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The 26 Most Anticipated Books of 2022
We’ve already told you what’s new and exciting when it comes to movies , TV shows and video games in 2022. And since there’s a lot of 2022 ahead of us, let’s take an updated look at our selection of some of the year’s most anticipated books so that you keep adding titles to your “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads.
Since thrillers, mysteries, romance, YA offerings and science-fiction tend to be readers pleasers, we’ve included a bunch of those, as well as some historical fiction, memoirs and poetry.
Fiction Books That Have Already Debuted in 2022
Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho (January 4, 2022). The Taiwan-born and Southern California-raised Jean Chen Ho writes her debut novel with this tale of two young Taiwanese-American women and friends who grow up in Los Angeles and float in and out of each other’s lives when Fiona moves to New York.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (January 11, 2022). Another debut novel on this list is from the Malaysia-born Sue Lynn Tan, who studied in London and France and lives in Hong Kong. The YA fantasy novel, which is the first part of a duology, tells the story of Xingyin. Her mother has been hiding her after she stole the elixir of immortality and was exiled. But when her magic manifests and is discovered, Xingyin needs to leave her mother and embark on a dangerous quest to save her.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (January 11, 2022). After the heartbreaking A Little Life , Hawaiian author Hanya Yanagihara returns with this novel that spans three centuries and is set in an alternate version of America in 1893, 1993 and 2093. The book offers “three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia,” according to Penguin Random House’s synopsis.
Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover (January 18, 2022). Bestselling romance author Colleen Hoover returns with this story about Kenna, a woman who’s been in prison for five years and goes back home trying to reunite with her 4-year-old daughter. The task proves difficult, and her only link to her daughter is Ledger, a local bar owner. As the connection between the two of them grows stronger, Kenna must find a path to atone for her past.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (February 1, 2022). This historical fiction debut novel by Charmaine Wilkerson follows two siblings as their mother dies in present-day California, leaving them an unusual inheritance: a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe and a voice recording in which she talks about the past. The siblings could find their way back to each other, and to their mom, with this family history.
House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) by Sarah J. Maas (February 15, 2022). You can always count on the prolific Sarah J. Maas to keep delivering 700-plus-page volumes every year. While she’s still at work with her A Court of Thorns and Roses long series, Maas returns now to Crescent City for a second installment in which Bryce and Hunt are trying to get back to normal after saving the city. But, of course, war is always looming.
Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King (February 15, 2022). And while we’re talking about prolific authors, let’s mention one of the most illustrious ones. Master of horror — and of posting cute photos of his doggie on Twitter — Stephen King proves once again in 2022 how much of a non-procrastinator he is. In his new novel, Gwendy is a novelist and rising political star confronted by her past. At 12, a stranger gave her a mysterious box. It offered treats but also destruction: None of its seven-colored buttons should be pushed.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (February 22, 2022). After the success of The Guest List — it received the Goodreads Choice Award in Mystery & Thriller last year — Lucy Foley returns with a new puzzle. Broke and alone, Jess asks her half-brother Ben if she could crash at his place for a bit. But when she gets to his Paris apartment, not only is Ben not there, but the place seems way nicer than what he could have afforded. With her brother missing, Jess starts questioning what may have happened and tries to find answers among the building’s neighbors.
Gallant by V.E. Schwab (March 1, 2022). After the bestselling success of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue , V.E./Victoria Schwab returns with another fantasy proposal good for adults and YA audiences alike. In Gallant , Olivia only has her mother’s journal as a memento of her past. When she’s invited to Gallant, she feels at home there, even if no one was expecting her and half-formed ghouls are haunting the place. She wants to uncover what secrets the place holds.
The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich (March 22, 2022). After the success of the Stephanie Plum and Wicked series, bestselling author Janet Evanovich launches a promising new series. Gabriela Rose is a recovery agent hired by people and companies who want to recover all kinds of valuable things. But when she’s forced to work for her own family, Gabriela ends up in the jungles of Peru looking for the Ring of Solomon and the lost treasure of Cortez. The main problem is that her ex-husband, Rafer, is the one who has the map that could take her to the treasure.
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (April 5, 2022). After his heart-wrenching epistolary novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous , the Vietnamese-American Ocean Vuong goes back to his origins with this poetry collection in which he searches for life after his mother’s death. “Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America,” reads the book’s synopsis.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (April 5, 2022). If you, too, read Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic and hopeful tale Station Eleven during the early months of the pandemic, you may want to know more about the Canadian author’s upcoming science-fiction work. In Sea of Tranquility , a detective in the black-skied Night City is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness. He’ll discover a series of lives upended there.
2022’s Most Anticipated Fiction Books
Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins (April 14, 2022). After Paula Hawkins’ latest novel made it to Ask Media Group’s mystery-themed book club last year , we couldn’t leave her new work behind. Best friends Edie, Jake and Ryan see their world torn apart when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of it. Edie is devastated and alone, living in the remote house she shared with Jake. The problem is that somebody is watching…
Book Lovers by Emily Henry (May 3, 2022). Master of contemporary romance novels Emily Henry — she’s the author of the aptly titled Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation — returns with this story about Nora, a literary agent whose life is books. When Nora decides to go away on vacation with her sister Libby, she keeps bumping into Charlie, a bookish editor she’s known for years who has never piqued her interest.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (May 3, 2022). After One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue, LGBTQ+ romance royal Casey McQuiston returns with this YA novel. In I Kissed Shara Wheeler , Chloe is vying for the valedictorian title at high school when her main rival, prom queen Shara Wheeler, kisses her and then proceeds to vanish. Chloe is not the only person Shara’s kissed. The three kissed-ones try to untangle the clues Shara’s left behind and find her.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-García (July 19, 2022). After Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night , the Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-García returns to Gothic horror ingredients with this reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set in 19th-century Mexico.
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds (November 29, 2022). Here’s yet another YA offering with crossover appeal for any age with this debut novel by Jas Hammonds. Avery is a 17 year old forced to leave her life in D.C. and live at her terminally ill grandmother’s home in a small Southern town. She copes with her mother and grandmother’s constant arguments by finding friendship in Simone, her next-door neighbor, and Jade, the daughter of the town’s prominent family. The novel explores the racist history of the town and how it’s marked its residents while dedicating time to the coming of age of Avery and the romance that blossoms with Simone.
Memoirs and Nonfiction Books That Have Already Debuted in 2022
Putting the Rabbit in the Hat by Brian Cox (January 18, 2022). Craving some more behind-the-scenes Succession drama after the controversial New Yorker profile on Jeremy Strong ? Maybe try this Brian Cox memoir. The actor who plays the patriarch and media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO hit recounts here his working-class childhood in Scotland all the way to his days on the Emmy-winning TV show about a very dysfunctional family.
The Lonely Hunter: Why the Search for Love Is Broken by Aimée Lutkin (February 8, 2022). The 30-something single writer Aimée Lutkin found herself surrounded by couples at a party. After being asked about her love life and arguing being alone could be the endgame, the author went on a search to try to answer some fundamental questions: Why is there so much pressure to be in a relationship? Why is everyone so uncomfortable around single people? Why does it seem like your real life can’t start until you meet The One? And is it possible to be single without being lonely?
We Should All Be Feminists: A Guided Journal by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (March 1, 2022). After her 2014 essay “We Should All Be Feminists” , adapted from her TEDx Talk, Nigerian author and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie revisits her work with this Guided Journal . The journal is meant to encourage readers to define feminism in their own voices and tell their stories, as well as featuring prompts, quotes and important events in the history of feminism.
Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces 2004–2021 by Margaret Atwood (March 1, 2022). Why do people tell stories? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism? How can we live on our planet? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? The Handmaid’s Tale author and feminist icon Margaret Atwood penned this series of essays trying to find the answers to these and other burning questions.
All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep: Hope–And Hard Pills to Swallow–About Fighting for Black Lives by André Henry (March 22, 2022). “In this personal and thought-provoking book, Henry explores how the historical divides between Black people and non-Black people are expressed through our most mundane interactions, and why this struggle won’t be resolved through civil discourse, diversity hires, interracial relationships, or education,” reads Penguin Random House’s synopsis of this work by musician and writer André Henry.
2022’s Most Anticipated Memoirs and Nonfiction Books
Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis (April 26, 2022). Actress and producer Viola Davis gets personal with this memoir that covers her childhood days coming of age in Rhode Island and spans to her present day. The Academy Award-winning Black actress has not only dominated TV but has also managed to transition into an incredibly prestigious film career.
Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe by Keith O’Brien (April 12, 2022). Journalist Keith O’Brien’s work of narrative reportage tells the story of Lois Gibbs and Luella Kenny, two mothers who, in the 1970s, exposed a toxic waste dumping site that was causing a public health crisis and polluting their neighborhood in Niagara Falls. It was uncovered that the city’s largest employer, Hooker Chemical, had been disposing of thousands of tons of toxic waste in the town’s canal.
Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality by Julia Shaw (June 28, 2022): Psychologist Julia Shaw takes a scientific approach to sexuality with this exploration of bisexuality. Shaw, who is bisexual herself, explores the complexities of the human sexual experience both from a personal and scientific perspective and writes about the invisibility of bisexuals in our society.
Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa (June 14, 2022). Linda Villarosa’s 2018 New York Times article “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis” exposed the flagrant racial disparities in the U.S. healthcare system when it comes to childbirth. With her new work, the author exposes the reasons why Black people in America “live sicker and die quicker” compared to white people.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
How to Get an ISBN Number for a Self-Published Book
BY Scott Allan | Apr 01, 2022 | ISBN , Publishing
Figuring out how to get an ISBN number for a self-published book may sound scary, but it's actually more simple than many authors think!
If you're self-publishing a printed book , the best action you can take is to get your own ISBN as a self-published author.
Regardless if a book was self-published or traditionally published , every printed book needs an ISBN, and securing this number is a big step in your publishing endeavors.
But, many writers that are just starting their journey on becoming an author still have a lot of questions around this topic.
Questions like… How do you get an ISBN number for a self-published book? Do I buy one or just get it for free through KDP or an aggregator? How much does an ISBN cost? Are ISBNs for big-name publishers only?
And a whole lot more!
In this post, we want to answer the commonly asked questions around ISBNs for self-published books , as well as everything else you need to know to buy, register and imprint your ISBN.
Now, before you start thinking about ISBN numbers, let me ask you this: Do you have a book ready to publish? If not, you can start preparing for an ISBN now, but you’ll definitely want to finish writing your book first !
This comprehensive list of questions covers the basics—and then some—of ISBNs. The best part is, you can scan through these questions on ISBNs in just under 20 minutes.
As you read through these questions, we encourage you to open up these two websites: #1 – MyIdentifiers #2 – ISBN International
There is a wealth of information on those sites regarding ISBNs [including how to buy] that we will cover while going through these questions.
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1. What is the ISBN of a book?
ISBN, which stands for International Standard Book Number , is a 13-digit number that’s used as a unique identifier for books, including a specific book, a book edition, or any other book-like products. An ISBN number can be used to identify the book's code digits, language, publisher, book title , edition, and format. The ISBN is used internationally and requires a different number for each version of the book.
ISBNs are necessary for printed books that are distributed in retail bookstores, libraries, and wholesale companies. ISBN numbers are not required for eBooks, and for books that will not be available in stores or libraries.
2. Can self-publishers get an ISBN?
A self-publisher is still a publisher, so yes, you just apply for an ISBN like anyone else. Refer to myidentifiers.com .
3. How to get an ISBN number for a self-published book?
As a self-publisher, the method to obtain an ISBN is the same as any other publisher and/or author. You can purchase an ISBN or obtain one for free through your self-publishing platform .
Here are two ways to get an ISBN for a self-published book: #1 – Purchase an ISBN from your regionally-accepted source. #2 – Receive a free ISBN from your self-publishing platform.
We’ll cover these steps in more detail further down this post, since you will follow the same process to get an ISBN for a self-published book.
If you’re a resident of the United States, you can purchase an ISBN through Bowker .
Or, you can obtain one for free through Amazon’s KDP. If you upload to Draft2Digital or SmashWords , they will provide you with one for free.
But, as we will mention further along in this post, be sure you have only one ISBN number registered to your self-published book and not multiple numbers spread out over various platforms.
4. Were ISBNs originally created for books?
No. In the days of WW2, MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker, where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code used by the Japanese military.
Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking program to organize the growing number of titles being published every year, Gordon Foster was approached by British retailer WH Smith, to write a report on how to create such a system.
This report ultimately led to the ISBN system that is now used worldwide.
5. How many numbers should an ISBN have?
Due to the large volume of eBooks now published every year, since 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. But before that, for over thirty years, ISBNs were 10 digits long.
Older ISBN numbers with only 10 digits can now be converted into a 13-digit code with the ISBN conversion tool from Bowker .
6. What is an ISBN number used for?
An ISBN is used to identify each published book and each edition of the same book. ISBN also identifies the publisher of the book.
It is the standard ID number used to identify books by booksellers, libraries, book wholesalers, and distributors.
7. What do the ISBN numbers really mean?
You can tell a lot about a book, its author, and the publisher by knowing how to read the ISBN number.
The 13 digit ISBN number is broken up into 5 parts that identify the following:
#1 – Book Code Digits: The first three digits “978” indicate that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. #2 – Language of the Book: The language for an English version is identified with an “0” or “1”. You can reference this complete list at the International ISBN Agency . #3 – Publisher #4 – Book title, Edition, and Format: The six-digit series represents the title of the book. #5 – Check Digit: “0” is. the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed, single digit.
8. How do I find the ISBN number of a book?
There are several ways to look up the ISBN number of a book, both on the book and online.
Here's how to find the ISBN number of a book:
#1 – Check the back cover of the book , and look for the ISBN near the publisher's barcode. #2 – Look on the copyright page located in the front of the book near the title page. #3 – Search for the book's ISBN online using the author or title on ISBN Search .
9. Should a self-published author get an ISBN?
Yes, your self-published book should have an ISBN if you plan to sell your printed book in bookstores and libraries.
If you plan to sell your printed book through Amazon self-publishing or online retailers and book aggregators, you will need an ISBN. For print books published through KDP, the ISBN can be provided free through Amazon.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing a children’s book or a nonfiction book , your printed book needs an ISBN if you envision it in the bookstore or on the shelves of your local library.
There are limitations to this. For eBooks , an ISBN is not needed, except for certain exceptions, like if you publish through digital online distributors/aggregators.
