It’s not uncommon to hear authors talk about ISBNs. Yet, even though the topic comes up often, it is not always the easiest to understand right off the bat.
That’s why many writers have questions about ISBNs. They ask what an ISBN is, how they can get one, and if they need one.
But, if you plan to self-publish your ebook or self-publish and print books, you should get an ISBN. So what is it, how to get an ISBN, and why do you need it? Read further below to find out more information.
What is an ISBN?
They first published the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in 1970. However, they initially generated the initial ISBN configuration in 1967 based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) created in 1966.
From 1971 to 1973, they published ISBNS in a printed format with two lines per page and 50 fields per page.
But in 1974, they published ISBNS as a 9-digit number with an EAN-13 barcode printed on the book’s back cover or bottom edge.
They created the ISBNs as a permanent number, unlike the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), a temporary identifier.
It is not a license, but a unique code that identifies books and book-like products published internationally.
It’s a particular identifier that publishers, distributors, and retailers use to identify books and ensure you get paid for your work. If you don’t have one, you won’t be able to sell your book through major retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
You’ll see these numbers on the back cover of almost every book you pick up in a bookstore or library.
It consists of 13 digits that identify the publisher, title, and format of a book or ebook. A group of numbers and letters looks like this: 978-0-89879-912-4.
The method of assigning an ISBN is nation-based and varies from country to country, often depending on how large the publishing industry is within a country.
You can see it on the back cover of a book, with the barcode underneath it. You can also find out if a book has an ISBN by checking its Amazon listing or on Google Books’ preview page (you can see the publisher’s name and other information there as well).
Who needs an ISBN?
If you’re an author, publisher, or bookseller, the answer to this question is “yes.”
If you’re self-publishing a book, you need an ISBN to sell it. However, if you’re publishing a book with a traditional publisher, they will usually assign you an ISBN when they publish your book.
You’ll also need an ISBN if you’re selling digital versions of your book through platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital.
It’s the only way that bookstores and libraries can process your book correctly.
If you have an ISBN, then Amazon will take care of all the details when someone orders it. Their sophisticated warehouse system will ship it directly to the customer and automatically keep track of everything for you.
You don’t even have to worry about shipping or tracking shipments yourself: Amazon automatically takes care of that for you with their system.
Benefits of ISBN for your publishing
If you plan to sell your book online or at a bookstore, you’ll need an ISBN to track sales. Many online retailers won’t even list your book without one.
If you plan to sell your book internationally, having an ISBN is essential because each country has its unique version (for example, the United States has its version of the ISBN).
This ensures that people in other countries can still find and purchase your book if they know what it is by name only (i.e., they don’t know how to order it from within their own country). If you want your book to appear on Google Books, you’ll need an ISBN.
Amazon has a program called Advantage, which allows publishers to register for free with the retailer and have their books available for sale on the site. Having an ISBN will help you get accepted into this program (as well as others).
The ISBN also makes sure that no one else uses your title. Each title has its unique number, so it’s easy to identify who wrote what book.
How to get an ISBN?
The first step in getting an ISBN is to fill out the application form. You can do this on the Bowker website or get it in hard copy if you go to your local bookstore and ask them for one.
Purchasing directly from Bowker is the easiest and most expensive method. However, it’s also the safest way to ensure that your ISBNs are legitimate and come from a trusted source.
There are two options for getting an ISBN through Bowker:
1) A Standard ISBN is free and can be used worldwide. The only requirement is that you have at least one physical book for sale.
2) A Premium International ISBN costs $125 per title and allows you to have a unique 10-digit identifier for your book in every country where Bowker has agreements with publishers.
Let’s look at the process step by step:
- Visit Bowker’s website and click the “Register Your Book” button. If you’re not already registered with Bowker, you’ll need to create an account first.
You can do this by entering your email address and other details (such as your name, address, etc.) in a form that appears on the screen after clicking on the above button.
Once you set up your account, you’ll be able to access your order histories, see when your next order will arrive, and so forth.
- Enter all relevant information about your book(s) into the form provided by Bowker (title, author name(s), year of publication, etc.).
You’ll also have to give a general description of your book (what it’s about) and its intended audience (e.g., young adults).
This information will appear on any sales receipts generated by retailers who sell your book; it also helps to ensure that retailers can accurately categorise your book.
- Once you’ve entered all of this information, click “Continue.” Enter more details about yourself on this next screen and click “Continue.”
- Finally, go through your email inbox and verify your email address by clicking on the link provided in Bowker’s message.
The second option is to buy them from a third-party provider. These sites charge less than Bowker does for its services, but there’s no way of knowing whether these companies will provide legitimate ISBNs or not — so proceed with caution.
Ultimately, the ISBN is a number that’s required to publish your book.
So if you’re an independent author (or artist or musician), you need an ISBN for your book.
That’s because some retailers use the ISBN to identify books and other publications.
So if you want to be sold in bookstores, on Amazon, and other online stores, you’ll need an ISBN.
However, there are plenty of other uses for it, including allowing libraries to catalogue your book on their systems.