More Fun With the ISBN Number

by | Oct 29, 2018 | Articles | 0 comments

I’ve grown so accustomed to cranking out my blog posts on Monday afternoons, I almost forgot to schedule one for today. Thanks to the magic of WordPress, I can write this in the morning and schedule it for the afternoon. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be out on the road, unavailable for writing or even posting!

I recently had an online conversation with a graphic designer with many years of experience. He’s one of the people I’m considering for my next novel design, and we emailed back and forth after connecting on Twitter. After reading my message, he checked out my latest video on book-building, where I discuss ISBNs, LCCNs, and Cataloging-In-Publication data. He then asked if I’d done a video or blog piece just about ISBN.

I haven’t, and I thought, That’s a great idea. So I’m going to roll out a three-part series drilling down into each of the topics I covered only a little on my last post and video. This week will be on the ISBN.

You probably already know you can get your own ISBNs from Bowker, but did you also know that many indie authors only get the “free” ISBN from CreateSpace? As my new designer friend mentioned to me, “CreateSpace is fine for printing, but using an ISBN they provide usually makes them the publisher, as they purchased and own the ISBN.” 

Amazon Author?

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What does that mean, makes them the publisher?” And that is a very good question indeed. The way I think of it is this: if you are okay with being an “Amazon-only author,” and don’t care about having your books available elsewhere, then that route may be the way to go. It wasn’t for me.

So when I created my publishing company, I bought a block of ISBNs from Bowker. Those ISBN numbers now belong to me, so I can use them for my own books or for any books published under my own imprint. Because I did not go with the Amazon/KDP/CreateSpace model, I am not under Amazon’s control.

In order to do this right, I made a decision to assign a full three ISBNs to each of my titles. One ISBN is for the print version, which is available via Print-On-Demand from IngramSpark; one is for the e-book version distributed via Amazon; and the third is for the e-book distributed via all other channels. That last category makes the e-book version available via Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo…you name it.

The rules of the road regarding ISBN numbers have changed over the years, and I might not replicate this exact process for future publications. For now, however, it works: you can get my books in print or e-book formats from your favorite online distribution channels – they even show up on Wal-Mart’s website now – or you can buy the paperbacks direct from me.

That’s my little overview on ISBNs. You can customize somewhat, based on your own needs and goals. But above all, you have to decide how much control you want Amazon to have over your titles. For me, as an independent, my current model was the way to go.

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