For example, Draft2Digital requires your book to have an ISBN. Although they will provide you with an ISBN for free, we recommend buying your own , for reasons explained further down in this post.
Reasons to get an ISBN for a self-published book: #1 – If you want your book sold in bookstores and retail stores #2 – If you want your book circulated in libraries #3- If your book will be printed (not solely an eBook) #4 – If you plan to use a book aggregator company to publish
10. If I get an ISBN, does that mean my book is copyrighted?
No, ISBN is administered by a private company for the use of the international book trade, while copyright is administered by the Library of Congress and is an extension of intellectual property law.
11. Does a book have to be published to have an ISBN?
No, you can obtain an ISBN for your book even if it is not published yet.
ISBNs are issued to publishers, who then assign them to individual books. This can be done at any time, even before the book is written.
12. How do I buy an ISBN in the US? If I live outside the USA?
ISBNs are issued based on location.
If you live in the United States, you can purchase an ISBN through Bowker, which is the only company authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States.
Here are the steps to buy an ISBN if you live in the United States:
#1 – Go to myidentifiers.com #2 – Click on “ISBN #3 – Select the quantity you'd like to purchase #4 – Click “Buy Now” #5 – Complete checkout
For international authors, you can visit the International ISBN Agency .
In Canada , where the ISBNs are issued for free, you can visit the ISBN Canada—Library and Archives website.
Living in the UK, Ireland, or a British Overseas Territory , check out Nielsen ISBN Store .
Note: While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.
13. Can I register my ISBN once it has been approved?
Yes, you can register your ISBN number once it is approved.
Once you have received your number, you should register it at Bowkerlink . Bowker hosts about 12 million international titles and registration with them places your book in their massive bibliographic database.
14. Do I need a different ISBN for every country the book is published in?
No, you don’t need an ISBN if the book is available in other countries and appears in the same format and language.
You do need an ISBN for every format and edition of the book . This includes publications in different languages. Refer to the International ISBN Agency for a list of language codes.
15. For what reasons would you have to assign a new ISBN to a book?
ISBNs will need to be changed if certain changes are made to your book.
There are 6 main reasons why you’d have to change the ISBN:
#1 – The book is printed in Large Print. Remember, every variation/version requires its own ISBN. #2 – The book is published in a foreign language. This would be considered a different format and needs a separate ISBN. #3 – If additional material is added to the book. For example, several new chapters are added. This could also mean the book is relaunched as a 2nd edition. #4 – If the title/subtitle is changed. #5 – If changes are made to the binding. #6 – If the book is published in another size. So, for a 5×8, 5.5×8.5 or 6×9, each of these would require a separate ISBN.
Essentially, any changes to the book that makes it appear as a “different product” would require a new ISBN.
16. What changes can I make to the book that would not require a new ISBN?
There are several things you can make alterations to that will not need new ISBNs.
Changes that don't require a new ISBN:
#1 – Changing the book price #2 – Creating a new cover design #3 – Switching over to another distributor or printer #4 – Small corrections to the content. This could be correcting grammatical errors or improving the writing of several paragraphs.
17. What is the Bookland EAN Barcode?
According to Publisher Services, an official US ISBN Agency Partner:
“An EAN—which begins with the Bookland prefix 978—is called a Bookland EAN code and is used on books and book related products internationally. The Bookland symbol is the barcode of choice in the book industry because it allows for encodation of ISBNs (the numbers publishers use to identify their products).”
Since an ISBN is unique to one particular title (or product), the corresponding Bookland EAN symbol is a title-specific marking that is unique for that title.
For example, if a title is available in hardcover, softcover, and as an e-book, three unique ISBN Bookland EAN bar codes are required.
18. How much does an ISBN cost?
The less expensive option is to buy one single ISBN on Bowker . However, if you ever publish another edition of your book, or another book entirely, you will need more than one ISBN.
In that case, buying the 10-back bundle would be the best deal by far.
The going rate for a single ISBN costs $125, while 10 ISBNs cost $295, 100 ISBNs cost $575, and 1000 ISBNs cost $1500.
Note that these prices are based on the price listings at Bowker for those living in the United States.
For ISBNs purchased internationally, prices do vary (and are often cheaper).
19. How many ISBNs should I buy?
Obviously, how many you buy depends on your publishing goals. If you are a busy author publishing a new book every 4-6 weeks, in multiple languages and several formats, I would go with 100 ISBNs.
Remember: ISBNs do not expire.
And, consider if you use 3 ISBNs for each book in one language, you could use up a block of ten very quickly if publishing regularly.
The number depends on if you are assigning an ISBN to your eBook as well as printed versions. Although eBooks are not, at this time, required to have an ISBN, it does look more professional. This is your choice, of course.
If you write one book and you don’t have plans to do anymore, one ISBN will probably do. But for career authors, think about the long-term game plan.
20. How to get an ISBN for free?
If you live in Canada, ISBNs are issued for free. If you live in the United States, you can get your book’s ISBN for free through your self-publishing platform, such as Amazon and Draft2Digital , which will provide you with an ISBN at no cost.
21. What reasons would a self-published author not need an ISBN?
If you are only publishing an eBook, and you have no plans to write and publish anything more, you won’t need an ISBN.
Or, if you are happy to publish through Amazon KDP only (print edition) and not use other online retailers, you can request Amazon provide you with a free ISBN.
22. Can I re-use my ISBN?
No. Once assigned to a book, an ISBN can never be reused. If you republish your book or publish it in another format, ISBNs are non-transferable. One ISBN per book only.
23. Are ISBN numbers transferable across different formats?
No. A single ISBN can be issued for each book only. In the case of paperback and hardcover versions, a separate ISBN is required. An eBook requires its own ISBN as well.
24. What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting a free ISBN?
The main advantage is…it’s free . This can be convenient if you’re on a budget . Or, if it’s difficult to obtain an ISBN in the region you live in.
If you are in the U.S., you purchase through Bowker , or if you’re in the U.K., you purchase through Nielson . Both sites make it very easy to buy ISBNs.
Depending on your international location, you could go through a lot of red tape to get your number. But if you can, we recommend buying your own ISBN.
The disadvantage of receiving a free ISBN:
- You have to list Amazon (or the self-publishing platform) as the publisher along with other limitations .
- You could end up with several ISBNs for the same book, and this looks unprofessional. For example, you receive a different ISBN from Amazon, Draft2Digital and Smashwords .
- Free ISBNs are non-transferable. You can’t take your free ISBN from Amazon and use it with another retailer.
25. Do I need an ISBN number to get my book into libraries?
Yes. If you want to stock your book in libraries, you’ll need an ISBN that you purchased and registered.
The library market is huge and, if you are serious about expanding the distribution of your book, this is not an opportunity you want to pass up.
Again, a free ISBN will not do. The ISBN needs to be registered to a publisher – that would be you as the author (or your self-publishing company).
Overdrive is the biggest supplier of eBooks to libraries and has circulated over 105 million+ books to date to libraries.
26. Where does the ISBN number need to be printed on a self-published book?
You’ll print it on the copyright page, and it’s included in the Cataloging-in-Publication data block if you use one.
Otherwise, just print it on the copyright page and on the back cover as part of the barcode.
27. If I revise the inside content of a book, do I need to replace the current ISBN?
If you only make line edits or correct typographical errors and don’t make any substantial changes and/or additions to the text, you don’t need a new ISBN because it’s considered a reprint.
A new edition would contain a significant amount of new material, a major revision, or the addition of completely new chapters/sections. Anything that makes it a ‘new book’ is likely to create a new edition. Therefore, a new ISBN would be required.
28. If I just change the cover or the title of the book, do I need a new ISBN?
You can continue to use the same ISBN if the cover is changed. But if you change the title and/or subtitles and you will have to launch the print version of the book as a new title again, as this is recognized as a different book.
29. What is the difference between the ASIN and ISBN number?
ASIN is a number used by Amazon to identify products, whereas ISBN is the universal number for identifying a book.
ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage identify the products they are selling. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com only.
An ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms—or in brick and mortar stores— you’re going to need an ISBN.
You can find this ASIN on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.
Note: ASIN numbers are exclusive to Amazon only and are non-transferable, and cannot be used in place of an ISBN.
30. Is it acceptable to have several ISBNs for the same book?
No, you really don’t want several ISBNs for your book. This can become a tangled mess and looks unprofessional. But this commonly occurs when several retailers issue free ISBNs for the book.
Online aggregators such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords free ISBNs are not transferable so, if they are issuing a free one, it is exclusive to that site only. This is the same with Amazon.
Best solution: Buy your own ISBN. When you buy your own, the same number is used for that format no matter where it is published.
31. Is an ISBN the same as a barcode? If not, what are the differences?
The ISBN and barcode are different. Although both are found on the back of the book in the same place, they both fulfill a different function.
The ISBN is found above the barcode on the back of the book. We already know the different parts of an ISBN.
The barcode includes extra information such as:
- the book’s fixed price and;
- the currency it’s being sold in.
The barcode is a representation of the ISBN in a form that can be identified by scanners. The bar code might also have other information embedded in it, like the price of the book and the currency in which it is priced.
The standard barcode is known as the EAN (European Article Number) barcode , and your barcode must be in this format to sell your book in bookstores.
Here are some facts about barcodes and ISBNs according to Bowker :
- A barcode is not an ISBN. It's a graphical representation of your book's ISBN and price.
- To use a barcode, you'll need your book's ISBN and pricing information.
- You can purchase and download a barcode after you've created an account at MyIdentifiers.com.
- You can store your barcodes for future use at MyIdentifiers.com .
- Make sure you enter the correct price on the barcode . Once the barcode is generated the price cannot be changed.
Similar to an ISBN, does a barcode last for life? Would it ever change?
If you change the cost of your self-published book, you will need a new barcode. The ISBN, however, does not expire, and does not need to be changed if you change the price.
32. How can I find my book’s ISBN number?
You can easily find the ISBN of a book through a quick online tool.
To look up your ISBN number, follow these steps:
#1 – Visit the website https://isbnsearch.org/
#2 – Enter the author name, book title, or ISBN.
#3 – Click “Search” and the related books will appear in the results.
33. Is the ISBN and barcode sold separately?
Yes, the ISBN and barcode are sold separately. But, the barcode cannot be purchased without the ISBN being bought first.
You need an ISBN to get a barcode, but you don’t need a barcode to publish a book.
Bowker offers an ISBN and barcode savings pack. It is a great value if you want to save some money and make it easier for setting up your ISBN and barcode together.
34. Should I use the “free” barcode generating tool to save money?
No, it’s not a good idea to use a free barcode generating tool and we do not recommend it.
Here's why: Many free barcodes are created with unreliable bitmapped images that run the risk of not scanning when your book is being purchased. For reliability, pay for it through a reliable source. You won’t be saving money of the barcode can’t be scanned properly.
35. What are the best resources for finding out more about ISBNs and barcodes?
As we have mentioned throughout these questions, there are several best resources for finding out everything on ISBNs, including how to buy and set up for your book.
Additional resources for researching ISBNs:
- International ISBN Agency
- ISBN.org by Bowker
- Bowkerlink Publisher Access System
- Bowker Identifier Services
- U.S. Copyright Office
- ISBN Guides: Basic Information
- SmashWords ISBN Manager
- ISBN Canada: Library and Archives Canada
That's it! You’ve reached the end of our frequently-asked-questions about ISBNs.
If you'd like for experienced publishing professionals to handle the entire process of getting an ISBN for your book, we can do that for you! Click here to discover how selfpublishing.com helps authors produce professional books.
Now you know exactly how to get an ISBN number for your self-published book, why it’s important, and if you actually need it.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
Get the complete book formatting checklist (+isbn tips) on pages 98-99.
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ISBN for eBooks
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Isbn for hardcovers.
- Sign in: http://kdp.amazon.com .
- On your Bookshelf , next to the book you want to update, click the ellipsis ("…") under Paperback or Hardcover Actions.
- Select Edit Paperback Content or Edit Hardcover Content .
- In the Print ISBN section, select Get a free KDP ISBN.
- Click Assign me a free KDP ISBN.
- Sign in: http://kdp.amazon.com .
- On your Bookshelf , next to the book you want to update, click the ellipsis ("…") under Paperback or Hardcover Actions.
- Select Edit Paperback Content or Edit Hardcover Content
- In the Print ISBN section, select Use my own ISBN.
- Enter your own ISBN and Imprint in the fields provided.
What is an Imprint?
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Kindle eBook Actions.
- Select Edit eBook Content .
- Scroll down to the Kindle eBook ISBN section to see the ISBN you’ve assigned.
- For paperbacks:
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Kindle Paperback Actions.
- Select Edit Paperback Content .
- Scroll down to the Print ISBN section to see the ISBN assigned.
- For hardcover:
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Hardcover Actions.
- Select Edit Hardcover Content t.
- Scroll to the Print ISBN section to see the ISBN assigned.
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Kindle eBook Actions.
- Select Edit eBook Content .
- Clear the ISBN field. Remember that an ISBN is not required for eBooks.
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Kindle Paperback Actions.
- Select Edit Paperback Content .
- Under the Print ISBN section - click on Assign me a free KDP ISBN .
- Save the change.
- Re-enter the ISBN in the book you want to use your ISBN.
- For hardcovers:
- Go to your Bookshelf next to the book with the ISBN, click the ellipsis ("…") under Hardcover Actions.
- Select Edit Hardcover Content .
Error message saying information doesn’t match.
- Go to Bowker's website . This is not an Amazon website. You will need to contact Bowker and/or myidentifiers.com if you have questions about ISBN metadata.
- Verify the imprint name, title, and author associated with your ISBN.
- Go to your Bookshelf .
- Click the ellipsis button (“…”) under Paperback Actions or Hardcover Actions next to the book you want to update.
- Click Edit Paperback Content or Edit Hardcover Content .
- Update your ISBN and imprint name options as needed. Your ISBN information must match myidentifiers.com . To ensure you are providing the most accurate information you can copy the imprint name from the myidentifiers.com website and paste it into your title setup on KDP.
- Be sure to update your interior and cover files to match any recent ISBN changes.
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Welcome to the U.S. ISBN Agency!
Bowker is the official source for ISBNs in the United States.
