


Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Yes, you.  If you’re a writer, that is.  My e-publication project is giving me lots of opportunities to learn things that I would never have thought of as a writer.  As for the Library of Congress, yes, I did remember about registering for my copyright of Perceval’s Secret.  But this past week, I learned something else that’s just as important as copyright.

CIP.  What’s that?  Well, it stands for “Cataloguing in Publication” record which is written by the Library of Congress.  Pick up the nearest book.  Now go to the copyright page.  Below the copyright and ISBN number, there’s a section of information that begins, “The Library of Congress has catalogued…as follows:”That section is the CIP.

What’s it for?  It’s the list of categories that a librarian or bookseller or researcher needs to see what a book is about whether fiction or nonfiction.  These categories, for example, if searched in a book catalog, will suggest your book if the categories are accurate for your book.  It’s how books are categorized in big databases whether in libraries or a book distributor.  If the categories are wrong, your book won’t come up and no one will know about it.  For example, a category for Perceval’s Secret would be espionage suspense.  But what if the catalogers don’t give it that category?  Well, it won’t be in that part of a database.

How does a book get a CIP?  Here’s the procedure as laid out by Jack Hamann in his informative article “Unlocking the LOC” in the December 2013 issue of The Writer:  once a soon-to-be-published book is in final manuscript form, someone at the publisher fills out an online CIP form and sends an electronic copy of the book including table of contents, introduction and epilogue to the Library of Congress.  There, a cataloger reviews the material and assigns the proper classifications.  That’s in an ideal world.  The reality is that the CIP Division receives 16,000 new submissions a day, so each cataloger barely has time to guess at the proper classifications after a skim of the submitted material.

Does the writer of the book get a chance to review the CIP before publication?  Sure does.  When the writer receives  a galley of the book to go over for any errors, it’s important that the writer also check the copyright page for the CIP and make sure it’s correct.  Changes can be made before publication.  After publication, sorry, too late.  It’s extremely rare for a CIP to be changed after publication.

So, for Perceval’s Secret, I’m the one responsible for filling out the online CIP form and sending the electronic file to the Library of Congress before publication.  And yes, an e-book needs a CIP, too.  That same CIP will also be in the print version and audio version, etc. in the future.  I am planning to eventually publish a print version.  Obtaining the CIP for e-book publication could hold up publication of the novel.

I’d already planned on applying for my copyright before publication.  It’s going to the same place as the CIP, different divisions, so I might as well do them at the same time….  I’ve just checked out the CIP website FAQs and learned that when I sent my novel in for the copyright registration, it’ll be reviewed for possible inclusion in the Library of Congress.  If it is included, then the cataloging will be done and I won’t have to worry about it.

Now, tell me, how many of you, my readers, knew what a CIP was?

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2 responses to “You and the Library of Congress

  1. I only knew because I was a copy cataloger way way back in my undergrad days. I had actually forgotten about all of those particulars … Thanks for raising them, as its important information for writers.

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