Need Your Own ISBN? It’s Easy.

Of course, the first question is, do you need your own ISBN?

The long and short of it is—YES, YOU DO.

Here’s a site that provides a quick and dirty explanation of why indie authors should own their own ISBNs instead of letting Amazon or Book Baby or any of the other packagers give you one for “free.” As the site will make clear, there are hidden costs to this perk.

So if you’re convinced, as I was, how do you get an ISBN?

It’s really not hard at all.

In the United States, ISBNs are sold through a company called Bowker. At http://www.bowker.com, you’ll find a link for “Authors.” On this page, you’ll be invited to click on various links promising help with your project, but for now, you’re interested in the link called “ISBN United States.”‘

Bowker

Next, you’ll click on a link to “Get Started: Order ISBN.”

Bowker Order ISBN page

On the next page, you’ll be able to scout the various plans and set up your “MyIdentifiers” account.

Bowker buy ISBN now page

At present, Bowker sells a single ISBN for $125, ten for $295 (they were on sale for $250 the day I wrote this), or 100 for $595. What should you do?

This is another personal choice. Experts online vary in their recommendations, but all seem to agree that most authors will need more than one ISBN. For example, if you buy just one at $125, use it for your ebook in the Kindle Store, then choose to create a POD edition needing its own ISBN, you’ve already spent $250—because each edition of your book requires its own ISBN. Most indie authors publish more than one book. Many publish more than ten books! How many books you expect to write will probably dictate the choice you make.

Note that the page offering you the ISBN options also offers you a chance to purchase a bar code. This code will eventually go on the cover of your POD book, providing the ISBN and the price you set for your book.

You can delay the bar-code purchase until you are actually ready to produce your cover. When you buy your ISBN(s) and create your Bowker MyIdentifiers account, you will find a link allowing you to purchase the appropriate bar code for that ISBN.

Bowker Manage ISBNs page

When you buy a bar code, your MyIdentifiers screen at Bowker will allow you to set the price that will appear on the bar code.

I chose to set this price to zero. Why? Because if you later want to change the price for any reason, you must produce a new cover with a new bar code. Uploading this new cover will cost you $25.

However, if your bar code reads “zero,” you can price the book any way you want, and other sellers can attach their bar codes over yours or charge whatever they want.

You will still set a retail price at Ingram for individual purchasers. Bookstores who might order your books to sell on their shelves get their discounts based on this price. At Ingram, you can edit both the price and discount over time if you like.

Bowker seems set up to accommodate even the most uneducated users. Like all technology, it requires you to follow a set of steps, but in the long run, negotiating these steps will give you the control you want over your work!

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5 Comments

Filed under business of writing, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing

5 responses to “Need Your Own ISBN? It’s Easy.

  1. Pingback: Help! Do I Really NEED an ISBN? | Just Can't Help Writing

  2. I am not convinced. Or if it even applies to me here in UK. I would like some feedback on all of this, as to how many self-published authors actually do this?

    Like

    • Interesting. According to their site, Bowker is the official provider of ISBNs for the U.S. and Australia. They argue that “An ISBN is essential for linking information which allows booksellers and readers to know: what your book is about, who the author is, and who the publisher is. Along with the barcode, it is crucial for tracking sales and inventory,” and further that “Without an ISBN, your book will not be found in most bookstores, either online, or down the street from your house.” Contra those claims, here’s a site that argues forcefully that you don’t need an ISBN at all to cover 95% of the ebook market, and that the only possible reason to have an ISBN is if you hope to get your hard-copy book in bookstores or libraries: http://willentrekin.com/why-you-dont-need-an-isbn-and-what-you-should-invest-in-instead/
      This author recommends setting yourself up as an LLC. Have you done that? Or are there such entities in the UK? I do know that I’ve often been able to point people to my books by providing them with the ISBNs. I’m comfortable with having ISBNs, but it clearly is a debatable issue! Thanks for raising the question.

      Liked by 1 person

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