An ISBN uniquely identifies your book, and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (physical and digital) and libraries. Using ISBNs allows you to better manage your book's metadata, and ensure maximum discoverability of your book. Your book is listed in Bowker Books in Print ® , which is used by all the major search engines and most bookstores and libraries.
You can go to My Identifiers to get your ISBNs instantly.
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How do I get an ISBN for my book?
The Library of Congress does not administer or distribute International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs). For ISBN assistance, please contact Bowker, the U.S. ISBN Agency External , online or by phone at: (877) 310-7333.
For more information about the services the Library of Congress provides to the publishing community, such as: creating Cataloging in Publication (CIP) data; assigning Library of Congress Control Numbers (LCCNs) to books; assigning ISSNs to serial publications; and registering and depositing materials with the Copyright Office , please see the Library's Publishers page .
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Book Marketing for Self-Publishing Authors
Home / Book Publishing / How To Get An ISBN: Quick Guide for Self-Published Authors
How To Get An ISBN: Quick Guide for Self-Published Authors
Self-published authors need to get through many surprising hurdles before their books are ready to be published. One checkbox that most first-time authors don’t anticipate is getting an ISBN.
What is an ISBN number? An ISBN number is a unique 13-digit number (formerly 10 digits) used to identify your book. An International Standard Book Number allows publishers and booksellers to track and recognize books.
Your unique ISBN is like a fingerprint for your book. It helps people identify your book and eliminates confusion between similar works. An ISBN could be critical if someone decided to publish a book with the same title as yours, for example.
- Why ISBNs are important
- What the numbers in an ISBN mean
- 3 fast steps to follow to get your own ISBN
- The pros and cons of free ISBNs
- The types of books that need ISBNs and the books that don’t
- Questions to ask yourself to find out if you should buy your own ISBN
Table of contents
- Why Does Your Book Need An ISBN?
- Getting Your Own ISBN For Self-Publishers
- Free or Discounted Options
- Which Books Need An ISBN?
- Which Books Don’t Require An ISBN?
- ISBN Costs: A Breakdown
- Locating A Book’s ISBN
- Common Questions About ISBNs
Links in this article may earn me a small commission if you use them to purchase a service or product. This has not affected my opinion. However, it helps me continue to write these awesome articles that anyone can read for free!
For more on this topic, visit our post on what an ISBN number is , as well as our free barcode generator to integrate your ISBN into a custom barcode.
ISBNs are assigned by the International ISBN Agency. The ISBN Agency then stores the information for your book, which helps wholesalers, retailers, and libraries find your book.
You also need an ISBN to get a barcode for the back cover of your book when you self-publish it. A book’s barcode includes the same digits as the identification number.
A 13-digit ISBN may look like a random series of numbers, but those numbers contain metadata and can tell you a lot about the book. Here’s an example ISBN and what its numbers mean:
- EAN Prefix (978): The first 3 digits of all ISBNs are always 978 or 979.
- Registration Group (0): This number can be 1-5 digits long and tells you the country or region where the ISBN is registered.
- Registrant Element (679): The registrant element tells you which publisher created this book.
- Publication Element (80527): This number tells you the title of the book, format, and edition of the book.
- Check Digit (3): This number is mathematically calculated and helps ensure that the ISBN has been typed out properly.
Can I use the ISBN number for my book on my other books? No, you can’t use the ISBN number from your book on other books. Each printed book must have its own unique ISBN — each number is created to identify just one title or edition.
Getting your own ISBN is a relatively simple process. Depending on the country you live in, you can either get an ISBN directly from your government or through an agency that handles ISBN registration. The U.S. ISBN agency is Bowker MyIdentifiers.
Who can I contact to get an ISBN? You can contact Bowker MyIdentifiers to get an ISBN if you’re in the U.S. If you’re outside the U.S., you’ll need to look up your country’s ISBN agency and contact them.
Get A New ISBN In 3 Fast Steps
How do I get an ISBN number for my book? To get an ISBN number for your book, follow these three simple steps:
- Create an account with Bowker MyIdentifiers at myidentifiers.com .
- Choose a package with the number of ISBNs you’ll need. If you plan to get multiple books into print, you might choose a package with 10 or more ISBNs. You’ll need a different ISBN for each format you produce (hardcover, paperback, abridged, etc.).
- Check out and pay for your ISBNs.
Once you’ve paid, your ISBNs will be under your account. Simply go to My Account > My Identifiers and fill in the information for your book, such as its title, author, publication date, and pricing.
When you’re done, simply submit the form. For peace of mind, Bowker keeps all of your book’s data.
Amazon’s KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) is the most popular printing service that gives authors who use its service a free ISBN. But beware: You cannot use the free ISBNs to print your book elsewhere.
To take advantage of the free ISBN from KDP, simply choose “Get a free KDP ISBN” in the “Edit print book content” area when you’re adding your book to KDP.
Other printing services offer free ISBNs as well, including Blurb, BookBaby, Smashwords, and D2D (Draft2Digital) Print.
Why would you choose to pay for an ISBN if you can get one for free? The printing service or distributor is listed as the publishing company if you get a free ISBN, not you. For example, if you use KDP Print, your publisher will be listed as “independently published” instead of your name.
KDP Print, IngramSpark , and BookBaby offer discounted ISBNs to customers who use their printing services. If you buy ISBNs with a discount from one of these services, then you will be listed as the publisher, rather than the service being listed as the publisher.
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How To Determine If You Need An ISBN
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you need an ISBN:
- Are you publishing your book physically? (If your answer is yes, you need an ISBN, either free or paid.)
- Where do you plan to publish your ebook? (Some ebook publishers and distributors require an ISBN for ebooks.)
- Is it important to you that your name or publishing company is listed as the publisher for your book? (If yes, you should consider buying your own ISBN.)
If you’re going through a distributor that doesn’t need an ISBN, you won’t print physical copies, and you don’t care about being listed as the publisher, then you may not need an ISBN.
An ISBN can be necessary for your book for many different reasons. Some of the most common reasons for getting an ISBN can include:
- Publishing books in print rather than just online
- If you publish a new edition , you’ll need new ISBNs for each print version.
- Printing a book in different formats (e.g., paperback and hardcover). In this situation, you’ll need a separate ISBN for each format.
Some ebook distributors require you to have an ISBN, though most major ebook retailers won’t need one. Check with the service you’re using to distribute your ebook to online retailers to determine if you’ll need an ISBN.
The ebook version of your book (PDF, epub, Mobi, etc.) may or may not need its own ISBN, depending on where you submit it for distribution. If you sell your ebook directly from your website or publish it on Amazon Kindle (KDP), you don’t have to use an ISBN.
Audiobooks also do not require an ISBN if they’re distributed digitally through a service like Audible or Apple Books.
On the other hand, if you create an audiobook that’s produced physically, like a book on CD, you are required to have an ISBN.
How much does it cost to get an ISBN number for a book? It costs anywhere from $0 to $125 to get an ISBN number for a book in the U.S. The costs in other countries vary.
Depending on the country you live in, you might be able to get an ISBN for free. For example, Canadians can get free ISBNs from Library and Archives Canada . Unfortunately, the United States and the United Kingdom don’t have similar systems for free ISBNs.
In the UK, publishers get their ISBNs from Nielsen . Nielsen charges £89 for a single ISBN, or you can buy blocks of 10, 100, or 1000 ISBNs at a discounted price.
How do I get an ISBN number for free? You can get an ISBN number for free through a book printer that offers them (like KDP Print, BookBaby, or Blurb). You can also use your country’s ISBN services if you live in a country like Canada that offers free ISBNs to its citizens.
A single ISBN for U.S. publishers from Bowker is $125. If that’s out of your budget, some printing and distribution services offer ISBN discounts to their customers.
Here are the biggest printer-distributors that offer discounted ISBNs and the discounted price per ISBN:
- BookBaby: $39
- IngramSpark: $85
You can also purchase packages of ISBNs from Bowker at a discounted price. They have a 10-ISBN package for $295, for example, bringing the price of one ISBN down to $29.50. If you’re going to publish multiple books, buying a package of ISBNs is a great idea.
You’ll generally find a book’s ISBN on its copyright page . A tip: Make sure your book has its ISBN on the copyright page if you want your book to look professional.
If possible, include the proper dashes in your ISBN so that it’s easier to locate the country, publisher, and title, as well as to check digit numbers.
The barcodes on the back cover of a book also contain the ISBN. Depending on where you get your barcode, there may be a second smaller barcode that includes the price of your book.
Your average new author has rarely heard about ISBNs, or never at all. Here are some of the most common questions asked about these numbers.
- What’s the difference between an ISBN and ASIN? An ASIN number is Amazon’s version of an ISBN. Everything that Amazon sells gets an ASIN when it’s added to their website, including books. You’ll get a free ASIN automatically when you put your book on Amazon.
- What’s the difference between a barcode and an ISBN? A book’s barcode includes the ISBN in a format that can be scanned and put into a computer system so stores can sell the book.
- How long does it take to get an ISBN? It varies by ISBN agency, but you can usually get the number itself almost instantaneously. However, it can take the agency several days to process the information you submit (book title, author, etc.).
- Do ISBNs expire? No, ISBNs don’t expire. Make sure to keep any login information for your ISBN agency in a safe place so that you don’t lose access to any unused ISBNs you’ve purchased.
- Do I use the same ISBN if I’m printing my book in another language? No, each translation of your book is considered a separate entity and will need its own ISBN.
Video: How to Get an ISBN Number
For a nice summary of this article, along with a few additional thoughts on the subject, here is a video I did to further cover the subject. Leave a comment on the video with any questions, ideas, or feedback that you have.
Want more videos like this? Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos!
Will You Get An ISBN for Your Book?
At first glance, ISBNs can seem complex, but good news: they’re actually pretty straightforward. You probably don’t need an ISBN for your ebook. However, if you’re planning to go to print, then you’ll need an ISBN for each format that you publish.
Buying your own ISBN is a good idea for self-published authors who are printing their work. It helps your book look more professional, so it doesn’t scream, “I’m self-published!” Avoid having your printing service or “independently published” listed as your publisher if you can.
Once you’ve written your book (I recommend using Scrivener and editing with ProWritingAid ) and you have your ISBN, it’s time to format and publish your work.
I love Vellum for DIY book design and formatting. If you don’t have the patience for perfect DIY formatting, check out Ebook Launch . I use their services for my books, and I’ve been thrilled with the results. Once you add in your ISBN, you’re good to go. Happy publishing!
When I’m not sipping tea with princesses or lightsaber dueling with little Jedi, I’m a book marketing nut. Having consulted multiple publishing companies and NYT best-selling authors, I created Kindlepreneur to help authors sell more books. I’ve even been called “The Kindlepreneur” by Amazon publicly, and I’m here to help you with your author journey.
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How to Get an ISBN Number as a Self-Published Author
As a self-publishing author, you can get an ISBN barcode for your book by purchasing it from an ISBN agency like Bowker for $125, or for free from other publishers and distributors, like Draft2Digital. Keep in mind you’ll need an ISBN number for each version of your title (e.g. print or ebook).
1. Choose between free and paid ISBNs
There are a handful of big ISBN vendors, like Bowker and Nielsen, who are a lot of authors’ go-to sources for ISBNs. However, depending on your publishing aims, it’s also possible to also use cheap or free ISBNs.
Where to get free ISBN numbers
In the US and UK, many aggregators (companies that distribute your book to multiple retailers) will assign indie authors an ISBN for free, or at a discount. These aggregators include:
Some government territories, such as Canada, provide free ISBN numbers (lucky you)! You can get more information about your regional providers in the second step of this how-to.
A note on ASINs
While we’re talking about free ISBNs, it’s worth mentioning an alternative: the ASIN. The ASIN functions similarly to the ISBN, but is only used within Amazon — and you’re given one for free whenever you publish a book on Amazon .
So why would you need both? Basically, while you cannot rely on a book’s ASIN to find it outside of Amazon, you can always count on an ISBN. For that reason, if you plan to “go wide” on other sites — or have distribution in brick-and-mortar stores — you’ll need an ISBN in addition to an ASIN. If you plan to self-publish on Amazon exclusively, you can, by all means, forego the ISBN costs and stick to the free ASIN.
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Why you might want to buy an ISBN anyway
So you can get an ISBN for free or at a discounted price, or if you’re only publishing digitally on Amazon, you don’t need an ISBN at all. So why would anyone ever pay for an ISBN?
Aha! Here’s the catch: when you register for an ISBN number through an aggregator like the ones we listed above, industry regulations mean that you are limited to the retail channels of that company alone, whereas simply buying an ISBN from the start means you can expand wherever you see fit.
To show you what we mean: maybe you’re selling your book on Amazon (an individual platform), and then decide to go wider through Draft2Digital (an aggregator). The former provides you with a free ASIN and the latter with a free ISBN.
But let’s say your sales aren't too strong, and you want to make your book available on other distribution channels, like BookBaby and eBookPartnership. If you don’t have an independently-bought ISBN, you’ll need to register for separate numbers from each of those publishing companies as well. This can snowball into you having several ISBNs and different publishers all listed for the same book, which looks seriously unprofessional and may harm your book’s chances of getting stocked in brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you want to keep your ISBN consistent between aggregators, or if you’re happy with a mix. And if you aren’t sure which decision is in your best interests, perhaps consider working with a professional book marketer to ensure you maximize your own chances of success.
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2. Identify providers in your region
Each country or territory has its own regional provider of ISBNs. Perhaps the best-known ISBN provider is Bowker , the official administrator for the United States. In the United Kingdom, authors can buy a number through Nielsen.
To find out whether ISBNs are free in your country (and for instructions on requesting a number), you can look up your local agency here .
Once you’ve identified your local provider, you’re ready to buy!
3. Buy ISBNs in bulk for the best value
One book, one ISBN needed, right? Not so fast.
Not only do ISBNs have a heavy discount on bulk purchases, but a single ISBN is rarely enough. Say you’re publishing a paperback. If you ever want to revise or release that paperback in a new edition, you’ll need a new ISBN. You’ll also need another ISBN for a future hardcover edition, and the same applies to releasing an audiobook. If you make all those single purchases via Bowker, you’re looking at $500 for 4 ISBNs, while a bulk purchase of 10 ISBNs will only set you back $295.
Even if you’re only working on one book at the moment, 10 ISBNs are a sensible investment when you’re starting out.
