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10 ISBN FAQ For Every Self-Publisher – Part 1

Are you about to self-publish your own eBook? Are you confused about ISBN? Then you’ve come to the right place. The top 10 questions asked about ISBNs are answered in this 2-part series.

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a numeric code, 13-digits long, that acts as a unique identifier for every book. In the ISBN code is information about the publisher, the book title, the language, what edition it is, version and so on. Only books get an ISBN; periodicals like magazines and academic journals are given an ISSN - International Standard Serial Number – which is 8 digits long.

Is An ISBN Necessary?

The ISBN number is how a customer identifies your book, ensuring that they order the right one. Every library, online retailer, bookstore, wholesaler and distributor requires this number to track their purchases and sales and, if you intend to sell your book to any one of these, you will need an ISBN. However, if you are selling an eBook, an ISBN isn’t always necessary. For example, Apple, Kobo, Amazon and Barnes & Noble do not require one for an eBook so if your market is the eBook market you may not need one.

Does One Title Retain a Constant ISBN?

No. Every version of your book, be it hardcover, eBook, paperback or audiobook, will need a separate number. There are also other situations where a new number may be required:

If there are significant text changes to your book, making it effectively a new edition

If you are moving to a different publisher

If your book title is being changed

If you have your book translated to another language

Can An ISBN Be Used Again?

No, not even if the relevant book has gone out of print. The number will die with the book.

Whose Name is An ISBN Issued In?

An ISBN number is always issued to a publisher. If you want to self-publish, you will need to apply for the ISBN yourself.

Should I Get One?

If you opt for traditional publishing, your publisher will sort out the ISBN; if you opt for self-publishing, you can get your own or use the ISBN your self-publishing service assigns you. However, the ISBN will still be registered to the publisher.

Where Do I Get An ISBN From?

Every country has their own specific agency for the issue of ISBNs. For example, in the US the agency is called Bowker whereas, in the UK, you would approach a company called Nielsen. The cost differs depending on how many you purchase; if you purchase 1000 in a block, they are cheaper per ISBN than buying 10 or even one ISBN. If you are self-publishing, it makes sense to purchase in blocks of 10 rather than just one or two because it works out far more economical. Some countries, such as India and Canada, issue ISBNs completely free. So be sure to check the rules in your country first.

Stay put because part 2 will be coming up.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds