Take a Number

You’ve written your book, made sure you haven’t stepped on any trademarked toes, and have decided to copyright your masterpiece. Now, there’s just one more piece of the publishing puzzle to consider: Should you get an ISBN?

What is an ISBN anyway?

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely indentifies your book or eBook. Similar to how a barcode works in a retail store. This allows for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors.

Deciding whether or not to get an ISBN is just like deciding to register a copyright — it depends on what you plan on doing with your work. For example, if you are just going to distribute your eBook on your website (as an instant download), clickbank.net, or on eBay, then you don’t really need an ISBN. However, if you have plans to distribute your book on sites such as Amazon.comLulu.com, or try to get your book in retail stores, then it is a good idea to get an ISBN number.

Applying for an ISBN is pretty easy. Start by going to the Bowker® ISBN website to fill out the application online or download the form. Bowker is the official U.S. ISBN Agency and is exclusively responsible for the assignment of the ISBN prefix. They also provide information and advice on the uses of the ISBN system to publishers, self-publishers, and authors. The cost ranges from $80 – $200 depending on how many ISBN’s you get and other factors*. Plus, there is a service fee to process all ISBN applications, which is non-refundable.

An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, eBook format, etc). Even a revised edition is required to have a new ISBN, because once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. The ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

Once ISBNs have been assigned to your titles, you must submit your title information to the BowkerLINK™ Publisher Access System, which serves as the database of record for the ISBN Agency. Receiving just your ISBNs does NOT guarantee title listings. To ensure your titles get in the Books in Print database they need to be registered with BowkerLINK.

Remember, it’s your story, so take the necessary steps to protect it!

* Allow 15 business days for non-priority processing from the time an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date sent by the publisher). Priority processing is two business days from the time an application is received, and express processing is 24 business hours.

Sarah Hovis
saliho creative
web: www.salihocreative.com

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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