Bonus tip: Register your ISBN with Bowkerlink
Regardless of where you live or who provided your ISBN, once you have received your number, you should register it at Bowkerlink . This will automatically add your title to Bowker’s Books In Print : a bibliographic database consulted by libraries around the world. Books In Print currently hosts about 7.5 million US book, audiobook , and movie titles, as well as 12 million international titles — and yours is about to be one of them!
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Now you’ve sorted out all the practicalities and your book is ready for sale, why not check out more of our resources on what to do next. If you haven’t yet got a plan in place for promoting your book, our guide on that is a good place to start!
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FORMATTING + DESIGN
How to Get an ISBN: Fast Guide & Need-To-Know (+ Tips)
Posted on Mar 7, 2023
by Scott Allan
Knowing how to get an ISBN as a self-published author is crucial.
Since you can’t publish without an ISBN, we’re helping you learn how in order to publish the right way and why you even need an ISBN number in the first place.
But you don’t have to even worry about an ISBN number if you don’t have a book ready to publish, right? And it won’t even matter if you don’t publish that book the right way …
False. Becoming an author is about more than just the book, it’s about the business as well, and we’ll break down a very important part of that.
If you’re ready to get to the point and get your ISBN, here is the step-by-step breakdown of how to get an ISBN .
Here’s what to know about an ISBN as an author:
- How to get an ISBN
- What does ISBN stand for?
- What is an ISBN number used for?
- How much does an ISBN cost?
- What is the purpose of an ISBN?
- How to get an ISBN outside of the U.S.
- How long does it take to get an ISBN number?
- How to register your book and ISBN
- How many ISBNs to get
- Do ISBNs expire?
- How to read an ISBN with examples
- Where is the ISBN number on books?
- ISBN search
- How to read a barcode
- The difference between ASIN and ISBN
- Do I need an ISBN?
- Should you buy your own ISBN number?
- Libraries and ISBNs
- ISBN resources to make it easier
*click above to jump to a section
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How to Get an ISBN: Fast Guide & Need-To-Know (+ Tips)
Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBN numbers.
Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.
For more information, you can find out anything you want to know by visiting the official Bowker page or at myidentifiers.com
Here’s a simple actionable checklist for ISBNs.
To buy an ISBN for your next book, here is what you should do: Go to the website https://www.myidentifiers.com Under the ISBN drop-down tab, click on ISBNs—Buy Here. You can select 1, 10 or 100. For a bulk purchase, go to “Buying ISBNs in Bulk” and you can contact Bowker directly to discuss your options. Once you have your ISBN assigned, you can then use it everywhere that requires your ISBN number. At Createspace , under the “Setup” channel, you can choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN . When you buy your own ISBN at Bowker , just put in the 13-digit number and Createspace will use this in your paperback. If you publish your paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can fill in your number in the “ Paperback Content ” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP. Register your ISBN here at Bowker as soon as your book is ready for sale. Download the free ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration step-by-step guide.
What Does ISBN Stand For?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a 13-digit code used to uniquely identify your book amongst the millions out there.
What Is an ISBN Number Used For?
Essentially, an ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number, is a regulated 10- or 13-digit identification number which allows libraries, publishers, and book dealers to locate and identify specific books.
But where did these ISBN numbers even start and why do we have them?
In the early days of World War 2, the Japanese military sent messages back and forth and the Allies needed to crack their intricate numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables.
But how did they crack this complex system?
MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park , where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code.
Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking program in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith , a British retailer, to write a report on how to create such a system.
This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967 and eventually led to the ISBN system used worldwide.
Several years later, this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when a policy was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format and is now the standard used everywhere.
How much does it cost to get an ISBN number for a book?
It costs about $125 to get one ISBN number in the US. However, if you purchase more than one at a time, this cost could be lowered.
Warning: Amazon may grant you a free ISBN for your first book, but this can ONLY be used on KDP for distribution to Amazon and can’t be used for self-publishing services elsewhere.
Due to this, we always recommend purchasing a new one despite Amazon’s free ISBN.
Here are a few tips for buying an ISBN:
- If you publish physical copies through IngramSpark, you get your ISBN for only $85
- Buying your ISBNs in bulk can save you money if you intend to publish more than one book
- Amazon issues you an ISBN for “free,” but you have to list Amazon as a publisher along with other limitations
- If you’re in Canada or South African, it’s possible to get an ISBN issued through your government
- Australians pay about $40 for an ISBN
- UK residents will pay somewhere around 89 pounds for an ISBN
Here’s a table of the ISBN prices and what you can expect to pay:
And here’s a video on overall book publishing costs:
What Is the Purpose of an ISBN Number?
ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and before it was implemented in 1967, the method and system for cataloging, ordering, organizing, and locating a specific book was a chaotic mess.
Today, to get your book into a bookstore , a library, or almost any book distribution channel on the planet, you need an ISBN number.
But the process can be really confusing for new authors. There are a number of questions you might be asking yourself about ISBN numbers:
- How does this long string of numbers on the back of books work?
- How do you get it?
- If you’re a self-published author , do you need an ISBN?
- Why would you need one?
These are all questions answered in this article.
Let’s unweave the intricate web of how to get an ISBN and how they work in the publishing industry.
How to Get an ISBN Outside of the US
ISBNs are free in many countries, provided either by the government or a publicly administered branch. However, in the US and the UK, ISBN numbers are administered by Bowker and Nielsen respectively and require you to pay.
If you’re located outside the USA you can find out your local ISBN Agency here . While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.
If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com , run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.
How Long Does It Take to Get an ISBN Number?
You will receive your ISBN number five business days after Bowker receives your non-priority application. Choosing priority processing reduces the time to two business days, or you can get your ISBN within 24 business hours if you choose express processing.
How to Register Your Book and ISBN Number
As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker or the International equivalent in your local area, and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink .
This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print.
I recommend you download the free PDF “ ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration ” with step-by-step instructions on setting up your title.
How Many ISBN Numbers to Get
So how many ISBNs should you get?
First off let’s clarify a few common mistakes:
- You can only use an ISBN once . The ISBN is a unique number for that particular book, and can be assigned once, and only once, to that title. It can’t be used with any other book in the future, even second versions of the same book.
- You don’t need an ISBN to sell in each individual country . ISBNs are international, they are just assigned locally. A US-based publisher can purchase their ISBN through Bowker, but can stock their book worldwide using that ISBN.
- You need an ISBN for every specific format of the book and any new versions. Want to sell your book in print, as an eBook , and also as an audiobook? That’s great, however, you need a different ISBN for each one. If you want to publish a revised and updated version you’ll also need a new ISBN. (This doesn’t cover fixing some typos and errors).
- If you create a series of books you can’t use the same ISBN for them. You can use the same ISSN, however. Many fiction and nonfiction authors have an ISSN number assigned to their book series . ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number and can be purchased from the Library of Congress . However, each book in the series will need its own ISBN.
We mentioned that in the USA you can buy ISBNs as a single unit, a bulk of 10, 100 or 1000. Here are the prices:
First off, it rarely makes sense to purchase a single ISBN. A single ISBN would cost you $125, but a bulk of 10 only costs $295. Meaning if you purchased 10, each ISBN would cost you $29.50, a 76% discount .
Buying a single ISBN might seem feasible if you only want to publish one title, but remember that you need an ISBN for each format. So if you want to publish your book as an audiobook , you’d need a brand new ISBN for that. As well as needing different ISBN numbers for your eBook and print versions.
Not to mention that you’ll need an ISBN number for any future books you publish, like if you’re writing a book series.
We recommend that if you’re serious about making book sales, you should purchase at least a bulk of 10 ISBNs. That gives you 3 ISBN numbers to use for publishing as an eBook , in print, and as an audiobook . You can keep the remainder for any future books you might publish.
Do ISBNs Expire?
No, ISBN numbers never expire or go bad. In fact, if you have one from a long time ago, you can simply reconstruct it for use.
But what if my old ISBN is really old and only has 10 digits?
That’s not a problem, either. With this handy tool from Bowker , you can convert the ISBN easily and immediately.
The Book Designer also has a great resource for learning how to reconstruct an ISBN if you finally decided to write and self-publish the book you’ve been thinking about since you bought the ISBN.
How to Read an ISBN Number with an Example
As of 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. This came about in part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year.
Knowing how to break down and interpret these 13 digits aren’t of much use and interest to most book readers, but for publishers and distributors, it’s a necessity.
If you want to publish lots of books under your own publishing name then it’s something you may want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book and its author by reading the ISBN number.
The 13 digit ISBN number helps: Identify the specific title Identify the author Identify the type of book they are buying Identify the physical properties of that particular book Identify the geographical location of the publisher Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.
Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.
Here is the ISBN for a particular book:
You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “ 978 ” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. If we remove these digits we have:
First is the initial digit, in this case: 3
The 3 is the language group identifier which here indicates German. For English speaking countries a 0 or 1 is used. Numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.
Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:
0 or 1 for English
2 for French
3 for German
4 for Japan
5 for Russian
7 for People’s Republic of China
It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944 . You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency .
Next is “ 16 ”. This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number. This number can be as long as 9 digits.
“148410” — This six-digit series represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.
“0” is the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always a single digit.
This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and is calculated based on the other digits in the code.
Where Is the ISBN Number on books?
The ISBN is usually found above the barcode on the back of the book. However, they’re not the same.
The barcode is much different than the ISBN number.
This is an important distinction because:
- When you purchase an ISBN you don’t automatically get a barcode
- The barcode of your book can change, while your ISBN can remain the same.
We’ve already discussed what data the ISBN carries, however, the barcode includes extra information such as the book’s fixed price and the currency it’s being sold in.
Barcodes are a necessary element of your book as they allow for most retailers and distributors to scan your ISBN for retail and inventory reasons.
The standard barcode is known as the EAN (European Article Number) barcode , and your barcode must be in this format to sell your book in bookstores.
(Breakdown of the typical EAN barcode on the back of a book by Publisher Services )
ISBN Search: How to Find Your Book’s ISBN
If you want to look up the ISBN of any book out there, you can do so easily by visiting the website ISBNSearch.org .
You’ll be greeted with a screen like the one above where you will be prompted to type in the ISBN, author name, or book title.
After hitting “search,” you will have a list of books matching your searched items with the both the 13-digit ISBN and the 10-digit, like in the example below.
How to Read a Barcode
If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number.
The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5 and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.
For example, if the number reads 52995, this means the price of the book is set at $29.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, though the ISBN wouldn’t change.
This would only be replaced by a new ISBN number if the book is published as a new edition or as a new version.
To buy a barcode you must first purchase an ISBN. You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:
- 1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
- 1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.
The Difference Between ASIN and ISBN
If you’ve used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program you’ve probably come across an ASIN. ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners.
You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.
However, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms or in brick and mortar stores, you’re going to need an ISBN.
Do I Need an ISBN ?
If you want to publish and sell your eBook on Amazon , then the quick answer is no, it isn’t necessary. Amazon will assign your eBook an ASIN number which will be used to identify and track your title.
However, that’s only with Amazon, and only with eBooks.
If you want your readers to get a hold of a print version of your book , then you’re going to need an ISBN.
This might be important if you have a brick and mortar marketing strategy, or if you want your book to be accessible through libraries (more on this later), or if you’re looking to deal with wholesalers or other online retailers.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you want to sell your book by means other than as an ebook on Amazon, then you’ll need an ISBN.
How Do You Buy an ISBN Number?
You might not even have to buy your ISBN number because of services offered to self-published authors . You can get assigned a free ISBN by Createspace , the On-Demand publishing company that has now merged with Amazon.
You can also get an ISBN when dealing with a whole host of On-Demand or self-publishing companies, like Draft2Digital , Smashwords or IngramSpark , and even Lulu .
If you can get a free or cheap ISBN with them, then what’s the use in paying for your own one?
Here’s the problem: most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.
Let’s say you get a free ISBN with Draft2Digital, but then you notice that there are some retail channels you can access through Smashwords that you can’t with Draft2Digital.
You can’t use the Draft2Digital ISBN with Smashwords.
Smashwords will only let you use your own ISBN or an ISBN they assign to you. So what do you do?
You get a free ISBN with Smashwords .
And now you have two ISBNs for the same book. Same book title, same book format, but two ISBNs.
You then hear of some exclusive channels you can get through eBookPartnership . The only wrinkle? You need an ISBN and they won’t take your Smashwords ’ or Draft2Digital’s ISBN. So you sign up for their free ISBN instead.
Now you have three ISBNs for the same book.
Should You Buy Your Own ISBN Number?
This problem can repeat itself again and again as you discover more ways to distribute your book. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the ISBN, sometimes you won’t. But it leads to you having several ISBNs, all from different publishers , for the same book.
Can you picture how unprofessional that looks to a bookstore?
Wouldn’t it have been easier to start off by buying your own ISBN? Wouldn’t that make you look more professional?
On top of this, each of those free ISBNs identifies the self-publishing company as a publisher. It’s the equivalent of using your business email address as [email protected] or [email protected] instead of [email protected] (assuming you’re named Matt).
Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but there are some stores that will refuse to stock your book on this basis. If you have a CreateSpace ISBN, there are a number of bookstores that will refuse to carry your book.
All of these issues can be sidestepped by simply purchasing your own ISBN through Bowker.
Libraries and ISBN Numbers
We briefly mentioned that if you want to stock your book in libraries, you’ll need an ISBN. However, that might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might have decided to focus purely on eBook publishing and what part do libraries play in eBooks ?
Libraries are becoming more important to the distribution of eBooks. Overdrive is the largest supplier to schools and libraries in the world (serving more than 30,000), and they circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014, a 33% increase from their previous year. They also supply to retail stores globally, making $100 million in sales in 2013.
And guess what you need to be able to partner with Overdrive? Yup. An ISBN.
ISBN Links & Resources
These links appeared throughout the post but here they are for easy access.
- International ISBN Agency
- ISBN.org by Bowker
- Bowkerlink Publisher Access System
- Bowker Identifier Services
- U.S. Copyright Office
- ISBN Set Up Guide
- ISBN Guides: Basic Information
If you’d rather leave the process of getting an ISBN to us, we’re happy to help with that!
Click here to discover the services we provide authors at SelfPublishing.com including a hassle-free ISBN provided just for your book.
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Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published Books
- June 23, 2016
The Watchdog and his dog
A terrific and comprehensive post on the topic of ISBNs, the unique international identifier given to every book, from ALLi Watchdog Giacomo Giammatteo. His advice will equip you to make the right decisions for your own self-published books.
