The ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is the number that identifies your book or audiobook from among all the others. Libraries order books by ISBN. So do grocery stores and bookstores, which get discounts so they can resell them and make a profit for their service.
Some platforms, including Kindle Direct Publishing, offer free ISBNs as a convenience. Remember that not all conveniences are free. ISBNs are assigned by publisher. When you allow your platform to assign their own ISBN, you are in effect allowing your book to appear in Books in Print as if they are the publisher, not you.
Kindle Direct Publishing now offers a slight nuance. As their customer service representative told me, “We will register your book’s imprint name as ‘Independently published’ with Bowker (the US ISBN agency), and this information will also be displayed on your Amazon detail page.”
However, “Free KDP Print ISBNs can only be used for books published on KDP Print.”
You can do better. Get your own ISBN.
Ordering Your ISBN
Here’s what you do.
Contact R.R. Bowker, the keeper of the ISBNs in the United States, at http://www.bowker.com and go to their Publishers page.
It’s been over thirty years since I founded Azenphony Press and obtained one hundred ISBNs. I don’t remember there being any cost at all. If there was, it could not have been much because I couldn’t have afforded that many at today’s prices.
You can order ISBNs in quantities of 1 ($125), 10 ($295), 100 ($575), and 1,000 ($1,000). Purchase according to your publishing vision but remember that for every book you publish you need an ISBN for every format in which the book appears. Yes, hardcover and softcover versions require separate ISBNs. Your ebook and audiobook require two more.
The only exception: A book format that you plan to upload onto different platforms can use the same ISBN.
Traditionally, a second edition would warrant a new ISBN. However, in the e-world, whatever online testimonials you attract for your first edition will be wiped out if you create a new ISBN for the second edition. So, keep the same ISBN for subsequent e-editions.
If you are planning to publish one book as a softcover print on demand (POD) and an ebook, you need two immediately. Purchasing two individually comes to $250, which is $45 less than the cost if you buy ten at a time. If you go audio, you’ll need a third so you’re already over the cost to buy ten at once.
How many additional books do you see yourself publishing? Purchase ISBNs for them now to take advantage of quantity discounts. If you plan to publish other authors besides yourself, you’ll surpass ten ISBNs quickly. For less than double the cost of the first ten, you get another ninety.
Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. You never thought you’d write one book and now you’re preparing the final draft for publication. Who says you can’t write another?
Once you’ve got the ISBN, converting it to a barcode is essential — for your POD only — and with good reason: Resellers of your book are going to want to record the sale by scanning the back cover at the cash register.
Scanning the barcode eliminates the need for the cashier to write or type your ISBN. It’s faster. It’s more accurate. It makes taking inventory far simpler and reduces employee training time.
The good news is, conversion is simple thanks to the availability of free conversion tools on the Internet. Just do a Google search for “barcode generator” and use the first link that’s free and works.
Or, if you leave white space on the bottom right-hand corner of the back cover of your POD where the barcode goes and upload the cover to Kindle Direct Publishing, it will come back to you with the barcode filling the white space, at no cost to you.
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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].
Schedule your complimentary 30-minute coaching and editing session now.