Sorry there’s been such a delay in getting on to the next chunk of this indie publishing break down! Life has been full. But you might be struggling with this whole ISBN business. I want to help you as much as I can. Here in the US, we have to buy our ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers). In some countries you do not, like Canada. It’s currently December, so I don’t recommend moving there right now. . . .
If you’ve missed any of the previous articles in the How to Not Get Overwhelmed with Indie Publishing series, here is the list of what we have been and are covering:
- How to Make Your Big Goal Manageable
- Acquiring Beta Readers
- Editing/Editor Considerations
- Book Cover Design
- The Back Cover Synopsis & Author Bio
- Copyright (US)
- Paper & Ebook Publishing Platforms (mainly US)
- ISBN (and bar code (US))
- Ebook Formatting
- Paperback and Hardbound Formatting
- Uploading Your Book to One or Various Platforms
- Marketing Strategies
ISBNs have been around for quite a while. In fact, before the system went international it was started by W. H. Smith, at the time the largest book retailer in Great Britain, implementing the SBN (Stardard Booking Numbering) system back in 1967. It was such a useful categorization system that more than 150 countries participate in the ISBN system that followed.
Here in the US you can purchase a single ISBN or sets of them in various amounts through Bowker at https://www.myidentifiers.com/.
The price for
- one ISBN is currently $125.00
- but if you buy 10 it’s $295
- or $575 for 100 ISBNs
- or there are larger packages depending on your needs
You will need a separate ISBN for every format type of your book(s):
- 1 for paperback
- 1 for harbound
- 1 for audio book
- 1 for ebook (not usually required as most digital distributors supply their own unique coding numbers like Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords).
- If once you’ve published you want to change the trim size or number of pages in the book, you will then need another new ISBN for each format.
Here’s what Bowker says about ISBNs:
- ISBNs are the global standard for identifying titles
- Each version of a book, print or digital, requires its own ISBN. Be sure to purchase enough for your needs
- Most retailers require ISBNs to track book inventory
- Buying an ISBN improves the chances your book will be found
If you live in a jurisdiction for ISBNs outside the US, I encourage you to visit the International ISBN Agency to find out about getting ISBNs where you live.
Another aspect to consider is barcodes associated with your ISBN. From personal experience I have not bought the barcodes through Bowker as both Createspace and IngramSpark automatically generate the barcodes for you, thereby avoiding an mishaps. But when I did look into publishing through Barnes & Noble’s print-on-demand service they did not provide the barcode, so that is a service you would need to have one for. For more info on barcodes visit Bowker’s FAQ.
Just to wrap it all up, ISBNs are fairly simple and straightforward, and by this point in your publishing journey you are already good at setting up new accounts and creating crazy passowords, which you will want to do at myidentifiers.com (Bowker), too. This step can be accomplished anywhere along your journey. I’d say the sooner the better so you’re prepared, but you can get the ISBN last and still be good. It is really only a necessity when it’s time to publish in print and audio (of course, audio might be handled like ebooks, but I’ve not taken that plunge yet, so I don’t know for sure!).
Congrats on making it this far into your publishing adventure. Don’t lose heart. I know it can be overwhelming, but if you take it step-by-step, in small, manageable chunks, I know you will be successful!
If you have a question or need a little help, just ask and I’ll do what I can. 🙂