Everything You Need To Know About ISBNs
Be warned—this is a long post, but it covers a lot of ground, so bear with me. The first section deals with everything you need to know about ISBNs, or close to it. And the second section is devoted to a question I get asked all the time: Do you need an ISBN for eBooks?
To begin, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the details of those crazy numbers.
Do You Need an ISBN?
#let’s take a closer look at isbns.
It seems as if a lot of confusion is tangled up in a string of numbers. And they’re not just numbers—they’re identifiers and they’re damn expensive.
In many countries ISBNs are free, provided by the government through the library system or another administrative branch. In the US and the UK, ISBNs are controlled by Bowker and Nielsen . I’m going to refer to Bowker most of the time since I’m more familiar with them, being based in the US. With the exception of pricing, the rest of the information should be similar.
First let’s take a look at exactly what an ISBN is and what it does.
From Bowker’s Website
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number . The purpose of an ISBN is to give your book a universal ID, which makes it easy for bookstores, libraries, readers, publishers, or anybody to find or refer to your book.
Every ISBN consists of thirteen digits (since 2007) and whenever it is printed it is preceded by the letters ISBN. The thirteen-digit number is divided into parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.
The five parts of an ISBN (13) are as follows:
- The current ISBN–13 is prefixed by “978” or “979”.
- Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers.
- Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group.
- Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title.
- Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.
That all sounds confusing, I’m sure. Let’s see if we can clarify some of this with an image.
The Parts of An ISBN
ISBN for Murder Takes Patience 
- Look at the top. The first three digits 978 identify that the numbers that follow constitute an ISBN for a book.
- The next single digit –1- indicates the book is part of the English language group of territories: US, UK, CA, AU, NZ. Those countries might also be represented by a 0.
- The third group of numerals –940313- is the publisher identifier. In this case, it is my company, Inferno Publishing Company. This group also indicates how many ISBNs were purchased. Anyone who knows how to read an ISBN will realize this was bought as a part of a block of 100 ISBNs. If it had been seven digits instead of six, it would have told us the publisher purchased a block of 10, while five digits would indicate a block of 1,000.
- The next two numerals –09- specify the title, edition, and format as designated by the publisher upon registration.
- The final digit –2- is the check digit. It is determined by a mathematical formula and I have no damn idea how they arrive at it.
What this means is that any bookstore, agent, publisher, library—anyone who is familiar with how ISBNs work—can readily identify your publisher number and determine how many ISBNs were purchased in that block. If you purchased one or even ten, they know you’re likely a self-published author. If you purchased 100, there is a good chance you’re a small publisher, and if you opted for 1,000 or more, it seems pretty obvious you’re a larger publisher, or a distributor, or someone who deals heavily in ISBNs. If you purchase only one ISBN the numerals following the country code are always “692” which identifies that ISBN as a single purchase. This applies even if you purchased it from CS using their $99 option.
But I’ve Seen ISBNs That Don’t Look Like That
I know what you mean. If you go to Amazon or almost anywhere, you might see an ISBN that looks like this: 9781940313061, with no hyphens. How do you decipher it then?
If I go to Bowker’s ISBN converter , I can convert my 13-digit ISBN ( 9781940313061) for A Bullet From Dominic , to a readable 10-digit one, like this: 1–940313–06–6.
What does that tell them?
As discussed earlier, the first digit tells them the book is in English. The next group of six numerals identifies “Inferno Publishing Company” as the publisher. And the two numerals following that, “06” indicate that this is from a block of 100 ISNBs. (If it had been from a block of ten, it would have been a single digit.)
On the other hand, if you were to use CreateSpace to purchase your ISBN, this is what the numbers would look like: 978–1–4839–4649–5. Notice that the publisher grouping is only four numbers, which tells us it was purchased as a block of 10,000.
Joanna Penn was kind enough to let me use her great book, Crypt of Bone from the Arkane series, as an example.
After converting the number using Bowker’s tool, I get this: 1–4839–4649–5, and if we plugged her old information into a Google™ search, this is what we saw.
As you can see from the snippet included with the Google search results, it identified CreateSpace as the publisher of the book.
So what? See below for comparison .
If anyone wants to know more about who published this book, all they have to do is analyze the number and/or do an Internet search. Let’s plug this number (978–1–940313–09–2) into Google and see what happens.
Notice that two of the search results show Inferno Publishing Company as the publisher.
In order to do a proper comparison, I felt it necessary to go into a little detail on the various options CS offers for ISBNs. I took this from CreateSpace’s website .
What Are My ISBN Options?
You have four ISBN options:
- A CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN.
- A Custom ISBN.
- A Custom Universal ISBN.
- Your own ISBN. 
Details Of Each Option
Free createspace-assigned isbn.
- CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform is your book’s imprint of record. If you select Amazon.com or Amazon’s European websites as distribution channels, this imprint will be reflected on your book’s detail page.
- You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon’s European websites, a CreateSpace eStore, and all Expanded Distribution channels.
- This ISBN can only be used with the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
- Your book’s ISBN information will be registered with BooksInPrint.com®
CreateSpace used to offer a custom $10 ISBN. They no longer do.
Custom universal isbn ($99).
- You can use this ISBN with any publisher.
- You choose your book’s imprint of record. If you select Amazon.com or Amazon’s European websites as distribution channels, this imprint will be reflected on your book’s detail page.
- You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon’s European websites, a CreateSpace eStore, and some† Expanded Distribution channels.
Provide Your Own ISBN
- You can purchase your own ISBN from Bowker or through your local ISBN agency.
- If you are reprinting your book, the title, author name, and binding type must remain the same. A new edition requires a new ISBN.
- Your book’s imprint must match what’s on file with your ISBN.
- You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon’s European websites, an eStore, and some Expanded Distribution channels.
With option one and two, you can only use the ISBN with CreateSpace. That means if you want to use Ingram also, you’re out of luck unless you purchase a new ISBN. And if you have to purchase an ISBN anyway, why not do it to begin with.
With the Custom Universal option ($99), you can also use Ingram but only if you do not opt into CreateSpace’s expanded distribution.
If you’re thinking—I don’t want to use Ingram—you might check the post I did on that. If you sell many print books at all, you’ll make more money using both CreateSpace and Ingram.
What About CreateSpace Being Listed As Publisher?
The question is—does it matter who shows up as the publisher? Readers won’t care, but some bookstores might.
It has long been rumored that independent stores don’t like to carry books published by CreateSpace. I wondered how much of that was true so I got on the phone and called some. This was by no means a scientific study; I simply spoke to about a dozen stores and asked them if it mattered. I expected them to say no , it didn’t matter. But to several stores it did.
Out of 13 stores that I asked, 7 of them said they would not carry a book by CreateSpace as the publisher. 
If your strategy depends on selling through brick-and-mortar stores, you might consider buying your ISBN through Bowker or Nielsen.
Now to answer some other questions.
Where Does The ISBN Go On A Book Cover?
Here are the front and back covers of my book, Murder Takes Patience. Note the ISBN and barcode on the back. (And yes, that was a shameless plug for my book.)
Where To Buy ISBNs
As stated before, if you’re in the US, there is only one place to purchase an ISBN in your name, as a publisher—Bowker. Here is the link to My Identifiers . Even if you buy the ISBN from Ingram or CreateSpace you have to agree to Bowker’s terms, as the other companies are simply acting as agents for Bowker.
If you are in the UK, you buy them from Nielsen . To look up the agency for where you live, go to this site and use their search tool.
How Many ISBNs Should I Buy & What Do They Cost?
As to how many should you buy…that is a question only you can answer. It depends on how many works you intend to produce, what your philosophy is about using ISBNs, and what your cash flow is. Here are a few facts to help with the decision. Remember, this is for dealing with books only, not music or any other product.
In addition to the products listed above, you will also need ISBNs for the following:
Situations Where You Need A New ISBN
- Any variation of the print books, for example, if you choose a 5 x 8, and a 6 x 9, you’ll need separate ISBNs.
- If you decide to produce a book with large print you’ll need a separate ISBN.
- Foreign languages need separate ISBNs.
- Any significant changes to text/content needs a new ISBN.
- Change in title needs a new ISBN.
- Changing the binding requires a new ISBN.
When You Don’t Need A New ISBN
- Change of price.
- Minor corrections to text.
- New cover. 
- Changing vendor who prints books.
So, To Answer The Question—Do You Need An ISBN For eBooks
The decision to use your own ISBN or even whether to use one at all for digital books, is a decision you’ll have to make. Below are a few suggestions that you might consider.
- If you plan on only producing one book and budgeting is a consideration, you might consider an ISBN from a supplier like CreateSpace or IngramSpark.
- If you just want to print a book and don’t intend to sell it online or through stores, then you don’t need an ISBN. 
- If you plan on a long-term strategy of branding your publishing company, you probably want to purchase your own ISBNs.
- If you are concerned with long-term visibility and discoverability through SEO as well as customer, bookstore, and library searches— you should buy your own ISBNs.
- If your strategy includes aggressive penetration into the brick-and-mortar stores and/or libraries, you definitely should have your own block of ISBNs.
Remember, once an ISBN has been issued it can’t be resold, re-assigned, or transferred. An imprint can be assigned, but the original purchaser will be listed as the publisher of record.
- Just because you have an ISBN number doesn’t mean it is listed in the Books in Print database. If you want to ensure your books are listed, you need to submit your title information with Books in Print . (US site.)
Back To The Original Question—How Many ISBNs Should I Buy?
This all depends on your cash flow and long-term strategy. I’ll give you an example from my experience.
A few years ago, I bought 10, thinking that would be good for a long while. But now I have 10 books out in both digital and print. That has taken up 20 ISBNs. I plan on doing audio books, which will take 10 more. I am working on getting them translated into at least two languages. If successful that will require 20 more. That brings me up to 50. And I plan on launching 5 books next year. If they all follow the same path, it will add 25 more ISBNs, bringing the total to 75 ISBNs.
When I started I hadn’t thought of all this. If I had I would have purchased 100 to begin with instead of 10, and then 100. It would have saved me about $200.
Cost of ISBNs
In the chart below, I’ve listed the standard sources—Bowker and Nielsen—but also listed CreateSpace and IngramSpark for those who aren’t concerned with being the publisher of record.
Please note, there are no discounts for quantity with CreateSpace or IngramSpark.
If you have really big plans—like building your own publishing company—you can purchase 1,000 from Bowker for $1,500, bringing the price down to $1.50 each. (Gives you an idea of how much CreateSpace and IngramSpark make, doesn’t it?)
Speaking of money, it was only about one year ago that Bowker would sell 1,000 ISBNs for $1,000—now it's $1,500—a 50% increase. Not bad.
Let’s Review a Few Facts:
- An ISBN is required for print books  . You don’t have an option.
- If you use the free one or the $10 one from CS, you cannot use it elsewhere, which means if you decide you want to take advantage of Ingram’s distribution later on you’ll have to buy another one. 
- If you use the $99 ISBN from CS, you can use it elsewhere, but only if you don’t opt for expanded distribution. 
I don’t see the benefit of using a CS $99 ISBN, especially when you can buy one from Ingram for $85 or even better, 10 from Bowker for $275.
Now back to what we mentioned at the beginning of this post…
Do You Need an ISBN for eBooks?
Proponents for using ISBNs with eBooks cite a number of reasons:
- They make you look professional.
- They make your books easier to find (more discoverable).
- They get your books into more places.
Opponents of using ISBNs with eBooks cite these reasons:
- ISBNs cost money.
- They have not been proven to increase sales.
- It’s an antiquated practice that isn’t needed for eBooks.
The Truth About eBooks and ISBNs
Let’s analyze the pros and cons.
- No question that to do ISBNs the right way, they cost money. But it’s not much if you invest in at least 10 at a time.
- I don’t think there’s any doubt that they make you look professional, but some would question whether that helps sales.
- I would like to think they make your books easier to find, but that might be a minor point only true for a very small percentage of people.
- The primary plus for me is that using an ISBN for eBooks will get you into more places, which means potentially more sales. And one of those places are libraries.
Libraries are becoming more of a factor in eBooks, and OverDrive is the biggest supplier to libraries in the world. OverDrive requires an ISBN. If you choose not to have them for your eBooks, you’re cutting out a major distribution channel. OverDrive services more libraries and schools than anyone in the world (more than 30,000), and they also supply books to retailers around the globe, including Books-A-Million, Ciando, etc. Sales in 2013 were more than $100 million. That’s not small change.
And if you need more convincing, take a look at this news from Library Journal in a January, 2015 article.
Public and school libraries that are part of OverDrive’s global network circulated 137 million ebooks, digital audiobooks, and other digital media in 2014—a 33 percent increase compared with 2013, according to statistics released by the company. Ebook circulation rose 32 percent, to 105 million, while digital audiobook circulation grew 38 percent, to 32 million. The OverDrive network also recorded 401 million visits to public library and school library websites powered by OverDrive, a 77 percent increase.
Another thing to note is that OverDrive has an app and a presence on every major mobile device. This is not a stodgy old company living in the past. And, of course, big publishing knows that.
But if you’re an indie without an ISBN assigned to your eBook, the doors to OverDrive distribution and sales will be locked. Indie authors can get into OverDrive through Smashwords , and eBookPartnership , among other distributors.
Besides OverDrive, there are other channels that require ISBNs. Take a look at this from Draft2Digital’s website:
You may choose to disable the free ISBNs, but this will block your book from distribution to some sales channels unless you provide your own ISBNs.
And this is what Smashwords has to say about it:
We require ISBNS for iBooks, OverDrive, Kobo, PageFoundry, and ’txtr.
I know what some of you are thinking…that you can get a free ISBN from Draft2Digital, and that will solve your problem. You’re right. But what happens if you decide you want access to the retail channels Smashwords distributes to that Draft2Digital doesn’t?
No problem, you simply get the free ISBN from Smashwords.
But then you see that Bookbaby has some great channels that neither Draft2Digital or Smashwords distribute to. And then you notice eBookPartnership has even different channels.
And the list goes on and on and on. Pretty soon, you end up with four different ISBNs for the same book, and a few of them you might have had to pay $15 or $19 for.
Now let’s throw another wrench in the mix.
Suppose you sign up for Bookbaby or Draft2Digital and use their ISBNs, and six months later you decide you don’t want to use them to distribute your books anymore; you want to use Smashwords. No problem, right?
