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Category: Publishing

The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more

Posted in Just for Writers, and Publishing

This 4-part post covers a lot of the bibliographic data that holds the knowledge part of the book trade together, with a section for each of these.

I've written about ISBNs elsewhere. If you're a member of the #neverISBN or the #oneISBNtoRuleThemAll tribes, then this post is not for you — the ISBN holds it all together. It's a prerequisite for all of this. And remember, the ISBN identifies a single format of your work.

Many of these standards are international, but some of the national library stuff is, well, national. I'm describing the situation in the US, but other countries have similar setups.

The intent of this post is to provide basic orientation for indie authors. To find out more about these standards and the groups that maintain them, break out your search engines and go to work.

Will you sell any more books if you enable these standards for your books? Probably not. But there are other reasons to create and maintain high-quality bibliographic data for your books, not least of which is future-proofing your work and making it just that bit more appetizing for library acquisition.

Ready or not, let's dive right in.

Index of topics


LCCN – Library of Congress Control Number

The Library of Congress (LoC) is the “library of record” for the United States. Check out the link — it's had a long and fascinating history. The LoC created its own cataloguing system, the Library of Congress Classification, which gives every document an individual identifying number, the LCCN.

LCCNs refer only to print editions. You get one from the Library of Congress by asking for one. It can be a confusing process, mostly because of the nomenclature of the various programs. (Here is a useful guide.) Basically, you sign up for a program (the Pre-Assigned Control Number program, or PCN) that allows you to request an LCCN, which is in the form of YYYYnnnnnn, where “YYYY” is the current year, and “nnnnnn” is a numerical sequence that starts over each year.

Once granted, the LCCN goes on the copyright page of your book like this:

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012040017

Incidentally, the LoC makes LCCN records for other things. For example, it maintains various “authority” lists such as subjects and names, and other systems can refer to them (such as Worldcat (OCLC) below).

Index of topics

Narrating and producing your own audiobooks

Posted in Audiobook, Just for Writers, and Production

I'm in the process of setting up an ad hoc home studio for narrating and recording audiobooks, and I know I'm not the only one. So I thought I'd share some of my choices with you and explain why I made them.

Right now, I have only one audiobook out. I did the narration, and a local music studio did the professional sound engineering. At $100/finished hour (for a 14.5 hour book), I was reluctant to do more, but I've decided that was a paltry excuse and I should just find a better, more financially acceptable route. You can read about that decision here.

My voice is up to the task, so all I need is gear and a room to use. Alas, I don't have the luxury of even a dedicated closet, nor can I panel a room with sound baffles. So, like most of us, I have to use the best space I can and make it as suitable as possible for quality recordings.

Typical domestic audio studio room

And that can be tricky. Once you've found the room that is the most isolated from all the noisy activities of a household (furnace, television, affection-starved pets, oblivious spouses and children) you have to consider how you can make it work for recording.

The year of the audiobook

Posted in Audiobook, Goals, Production, and Publishing

I've made up my mind. This will be the year I publish audiobook editions of all my titles.

So far, only To Carry the Horn has an audiobook edition. (I've written about producing it here.) I did the narration myself, and I relied upon a local music studio to do the recording.

I'm pleased with the quality of the result, and the reviews are favorable. I've even had a few fans contact me looking for more — but I've balked at producing the rest of them because of the cost of the studio work.

Today, however, my friend Katie persuaded me otherwise.

Here's why…

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm planning on writing several entries in the new series, The Affinities of Magic, before publishing them at the beginning of 2018, one every month or two. I think that'll be an interesting experiment in building momentum, and I should be able to manage 4-6 entries before my publishing schedule catches up with my writing. Since it's a new series, I'm hoping my readers won't mind too much waiting a little bit to begin it, if I can saturate them with new entries from the start.

It also lets me experiment with pre-orders, and all the marketing related to that, since I'll have plenty of time to line those dates up.

The bad part of that, for me, is that it means I won't be publishing much except a few shorter works in 2017, and sales tend to drop when no new titles come out.

Katie suggested putting up the missing audiobook editions (as well as audiobooks for the new series ahead of time). That would give me new editions to publish and keep the momentum going for 2017. It's a great idea.

We kicked around the idea of getting local college or high school media interns to help out, but then I realized nothing was really keeping me from just doing the whole thing myself. Nothing that I couldn't solve if I tried.

What's been stopping me from setting up a home studio is that I'm living in a tiny 1812 log cabin, and there's no room that's out of reach of the hot air furnace, and only one where the television is inaudible.

I don't have a good place to set up as a studio, with sound insulation and all the rest — not without making everyone else tiptoe around to accommodate it. It's not like we have a spare closet.

