Writers Boon Blog


  • What is PCIP Data?
    Discover the Facts & Dispel the Myths

    Lisa A. Shiel


    PCIP Explained

    Lisa A. Shiel is the owner and founder of Five Rainbows Cataloging Services. She earned a master's degree in library science in just eleven months and with a perfect GPA, spent time working in corporate and public libraries, and has even written bestselling romance novels (as Anna Durand). Since its founding in 2007, her company has crafted professional, affordable PCIP data for hundreds of clients, from self-published authors to traditional publishing houses. Find her on Writers Boon and get 15% discount on her services.

    The world of library cataloging involves a lot of jargon and specialized knowledge that can confuse the layman. When one person innocently misunderstands what they read about PCIP data, they can may pass along their misconceptions to others. It doesn't help that PCIP data is also known as CIP data, cataloging data, and bibliographic data. And what about MARC records? No wonder so many folks are confused.

    Can you handle the truth? Of course you can!

    Before diving into the details, I'd like to share some common misconceptions. These are actual questions received by my company, Five Rainbows Cataloging Services:

    Can you give me a CIP number?

    Sorry, no. PCIP/CIP data is not a number; it's a block of information that describes a book. (I'll explain in a moment.)

    How can you help me sell my book?

    Wish we could, but we can't. PCIP data has many valuable purposes, but no one can promise it'll spur droves of librarians, much less readers, to buy your book.

    If I publish a book, won't libraries automatically buy and catalog it for free?

    Nope. Many libraries have automatic orders for the big, bestselling authors; they don't auto-order every book published. If you buy PCIP data that comes with a MARC record, it will appear in WorldCat where librarians and readers can see it. At Five Rainbows, we also upload to the SkyRiver catalog, which is strictly for librarians.

    Can I call my CIP data "Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data"?

    No, no, no, NO! Sorry for getting loud there, but this one deserves the caps and exclamation point. Unless the Library of Congress created your CIP data, you cannot call it Library of Congress CIP data.

    The strangest question I was ever asked came when someone emailed my company looking for "carbide tips." I still have no idea what those are! I may not be able to help you with carbide tips, but I can help you understand what PCIP data is and what purpose it serves.

     What is PCIP data is? What purpose does it serve?

    The general term is cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data; when this is created by anyone other than the Library of Congress (LC), we call it publisher's cataloging-in-publication (PCIP) data.

    This term was coined some time back to differentiate the two ways of acquiring CIP data--either from the Library of Congress or from cataloging vendors.

    Though LC provides the service for free, it's hard to qualify for their CIP program. Self-published authors don't qualify. Smaller publishers may not either. This is where vendors come into the picture. Companies like Five Rainbows will catalog your book for you, creating the same kind of PCIP data LC might provide.

    PCIP data is a block of information that describes your book, from the subjects discussed in it to information about the publisher. In October 2015, LC introduced a new format for CIP data that includes even more information than before, such as BISAC subject headings and, for fiction, genre headings.

    Here's a sample PCIP block created for a real book for one of our actual clients:

    Names: Connolly, Rebecca.
    Title: The dangers of doing good / Rebecca Connolly.
    Description: Seattle : Phase Publishing, 2016. | Series: Arrangement, bk. 4.
    Identifiers: LCCN 2016957763 | ISBN 978-1-943048-13-7 (pbk.) | ISBN 978-1-943048-14-4 (ebook)
    Subjects: LCSH: Man-woman relationships--Fiction. | Abused women--Fiction. | Single women--England--Fiction. | London (England)--19th century--Fiction. | Love stories. | BISAC: FICTION / Romance / General. | FICTION / Romance / Historical / Regency. | GSAFD: Love stories. | Regency fiction. | Historical fiction.
    Classification: LCC PS3603.O5472 D36 2016 (print) | LCC PS3603.O5472 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6--dc23.

    GSAFD refers to headings from Guidelines on Subject Access to Individual Works of Fiction, Drama, Etc.

    LCSH stands for Library of Congress Subjects Headings. 

    If this were a children's book, you'd also see CYAC (Children's & Young Adult Cataloging) headings.

    Call numbers shown on the classification line come from the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC).

    For more information on the elements of a PCIP data block, please visit the examples page on the Five Rainbows website. The page includes even more examples, as well as brief explanations of the elements in each.

    PCIP data is not a number itself, but it contains several kinds of identifiers--unique numbers that identify one particular book, including ISBNs and the ten-digit LCCN assigned by the Library of Congress.

    Remember, you have to apply for an LCCN from the Library of Congress. They don't automatically assign one to every book published. Ebooks can't receive LCCNs except through LC's CIP program (which, as stated earlier, is hard to get into). Those who don't qualify for the CIP program must apply for LCCNs via the Preassigned Control Number program; LC then calls it a PCN. They are the same thing, however, and most librarians will know it better as an LCCN.

    Here is a useful guide.

    What can PCIP data do for you?

    Its main purpose is to help librarians catalog books faster.

    Many libraries don't have dedicated catalogers, meaning employees whose only job is to catalog. When I worked in public and corporate libraries, I had many duties and squeezed cataloging in between helping patrons, answering the phones, etc. If a book had no CIP data, I set it aside for later cataloging. PCIP data makes it much more likely your book will get cataloged quickly.

    If your book is listed in WorldCat or SkyRiver, this makes it even easier for librarians to get your book in their system. They can simply download your cataloging data from either of these services. For this to happen, though, you need to purchase a MARC record (specially coded digital file) for your book. Many PCIP vendors, like Five Rainbows, offer MARC records along with PCIP data.

    PCIP data will make a book appear more professional--and it makes librarians happy.

    • Any other questions about the PCIP data? Head to Writers Boon Q&A and ask away.