Now you’ve got books with Bookbaby-assigned ISBNs or Draft2Digital-assigned ISBNs, and guess what—you can’t use them anywhere else. If multiple vendors supply retailers that require ISBNs, you could end up with a mess on your hands.
Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to just buy an ISBN yourself? Not only would you have access to all channels and retailers, but you’d look more professional, too.
Whether to use ISBNs on ebooks is a personal decision. You have no choice if print books is part of your distribution strategy. Some authors take the least expensive route and, in many cases, it hasn’t affected sales a bit. Other authors buy blocks of ISBNs and adhere to the same practices that traditional publishers have used for years.
I don’t have a lot of personal proof that using ISBNs for ebooks will drive tons of sales, but I have no doubt that it will. The book business is continually changing, and the ways that people read books change with it. Add up the numbers with OverDrive, Scribd , Oyster , and others. A lot of books are being read and bought on these platforms.
The question you have to ask yourself is—Will you be one of them?
As for me, I’m one of those authors who tries to keep everything in sync, so I use ISBNs for all my books—print and ebook and soon to be audio.
Will it help with discoverability?
I don’t know, but I hope so.
One Final Thought
We indies are competing with traditional publishing on all fronts, and that means not just with storytelling, but with editing, book covers, layout, distribution, etc. We have to come across in all ways as professionals. To me, that means having ISBNs on all of my books, with my company listed as the publisher of record— not CreateSpace, or Smashwords, or Bookbaby, or anyone else.
As I said, I don’t know if it will help me sell books, but it definitely can’t hurt. I’m willing to invest that much to find out.
If you enjoyed this post, please share.
- The number on the bottom is the 10-digit ISBN and the “51799” tells the price. “5” tells the scanner it is in US currency, and the next 4 numbers tell the price. So this book costs $17.99. ↩
- Both custom ISBN options are offered through an agreement with Bowker®. ↩
- I have to wonder if part of this was because they presumed that a book by CreateSpace meant “indie author”, and they don’t carry indies. I didn’t have time to dig into this angle further. ↩
- Bowker and Nielsen recommend separate numbers for mobi and epub, but not many people do that. ↩
- As long as it doesn’t change the complete perception of the book. ↩
- Ingram used to require ISBNs for any printing order, now they don’t. They even sell them for universal use. ↩
- Includes a one-time set-up fee of $46. ↩
- If you plan on selling them online or through brick-and-mortar stores. ↩
- This also means you’ll have different versions of your print book showing up. ↩
- See this post for details on using a CS ISBN with Ingram. ↩
Author: Giacomo Giammatteo
Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the "No Mistakes" Careers series. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” His website is at www.giacomogiammatteo.com .
[…] more discoverable (another number to find your book in Google wherever it is listed with its ISBN).The Alliance of Independent Authors has a great article, ‘Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published […]
Question: I use my own ISBN numbers for paperback editions (Createspace and Clays have somewhat different sizes, and Clays need a phrasing to demonstrate the book was produced by them), but not for e-Books at the moment. I publish through KDP (who only assign an ASIN), D2D (who assign their own ISBN), and Smashwords (who allocate their own ISBN). Can I use the same ISBN for publishing on any of these sites if I elect to utilize my own ISBNs? (Smashwords used to insist on the term Smashwords Edition, but I believe they no longer do.)
Our recommendation is that you purchase and use your own ISBNS. See: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/books/using-isbns-for-your-self-published-books/
I live in India and last year I have published e book and paperback through Amazon.Now I need to buy an ISBN from India for ingramspark so please let me know how I can buy from India.
[…] Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published Books […]
Um so I am starting to write my very first book and I am doing on my my computer at home how do I get copyrights and all that done for my book to go out and be sold in the world?
[…] Use your own ISBN on both platforms – if you start off by using a free KDPP one, you won’t be able to use it on IS, because it belongs to Amazon, not to you. (For more advice about buying and using ISBNs, click here.) […]
I am about to purchase the ISBN numbers but don’t understand if I also need to purchase barcodes. I completely understand the ISBN but do I need to pay $100 more for barcodes? Thank you!
no you do not. Barcodes are generated from your ISBN and services that try to sell them may well be behaving unethically and should be avoided.
This was not my experience. I recently bought 10 ISBN from Nielsens. They charge an additional £15 for a single bar code. Discounts are available for multiples. My printers, Inky Little Fingers Ltd produce bar codes for £10 each. I believe both to be reputable companies. I am still confused about the hyphens. When I sent my ISBN to my printer he told me the hyphens were, “In the wrong place.” The numbers and grouping are exactly as received from Nielsens. Is the spacing between hyphens and numbers critical?
Hi, I had a book self published with an ISBN number. I only had one copy printed and that was basically for my own library – I suppose I got an ISBN number because it came with the package.I now want to get it published with a publisher but publishers aren’t keen on books that have already been “published”. Is there any way I can cancel my ISBN number so that I can start fresh with the book?
Hi! Would you mind answering a few general questions about filing taxes as an indie publisher?
Nice post, I’m going to try this createspace
I’m a British author, so I get my ISBNs from Nielsen’s, in the UK. During a phone call about something entirely different, I was told by the person dealing with my query that because Bowker and Nielsen’s cover different geographical areas, an ISBN issued by a USA-based company such as Smashwords, or Lulu would be invalid for a UK author. It’s therefore required that UK authors take their own ISBN with them. I hope this is helpful to any other UK authors who come across your post, as it doesn’t appear to be covered in your otherwise helpful article.
Dear Helen Do you need a US ISBN or does the UK work there also?
Thank you for this article! It explains so much about the differences between CS (KDP), IS, and the others. Very helpful!
Hi – thank you for your informative article. I followed the “My Identifiers” link to Bowker. There it talked about buying 10 ISBNs and getting 2 barcodes, and copyright protection. If the barcodes help stores sell the books easier, why wouldn’t the plan offer 10 bar codes with 10 ISBNs, if you need an ISBN for every book format other than ebooks? Appreciate your thoughts.
Hi, My Mom and me have created a children’s picture book series to teach kids about animal welfare. We are not sure about how we will print the books. We will prob. offer it as an ebook from various places. I was going to buy 10 isbns. Should we also buy the barcodes at the same time. Then after we make the purchase what is the nest step. Thank you and be well!
Wonderful article, thank you, but it may need an update. Because I think the copyright office now requires all books to have an ISBN as part of the copyright process.
Good article. I will be facing many of these issues as well..
THANK YOU, this article is/was amazing. my head is still spinning. so much information pack in here. Thank you for sharing. You’re amazing
Did I miss you talking about this?
Can I use the same ISBN for both Printed Books and Ebooks?
No, Terry. Print books need a separate ISBN; in fact, if you have different versions like paperback and hardback, they need separate numbers, as do audio versions.
I just read your article on ISBN’s and I must say it has been tremendously helpful! I am taking my first stab at a book and self-publishing, so this is all new to me. The question I have is that I just purchased an ISBN from Bowker a few minutes ago, but it does not exactly much the format your article illustrates and I am note sure why, so I am hoping you can explain it to me. My ISBN number looks like this 978-0-###-#####-9 (not 2). Why is mine different from what you showed in the article? Thanks in advance for you time and help 🙂
Kind Regards, -Jody
[…] You will need your own ISBNs to publish through IngramSpark, so purchase those first. You may decide to use an imprint name as I do with Curl Up Press. This doesn’t have to be a legal company, it can just be a name you want to use, just make sure no one else is using it. ISBNs are free in some countries, like Canada, but you have to purchase them in other countries like US or UK. [More detail on ISBNs here.] […]
I am about 90% done with my first book. I am a US citizen and live in the USA. I have selected publishers in India with good graphics illustration expertise to publish in India but distribute the book in the USA, Europe and Africa. Should I buy ISBN and register the title before a publisher is finalized. I would publish an e-book through Google and Amazon. Getting ISBN registration would lock the title of the book and provide copyrights protection.
Hameed: if you plan on getting a publisher, they’ll provide the ISBN. And I wouldn’t worry about the copyright. That’s taken care of automatically.
Very comprehensive. I’m just a little foggy on some terminology. I’ve been living away from my native country for a long time.
1. an imprint, as in “your book’s imprint of record”
2. a binding type
in a publishing context, I suspect these things have a special meaning. Can you be specific about these things?
The “imprint” of record is simply the name you publish under. For example, a publisher may buy 1,000 ISBNs, but it may publish books under different “imprints,” in other words, mysteries under one name and romance titles using another.
The “binding type” refers to the choices you’ll have to make regarding that: perfect bound, spiral bound, hardback, etc.
WOW! Finally, a full-out, thoroughly researched and fantastic article. THANK YOU! For answering so many questions.
David, if you have any other questions, write me at: gg @ giacomog . com
Thank you thank you thank you!! This was incredibly valuable and insightful to ready!
I bought ISBN for $20 from ISBN company, but have not completed the form to register it for my book. The book is ready (printed edition), and I would like to put it in a specific on-line self-publishing bookstore with this number, simply to look professional, and later, maybe provide the book info for this ISBN, or get my own ISBN. Eventually, I am planning to distribute the book through Ingram, but at this point, use the above-mentioned on-line store for experiments. Are there any drawback to such an approach?
I wish I could figure out from Bowker what my entry will look like to bookstores, libraries et al. I seem to recall coming across an article discussing the fact that the “Main Description” entry can be formatted so that it will look more interesting to these readers (bold, headlines, bullets, etc. Of course, Bowker tells you nothing about how to do that. Is there a resource that is useful for this? Thanks.
Bowker was a terrible place to get an ISBN number. Their website was confusing, misleading and evidently was hacked so that membership information was lost. At best they are amateurs with a website. Surely, there is a more professional place to get an ISBN number
I had the same reaction. I had to fax them payment information and their website said they would email me with my ISBN numbers. They didn’t; after puzzling for quite a bit, I did figure out how to get back to the registration/sign in page (no link to it from the main Bowker page), where I found out they were available. I guess when you have a monopoly you don’t have to worry about doing anything right.
Great info! Another newbie question… if I buy a block of ten ISBNs (which includes your publisher ID number and I use them all and want to get another block of ten will they use the same publisher ID number on the next block of ten or will I end up with another publisher ID number??? (and does that even matter?!?!) thanks! Marc
I wish to buy my own ISBN’s for print & ebook but am confused how to list myself as the publisher… I do not have a publishing company. Do I just use my name, or is it better to use my dba company name that is an LLC that also includes classes I teach?
Where are the answers to all of these comments and questions? Could you please help me understand. If I submit my DBA as the publisher, do I need to provide my address and phone number for the DBA Publisher’s name? Please tell me who receives andhandles inquiries and orders for my books?Do I receive the orders and then place the order with the printer Or, does a bookstore contact the distributor, printer and place the order? Thank you for your help.
[…] must. Giacomo Giammatteo explains how ISBNs work and the process of purchasing them in great detail here. (One important detail that he mentions that I want to emphasize: you should purchase your ISBNs […]
[…] information on ISBNs in general in this post by Giacomo Giammatteo for the Alliance of Independent […]
Can anyone help? I am trying to self-publish my first book as an ebook. I live in Indonesia (foreign worker), but my book is in English, and I expect most sales will be in America and Europe. To buy 10 ISBNs on the Bowker website, I have to give an address and state in the USA, which I don’t have. The ISBN agency in Indonesia does not recognize self-publishing. So to get an ISBN here, I must have a registered publishing company, that has dozens of legal documents Any suggestions about how I can get my own ISBN?
Awesome article. I have a random question as I am about to self publish my first book. If I buy an isbn and barcode from bowler, do I then have to get my graphic designer to put on back cover or do you upload it to Igrimspark and they do it for you? Anyone with experience with this place answer if you can as I can find no answers for this anywhere.
First, do not buy a barcode; you don’t need to. Go to my blog on it and read: http://nomistakespublishing.com/need-barcodes-books-2/ . And your designer will have to put it on the back cover for Ingram, but not CreateSpace.
As I understand, ISBN is to digitally monitor or track the product, which is the book. Does it help in copyright issues? For example, I have a registered copyright with my book and title in my name. I have not decided on the book design as yet (5×8 or 6×9, cover type etc.). Ideally I would like to secure all my ISBN for my book title, and I would need say a block of 10 ISBN ( since the book design is uncertain as of now). It is worth the trouble only if it helps me secure my copyright aspect as watertight. The insecure, indie author in me feels that if I have blocked a set of ISBN for my title, for 4possible formats, 2 variants, then I have secured my property ( book content and title) and I can freely discuss my book without the fear of any loss or misuse of my content, during or even after the production. Thank you for any help on this.
Great post, thank you! I started publishing my books when I lived in Finland. The National Library service there handles ISBNs, and they are completely free. The only obligation is that you must submit six copies in every format (ie for each ISBN you use), plus each digital format, to their copyright library system. This is why I still publish my books through my Finnish-registered company, despite having moved to the UK.
Great article! Thank you, thank you! Wanted to know if a paperback and ebook need separate ISBNs and I got the answer.
I uploaded my own ISBN when I uploaded my book to CreateSpace, but they put their ISBNs on the book. Whaa? I am about to upload the third in the series, and I will again put on my own (purchased) ISBN number–but how can I prevent CreateSpace from changing it again??
Thank you for this extensive guide to ISBN’s. I now feel much more educated on ISBN’s, but with more knowledge comes more questions, right? Haha!
Previously (for my first three novels), I have purchased the Custom Universal ISBN through CreateSpace (CS). Moving forward, I am considering purchasing my own bulk package of ISBN’s through Bowker. My first question is: If I purchase my own ISBN’s, should I update the ISBN’s from my previously published books with my own ISBN’s? If yes, what are the pros and cons (for example, how does this change affect each novel’s listing on Amazon–will the reviews carry over to the new ISBN or will it become a completely new product? How does this affect algorithms?)?
As an owner of my own ISBN’s (whether I use CS, Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, etc.) will I be responsible for my own barcodes or will each publisher continue to offer that feature using my ISBN?
I have learned first-hand that many book retailers (small, medium, and large) do not care to do business with CS (as you’ve mentioned). If I own my own ISBN and am listed as the publisher, do the book retailers also look down on me because I am a small self-publisher? Secondly, if I am listed as the publisher but CS still prints the book, is the book retailer unable to know that CS is the printer–if they do know, I would assume they would still not wish to order my books, right?
Thank you in advance for your guidance!