Desktop microphone isolation stand

But, you know, technology marches on. The popularity of podcasting has created a demand for gear that can create a mini-environment for recording on a desktop. If all the noise that reaches the mike is controlled, maybe the entire room doesn't have to be deadened like a real studio.

I'm an audiophile as a consumer, but not as a producer. I can grope my way around an audio editor program like Goldwave because I'm also a fiddler and I needed a tool to clean up workshop recordings, but that's a far cry from being an audio engineer. On the other hand, this is spoken word, not multi-track music.

What's one more learning curve for an indie author and publisher, eh?

I'll have to wait until spring is far enough along that I can shut the furnace down for a couple of hours at a time, but by then I expect to have a portable home studio set up for less than the cost of engaging an audio professional to do the work for me for a single book.

And then I'll start cranking them out.

Writer by day, and narrator by night.

Why your book descriptions don’t look right

Posted in Formatting, and Just for Writers

We go to a lot of trouble to make our book descriptions as good as we can — not just their content, but the way they look. Many of us have learned basic HTML tagging in order to provide formatting for book descriptions as part of our work publishing a book.

As soon as you go beyond the world of Amazon-only, you begin to lose control of what distributors and retailers do to your pretty book descriptions. And it takes special effort to make the book description inside your book look good, too.

Doesn't always work, though. Not all methods are suitable for all situations, and there are limits to what you can control.

As in all such things, the devil's in the details.

(click on any image below to enlarge it)

HTML Markup to use for websites

What I think of as the original text usually appears on the book's product page on your own author and/or publisher websites.

You have complete control over what this looks like.

You can see a simple use of <strong> and </strong> to mark the bold section (same as using <b> and </b>). This was created in WordPress, and the paragraph behavior is instantiated by the underlying WordPress theme (in other words, I didn't need to place paragraph marks <p> and </p> around each paragraph.)

HTML Markup to use for ebook front-of-book blurbs

Ebooks are special packages of HTML files, in a compressed (zip) container. I make my ebooks using Sigil, and each chapter is an underlying file in the container. The opening page shows a book description.

You have complete control over what this looks like, within the limitations of HTML supported by ebooks.

Participating in the book trade

Posted in Distribution, and Just for Writers

All kinds of industries

I've been a business entrepreneur all my life, primarily in the software and IT industries. In addition to building companies, I've had to build a working understanding of other industries and sectors in order to provide services for them: logistics, health care, educational testing, banks, brokerages, and several others. My businesses were small and mid-size, but most of my clients were large Fortune-500 sorts of companies.

I've prided myself on being able to dive into a new-to-me industry and burrow down into its basic gears and levers, so that I can analyze how it works. In many cases, I've had to understand it well enough to create software for it that would cover all situations, and that takes a deep understanding of what can happen.

So when I decided to become an independent author, I was cocky about applying the same acumen to the book trade. After all, I wanted to know all about how it worked and how to match my new business with it successfully. That naive expectation didn't last long.

Here's the problem…

On a Crooked Track has just been released

Posted in On a Crooked Track, Release, and The Chained Adept

on-a-crooked-track-full-front-cover-297x459Book 4 of The Chained Adept


A clue has sent Penrys back to Ellech, the country where she first appeared four short years ago with her mind wiped, her body stripped, and her neck chained. It’s time to enlist the help of the Collegium of Wizards which sheltered her then.

Things don’t work out that way, and she finds herself retracing a dead scholar’s crooked track and setting herself up as a target to confirm her growing suspicions. But what happens to bait when the prey shows its teeth?

In this conclusion to the series, tracking old crimes brings new dangers, and a chance for redemption.

Order direct from the author, or see the publisher for a growing list of retail sites.

Releasing a series all at once or one at a time — which is better?

Posted in Just for Writers, and Release

fallingdominosI'm just about to start writing a new series. Unlike some of my others, this one is open-ended, rather than coming to a natural (if extensible) close after just a few books.

Is it better to release the new series books one at a time as they're finished, or to write the first several, and then release them quickly, one right after another?

Easy to say — hard to analyze. Lots of uncertainty.

For my own curiosity, I built a spreadsheet to help me do the analysis, and I'm sharing that here with you. As always, I am not responsible for any errors in my assumptions or algorithms — please do your own calculations using your own assumptions.


Time to write a book in the series: 3 months. That's 4 books/year. Sometimes it might be faster, sometimes slower.

I assume my partners (cover artist, conlanger) can keep up. That should only be an issue as the release schedule begins to crowd the writing schedule.

Length of series: Even if I write ahead, the various models end up the same beginning with book 10, so 10 books is enough for this evaluation.

Quantifying uncertainty

To analyze, you need numbers. Those numbers have enormous uncertainty associated with them. Tinkering with the parameters will give you an idea about the sensitivity of the results to the initial setting. Since I'm only interested in the comparative results of different plans, using the same parameters will help cancel out the uncertainty.