Can you still buy ISBNs from Bowker even if you don’t like in the US, or would that be illegal?
Thank you for this great info! I’ve been so overwhelmed…and my book is almost ready to print. You made a crazy subject actually seem more understandable…thank you!
I always enjoy the information shared on this website. It is straightforward, thorough, unbiased, and reliable. Having read many other perspectives and reports regarding ISBNs, your information made my decision a clear choice and I will ultimately purchase my own. As a forward thinker, your detail regarding use of ISBNs put things into a palpable context. Thank you.
[…] Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published Books https://selfpublishingadvice.org/isbns-for-self-published-books/ […]
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There are a lot of things more important in life than making money. I don’t like ads on websites.
One more reason I like you.
Am I too late to ask another question? I just finished producing my first audiobook through ACX. I chose the non-exclusive distribution path, because this series is wide in both ebook and print, so I want the audio to be available everywhere as well. I have an ISBN for it, since I bought 100 after realizing how quickly I use them up. But ACX doesn’t seem to provide a place for it. I wrote to the Help desk and they said they would provide an ASIN and not to worry my little self about it. (Grrr.)
So do I just go ahead and register the new format at Bowker, the way I did ebook & print, and then use the ISBN everywhere else, presumably? I’m especially keen to get this one into Smashwords, through which I can reach Overdrive. I’m a great consumer of audiobooks from Overdrive through my library, so I want my books to be there too.
Sorry for being so late to reply. If you haven’t already acted, yes, what you propose should do the trick. Every version of book: audio, print, ebook, large print, etc. needs a different ISBN.
[…] Publishing Action Plan 6 mo-2 yr ISBN purchase 10 for $250 or 1 for $125; You need separate ISBNs for ebooks, print and audio Formatting DIY (Vellum on Mac, Jutoh) $200 or $30 ea, or paid $150 Paid cover design, $50 premade, […]
Hi We are just about to publish our first book through Ingramspark. We have purchased our ISBNs for hardcopy and ebook. Our book designer has now asked if we want to include the ebook ISBN on the copyright page (clearly marked as such) as well as the paperback ISBN. She said she has seen it included sometimes and sometimes not. I am wondering which is more conventional at traditional publishing houses, i.e. what is the norm. We are wanting our books to look as professional as possible. Thank you Kunzang
I include the ISBNs for both versions on the copyright page.
I loved the point about ISBNs for eBooks making them more discoverable even if only by a small percentage of people, because I am part of that percentage. I actually have used ISBNs to locate other books published by the same publisher. I learned how to figure out what the next check is so that I can just put the ISBN in and find the next book.
Thank you for this useful post. I started out with self publishing without knowing too much and took the free createspace ISBN. Now that I am more familiar with the process and understand the importance of an ISBN, I now have a problem with what to do with the previous books and ebooks that sell on Amazon, print books all caring createspace ISBNs and ebooks were given some version of Amazon’s ISBNs. What a headache. I have decided to buy a block of ISBNs but I am confused in what to do with the previous books and how to go about converting them if that is even possible. I currently have 5 books along with 5 ebooks. Please advise.
When referencing the ISBN number in the front matter, using createspace (and we purchased the $99 ISBN), can I use the 978- European number, or do I print the 10-digit US number. I didn’t think it mattered but wanted to doublecheck. Thanks for all this info. Very helpful.
Is there any problem selling a book in the US (via Amazon etc) if the ISBN is from a foreign country? thanks
Nope, doesn’t matter where your ISBN is sourced – it’s an international standard. So that makes life simpler, thank goodness!
Many thanks for this informative and comprehensive article. It cleared up a lot of questions for me.
glad it helped. Let me know if you have more questions.
I have a question… Why the push to get into libraries? Aren’t people reading your book for free? So what is the value in that profit wise?
Here are four reasons that I can think of, Colleen:
1) most countries have a scheme that pays a small fee to authors every time one of their books is borrowed 2) it will raise awareness of your books before potential readers at no cost to you 3) it will give you a good feeling to know that people who may not be able to afford to buy books can still read yours 4) most library users are also book buyers, and many go on to buy books they have read in libraries or other books by the authors whose library books they have enjoyed
Thank you for this informative and easy to understand post. When purchasing ISBNs myself do I have to have a “real” company. As in, a company that is registered, licensed, or what have you or do I just make up a name and that’s it? How does paying taxes work if I make up a company to purchase ISBNs and then earn money off my book sales?
Thank you very much for the article! Very useful!
I am searching for Is ISBN required for ebooks? and this article clear my doubt. Thank you so much.
No problem. Let me know if you have questions.
Hi, I am self publishing my book. My printer is in India. Do I require ISBN from an Indian agency? Or can I apply ISBN from a US agency and mention it on the Copyright page? Regards,
I just learned today that as a self-publisher, writing in English, ISBNs must be registered with the ISBN agency in the country where you are officially resident. For me, who is resident in Switzerland, it means that the registration process has to be all in French, in which I am far from fluent, especially when writing in it. AND all the information and rules concerning ISBNs were also in French. This is doubly strange as the 2 previous editions of my book were published by a specialist publisher in the USA.
Thanks. Very informative. I appreciated the comments following as well, for they helped clear up a couple of questions generated by the blog post.
I have already purchased a block of numbers, but was questioning the need for seperate numbers for Smashwords and Kindle. Seperate numbers it is for me. Necessary? Probably not, but I need every possible advantage, and for the price difference of adding one different number, I don’t see the advantage of pinching that particular penny.
Feel free to write if you have questions. I don’t monitor this site as often as I should since I got sick.
[…] A detailed review of what ISBNs are and some of the reasons to purchase your own. https://selfpublishingadvice.org/isbns-for-self-published-books/ […]
Do I have to register my “publishing company”? (The name I choose to use with my ISBN rather than CreateSpace)
This is a very eye-opening article. I’m so glad I found it. I never thought about the professional-looking aspect of it. I have a lot to think about.
WARNING BEWARE OF GETTING THE “MOST POPULAR INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS PACKAGE” $55 FROM PUBLISHERS SERVICES. http://www.isbn-us.com On that website page they do state that ““Independent Publisher” is referenced publisher- Ideal for direct to consumer sales” What they do not state is that this ISBN number is useless for Create Space. If you get your own ISBN number, you must state that you are the publisher, which is not allowed on this very deceptive package. You must go to the $125 Publishers Package which has listed down at the very bottom of the list of benefits, “Create Space”.
After three phone calls to David, very charming man at Publishers Services, in which i was trying to figure out what the problem was…why Create Space would not accept my ISBN number…and 3 phone calls to Create Space, I finally found someone at CS who directed me to Bowker, the actual publisher of Books In Print. They told me I had purchased the wrong type of ISBN…all it could list was Independent Publisher.
I went back to Publishers Service and the still charming young man and asked if I could upgrade my number, no. Could I get a refund, no. Once again he tried to convince me that I should just take the freebie offered by CreateSpace and go away. I asked to speak to a supervisor and was put on hold. I am positive that the time was used to explain my complaint, because when I spoke to impatient, curt Patti she had loaded the page on the $55 package and essentially implied that I hadn’t paid attention to the warnings that the ‘Most Popular Package’ could not be used for Create Space and that somewhere elusive there was a notice of the purchase being nonrefundable.(The only notice I could find was the absence of ‘Create Space’ o the list of benefits.
I am certain that the charming David knew on the first phone call what the problem was and tried to divert me into taking the CS offer, rather than just admitting that their presentation had been deceitful.
I went to Bowker at https://www.myidentifiers.com and purchased the $125 package. We’ll see if that one works.
Giacomo, you wrote a fantastic article, very detailed. I have a question. A year ago I read a few articles that mentioned writers clubs buying a block of ISBN’s to sell to their members at steep discounts. I cannot find that info at present. Have you run across that? I would like to share that info with a few hundred writers to save them some money. Thanks for your input.
Sorry. I just saw this, Dennis. I don’t know anything about that particular offer. I’ll try to find out.
Thanks for the great information on ISBNs for self-publishers.
CANADIAN ISBNs are free (like healthcare ;).
“To obtain one, you must be a Canadian publisher or self-publisher physically and permanently located in Canada.”
More information can be found at Library and Archives Canada http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/isbn-canada/pages/isbn-canada.aspx#d1
Some points to be aware of if you are a Canadian self-publisher:
-An ISBN is required for the sale and distribution of a publication. -Each different format of an electronic publication (e.g., Kindle, Kobo, EPUB, MOBI, PDF) that is published and made separately available shall be given a separate ISBN. -are issued within 10 business days. -Since 2007, ISBNs have changed from 10 digits to 13 digits. ISBN-13 is now the exclusive ISBN to be used on books and book-related products. -To obtain a full 13-digit ISBN, you must first apply for an ISBN Canada online system account. (for self-publishers, this can just be your name and home address) -The Canadian ISBN Agency does not provide barcodes; they are issued by private companies.
Note that lag time of 10 days. Get your ISBN in time to meet your launch deadline.
Great post. Thanks for the info!
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[…] I participated on Sunday in a panel on publishing—traditional and self, pros and cons and how to’s. One of the issues that came up a couple times, mostly for those working the self-publishing side of things, but interesting for any author, had to do with ISBN numbers. There’s more to these essential identifiers than you’d think. So, since the resourceful Anna Castle shared this article that tells all on the subject and from a reliable source, I’ll share it with you. One of those posts that a writer might want to stow for future reference unless you’re already a pro at the self-publishing thing. And if, as a reader, you wondered what the different parts mean, here’s the answer, among many others. Click here for “ISBN’s for Self-Published Books” […]
[…] Giammatteo in SelfPublishingAdvice/ALLi […]
Thank you for an excellent and information article.
Might I resell ISBNs I buy?
I am in the UK, might I use a free ISBN from another country?
Rory: Sorry for the late reply. No, you cannot resell ISBNs and you need to use the ISBNs from your own country.
Giacomo — I hope you’re doing well… when you said that ‘you cannot resell ISBN’s’, were you referring to the one individual who asked the question, as being a member of a class of ‘individuals’ with no business standing, or were you saying that in general, ISBN’s cannot be resold? I’m wondering about the reseller companies like ISBN Agency, which buys in bulk from Bowker & then resells those numbers to individuals at a big discount over what you might have to pay to buy one direct from Bowker. This topic of resold ISBN’s that supposedly Amazon will take, is different from the issue of obtaining one from CreateSpace. If the publisher of record is the middle-man, & if they give you permission to use your own publisher name, instead of theirs, will this still create some kind of a problem with distributors? If the one number is tied to my one book, & I say that I’m the publisher (who is also selling the book on my own ‘publisher’ website), then who cares that the middle-man’s name was listed for that number when they bought it in bulk from Bowker? Is the fact that their name is what Bowker has down as the ‘publisher name’ going to be a problem for me with my use of the number? Believe me, I would just go the CreateSpace route if they had spiral binding, which my book MUST have. So I have to seek out the best deal for an ISBN that I can find, & so far the best deal appears to be this resold number from Bowker. They claim that it can be used just fine with Amazon. Please weigh-in on this issue.
[…] A self-publisher has to know a lot about a lot. R.J. Crayton explains what the Kindle “delivery cost” is and how it affects you, and Giacomo Giammatteo has everything indie authors need to know about ISBNs for self-published books. […]
Thank you very much, Jim. A hugely informative post.
Thank you for providing the detailed information for ISBNs for countries who must buy them. I live in Canada, and they are free. I wrote a post about how to obtain them as a Canadian citizen, but I didn’t have a lot of information about how others outside of Canada got them.
I’ve added a link from my post to this article to help non-Canadians learn more about them. For Canadians to learn about our ISBN system, they can check out my post here: https://dianetibert.com/2012/04/30/getting-the-numbers-isbn-cip/
I wrote it in 2012, and it still applies. There is less information to complete now when you assign an ISBN, so it’s easier.
As you mentioned, it only makes sense to get your own. If you are in it for the long haul, it will definitely be worth it in the end.
[…] ISBNS – the Complete Lowdown for Indie Authors | Self-Publishing Author Advice from The Allian… […]
[…] View Full Post […]
Question: I use my own ISBN numbers for my paperback editions (Createspace and Clays, slightly different sizes and Clays require a wording to be inserted to show the book is printed by them), but currently don’t use them for e-Books. I publish via KDP (who allocate an ASIN only), D2D (who allocate their own ISBN) and Smashwords (who allocate their own ISBN). If I decide to use my own ISBNs, can I use the same ISBN for publishing on each of these different platforms? (Smashwords used to insist on the wording Smashwords Edition but no longer do so, as I understand it.)
Hi Jane, you “can” do whatever you want — you’re indie! But best books business practice is to use a different ISBN for different formats. If you think about what an ISBN is used for, it becomes clear. Supposing I’m a librarian and I want to make the EPUB version of your book available in my library, together with the hardback. The ISBN is how I will be able to distinguish between the various formats of your books on offer, automatically, through the established process in place. I don’t want the .mobi or the softback, but without a different ISBN for each, how do I distinguish without having to contact you — which could well be enough to put off the librarian, or bookstore owner, or whomever is interested.
You can use your own ISBN no matter where you publish. So, with Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and any other.
Yes, I use all my own ISBNs and you only need one for each ‘type’ of book. The distributor doesn’t matter, so you could use the same ISBN with Amazon, Apple, Nook, Smashwords etc.
Unfortunately nowadays April 2018) Smashwords and Draft2Digital insist that you must give their eBook a different ISBN from another aggregator, which is surely an incorrect attitude.
Why you don’t need an ISBN, and what you should invest in instead:
Spoiler: definitely not necessary for ebooks. I guess it can help get into libraries, but libraries aren’t fans of indie authors anyway. Fact is, no major retailer requires ISBNs for sales, and if you’re relying on ISBNs for discoverability, you have greater problems.
On the contrary, many libraries throughout the US and the UK are now actively seeking good self published titles. As are many independent bookstores. If indie authors want to be part of the wider book business (outside online retail), ISBNs are necessary. (Of course many indies do not, and are happy to sell only ebooks online through one retailer; it’s the author’s choice.) Because one of our main aims at the Alliance of Independent Authors is to see indies take their rightful place within the wider industry, we recommend that authors own their own ISBNs. ISBNs are not a marketing tool, a discoverability tool, or anything like that. Owning your own ISBN is simply a piece of business housekeeping that gives your book the best chance within the industry, and establishes you — and not your retailer — as the publisher of record, if that is something you care about.
Will: thanks for the note. While a lot of what you say is true, some needs further evaluation. Libraries are indeed becoming a factor. In the past year I have gotten almost 30 books into libraries. Not many, I know, but the commission alone is enough to cover quite a few ISBNs if you purchased 100 at a time. ALso, if a bookstore, or anyone else does a search for my books, they’ll see the same publisher for all my books with every retailer. If I went the route of letting the distributor do it, it would show different publishers for Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Bookbaby, etc; I’d rather look professional even if it costs a few bucks.
so you didn’t read their article, but you want others to ready yours? hm. so rude. and your info on libraries and indie books is outdated.
GREAT POST! Another issue I wrote about last year: http://www.savvybookwriters.com/who-is-the-publisher-check-the-isbn/ e-Books that do not contain an ISBN are charged 22% VAT, while e-books with an ISBN are charged a rate of only 4% – which makes a book without ISBN more expensive for the buyer / less revenue for the author. Italy has implemented new legislation that charges a higher rate of VAT on e-books that do not have an ISBN.
A couple of other small amendments to add.
OverDrive no longer supplies Waterstone’s as the Waterstone’s ebook store is now closed.
In similar vein Smashwords no longer supplies Oyster.
Thanks Mark! Jim will amend, just getting back into the swing of things.
True, Mark. I started writing this before those changes happened, then I got sick. But that’s no excuse for not fixing it. Thanks for the update.
Newbie question, please bear with me. From what I read a good fit for me would be to buy and control my own ISBNs. Do I need to be a formal publishing company or can I do that as an individual? My books are in english but I am from another country, so I’m worried about the legal and financial ramifications of owning a company in the US.
You need a company name but as long as you are established as a sole trader (i.e. registered for tax purposes) that works. But what country are you in? Many governments provide ISBNs free of charge.
Very helpful post! With all the issues of piracy, plagiarism, etc., I wonder if one could consider an ISBN (along with filed copyright) as another form of protection should you find yourself in the situation of having to prove, protect ownership of your work?
yes, it gives you a proven date of publication …. though we recommend ignorning piracy issues and just concentrate on writing and publishing.
Really useful checklist here. I use Nielsen and never doubted I would use ISBNs as that is the professional way (and ‘look’!) – though that was pre-ebooks being so big in the market … I bought 10. Very useful to review and shall keep article for reference if needs be any time. …
1) On the cost calculations when buying ISBNs directly (US example)…
The decision point isn’t block by block, as in “do I need 10 or do I need 100”? Instead, it should be “Will I ever need 11 or will I ever need 101?”
If you’re prolific, why not buy a block of 100 for $575? Because if I get to 101 uses, then I would need to spend another $575. If I buy a block of 1000 (which I did) at a time when it was only $1000, then as soon as I hit 101 units, I’m better off. With 7 novels and several shorts, in all the formats, I’m already using more than 50 ISBN units, and at 4-8 titles/yr times 3 formats (print, epub, mobi), I’ll easily hit 100 in 2-3 years (novels & shorts).
When your ISBNs end up costing $1.00 each, it vastly simplifies the concern about “does this new format really need another ISBN?”
2) The other reason for ISBNs…
It’s not just libraries that need universal identifiers — so does all commerce. We’ve barely seen the beginnings of online retail worldwide for print and ebooks. Right now we’re pampered by Amazon/Kobo/Apple and a few others and think that’s the whole book world we need to accommodate.
ISBNs are just a special case of SKUs.
(What follows is an excerpt on my older article on this topic. http://hollowlands.com/2014/03/why-you-should-buy-isbns-for-your-books/ )
ISBNs exist for exactly the same reasons that all businesses which trade in products require identifiable SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units). Pick up any product from any store and you will likely find such a product number, and a bar code to go with it. The SKU for the blue sweater in size 12 is different from the one for the blue sweater in size 14 or the red one in size 12. The SKU always identifies a single instantiated product, not a range of products. It’s used to eliminate any ambiguity about what the customer wants to buy [which is why there’s a recommendation to have different ISBNs for different ebook formats].
In most cases, an SKU is private to a particular vendor. A manufacturer puts an SKU on a component part he ships to an assembler. That company puts its own SKU on the assembled product, and the wholesaler who buys assembled products from all over the world puts his own SKUs on his inventory items. The retailer who buys from the wholesaler ultimately adds his own SKU, and when you buy that flashlight from RadioShack, that’s the number you see.
What makes the book trade different is that it was able to organize an SKU standard that travels with the product from the manufacturer all the way through the retail system, worldwide. That is a very remarkable achievement, unique to media. Because of that, all the players in the book trade, from manufacturers to wholesalers to bundlers to retail outlets are able to use the same SKU for the product along the way. That doesn’t mean that a retailer might not also assign a private SKU to an item (e.g., Amazon’s ASIN) for its own use (Amazon sells a lot of things besides books and they all have an ASIN number). But retailers who only sell books can use the item’s inherent SKU, its ISBN, as the product number, and many of them do.
Think of a small retail store, perhaps online only, somewhere in Poland. It sells ebooks and a few book-related items (readers, perhaps). All it needs for SKUs are the ISBNs the ebooks come with and a few assigned SKU numbers for its other goods, like readers, which it will assign using the EAN-13 standards (which have the same format as ISBNs). Its accounting system can use the ISBN as the SKU for each item it sells. it can order ebooks from aggregators and wholesalers and distributors using the universal SKU system they all understand: the ISBN.
There are hundreds of such small online ebook retailers today, and soon there will be thousands. All it takes is a website design and a little start up cost. They don’t need capital for inventory. The barriers to entry are very low. You will never be able to deal with them directly, and they will get their ebooks from aggregators and distributers, not directly from publishers. In many countries, online ebooks retailers will grow like mushrooms where print retailers won’t. Think of Africa or parts of South America where modernization skipped landlines and went straight to cellphones, where everyone has a cellphone and that’s how they read books.
Really useful, many thanks. I went a similar route – bought 100, use 1 per paperback, e-book and audio version (so 3 ISBNs per book written at present). There was lots of learning and many hoops at the start, but it should be a fairly future-proof system now.
You briefly mentioned including the price in the barcode but I’ve never done that because I imagine a whole article could be written about the pros and cons of that alone. In my case I just want one barcode, and am selling to the US and UK and elsewhere, so whatever currency I chose would be wrong for some markets. That means it is just easier to avoid all that and skip the price in the barcode, though others might differ in that view.
“Bowker and Nielsen recommend separate numbers for mobi and epub, but not many people do that.” I’d noticed that too, and ignored their recommendation. In Nielsen’s case it is more to do with them not tracking Amazon sales I think, so isn’t a benefit to the author. I just use one ISBN for the e-book version. If you went down the route of different ISBNs for filetypes (even though the content is the same) you’d also need one for PDF, one for online reading, one for .docx and so on if those formats are available – plus yet more as new formats become available. Likewise with audio books, just one ISBN, even though they may be downloaded in mp3, wav, some proprietary format, online streamed etc. If the content is identical it would be a waste to have to use multiple ISBNs for every change in file suffix.
One issue in the UK is that Nielsen say that you have to register for their title editor and add details of each book to that – I just discovered that there is no need or advantage to that, since it seems my books were added by my distributor (Ingram Spark) anyway. I wish I’d known that at the start, it would have saved weeks of back and forth creating an account with Nielsen, which I’ll probably now spend weeks trying to close!
As a note, apparently Amazon no longer offers the $10 option as of sometime recently. Another author pointed out the option wasn’t available, and I checked the CreateSpace website and it is indeed gone from the options and documentation.
I didn’t know that. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll amend the post.
Post now amended, thanks to Anma for pointing that out. 🙂
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BookBaby > Services > ISBN for Books
ISBN Numbers For Books
Learn what an isbn is, why you need it, and how to get one..
What is an ISBN?
Every book on the market possesses its own unique ISBN (International Standard Book Number), a numeric identifier used around the world to identify books. If you plan to sell your book in a bookstore, through an online retailer, or to your local library, you’ll need to have a 13-digit ISBN number assigned to it. The process of getting an ISBN is not complicated, but there are important details you need to be aware of as you navigate the process.
One Book, Multiple ISBNs
In order to ensure that you are making your book accessible to all of your potential readers, you may want to provide different format choices for your book. Multiple book formats and editions will each require a unique ISBN. For example, a softcover edition requires a different ISBN than a hardcover edition. Or if you decide to have a printed book format , eBook format , and an audiobook , each format will need its own ISBN.
Buying an ISBN
ISBNs are issued to publishers, who then assign them to individual books. Because a self-published author is considered a publisher, you can purchase an ISBN for your own book. BookBaby makes buying an ISBN easy and affordable. One of the many benefits of self-publishing your book with BookBaby, is the ability to buy a single ISBN at the rate of $49 (each) while you’re in the process of making your book.
You also can purchase an ISBN directly from Bowker at myidentifiers.com . Keep in mind that a single ISBN from Bowker costs $125, and 10 ISBNs cost $250. There’s no difference between an ISBN purchased from BookBaby vs one from Bowker. BookBaby purchases blocks of ISBNs from Bowker to provide to our authors.
Where does a book ISBN go?
An ISBN goes on the copyright page and should be included in the Cataloging in Publication (aka CIP data) block, if you use one. ISBN numbers are also usually printed on the back covers of books as part of the bar code when the book is being sold.
What is an Amazon ASIN?
BookBaby offers book distribution to the most stores worldwide, including Amazon , one of the most impactful platforms to sell your book. An ISBN is not necessary for publishing your Kindle eBook on Amazon. Instead, Amazon assigns its own identifier, the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), for all Kindle eBooks. However, your print version will still be identified by its ISBN. Amazon will only be assigning an ASIN for your Kindle eBook version.
ISBNs for Authors Outside of the USA
If you don’t reside in the United States, you still can purchase an ISBN directly from BookBaby or from one of over 160 ISBN agencies worldwide. Each agency is responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their respective geographic territory.
Tip: If you print your book in another language, you’ll need a new ISBN.
Revisions and ISBNs
After your book goes through the editing process , it may need minor revisions. As long as it doesn’t have any substantial changes and isn’t considered a reprint or a new edition, you won’t need a new ISBN.
Be mindful that this is subjective. ISBN guidelines state that a major revision, or the addition of completely new material, would be defined as a substantial change. The process is the same if there are substantial elements deleted from your book.
After purchasing an ISBN, your book is ready to sell, but this doesn’t mean it is automatically copyrighted. Get the breakdown on how to copyright your book here .
Need to purchase an isbn for your book, tell us more about your book.
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IngramSpark offers FREE ISBNs* for U.S. customers
It's our goal to provide you with the resources you need to publish a book. We've listened to your feedback, and we know it’s important to many of you that we offer free ISBNs.
Whether you plan to publish a print book or ebook —or both—providing an ISBN is an important component to publishing your book. In this video, Bradley answers some of the most frequently asked questions about ISBNs. Check it out!
Download the "Free vs Paid ISBNs" worksheet to find out what’s right for you and your book.
What is an ISBN, and why do I need one?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies your book. You need an ISBN if you want your book to be available for sale in bookstores or with an online retailer or wholesaler.
If you don’t plan to offer your book for sale, IngramSpark offers a free SKU. This provides an identification number for your book within our systems but isn’t for retailer use. If you change your mind and want to offer your book for sale later, you can always assign an ISBN to your title then.
How many ISBNs do I need?
Each format of a book needs its own ISBN. For example, if you have an ebook, paperback, and hardcover version of the same title, you will need 3 unique ISBNs.
Does IngramSpark offer free ISBNs?
Yes! IngramSpark recently began offering free ISBNs for U.S. self-publishers. You can access this in your IngramSpark account during the title setup process.
While free ISBNs are only available in the U.S. for now, we’re working around the clock to make free ISBNs available to our global community. For more information on purchasing an ISBN outside of the U.S., visit the International ISBN Agency's Website .
Why would I purchase an ISBN when I can get a free one?
An ISBN is an expense many self-published authors are confused about. If you use a free ISBN with IngramSpark, your publisher imprint will not be associated with your book—it will hold IngramSpark’s imprint, Indy Pub. It may also limit where you can print and distribute your own title.
At IngramSpark, we believe it's in your best interest to be recognized as the owner of your work and a publisher in your own right, which is why we encourage publishers to purchase their own ISBNs. As part of our catalog integrity initiative , we require that ISBNs are valid and properly acquired. Each country has a single approved and designated agency that issues ISBNs for publishers and self-publishers located in that country. Bowker is the official ISBN agency for the US; Nielsen is the official ISBN agency for the UK and Ireland; Thorpe-Bowker is the official ISBN agency for Australia. IngramSpark does business in many other countries, so we encourage each customer to ensure they are acquiring their ISBN from their country’s approved ISBN Agency. To find the approved ISBN agency for your country click here . To learn more click here .
You can read more about ISBNs and the benefits of purchasing your own here .
Can I use my free ISBN on other platforms (KDP, Blurb, Bookbaby, etc.)?
Your free ISBN from IngramSpark will only be able to be associated with your title on IngramSpark. Listing the same book with different ISBNs or EANs on multiple websites or with multiple distributors may confuse retailers and consumers wanting to purchase your book. This is also why you can’t use free ISBNs associated with your book from other platforms on IngramSpark.
What happens if I use a free ISBN now and later decide I want to own my own?
If you use a free ISBN and later decide you want to own the ISBN, you will have to set up the book as a new or revised title and purchase a different ISBN for the book.
*Please note that a free ISBN cannot be used with a free title setup promo code. Any title with a free ISBN must be placed in our wholesale distribution program. Pricing for at least one market is required and the book will be available for sale through each market pricing is provided for. ISBN cannot be transferred to another account in the future.
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The Library of Congress does not administer or distribute International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs). For ISBN assistance, please contact Bowker
Once you've paid, your ISBNs will be under your account. Simply go to My Account > My Identifiers and fill in the information for your book
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ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a 13-digit code used to uniquely identify your book amongst the millions out there. What Is an ISBN
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You can purchase your own ISBN from Bowker or through your local ISBN agency. If you are reprinting your book, the title, author name, and
ISBNs are issued to publishers, who then assign them to individual books. Because a self-published author is considered a publisher, you can purchase an ISBN
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It's a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies your book. You need an ISBN if you want your book to be