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  • Grant Handgis

The ISBN number ~ And your Brand


One of the first decisions to be made in listing your book as a self-published author is acquiring an ISBN number. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. What it means to the author is a uniquely assigned number for each book in print. Without this number a book will not be listed in commercial outlets selling books. The simpler answer. With the assignment of an ISBN number is the bar-code which is placed on the back cover of each book. This bar-code has all the information of the book under that number, including title, author, size of book in print, category of book and other identifiable information for that book.

Prospective self-publishing authors who use POD publishing service providers for their publications will see that the available service providers offer a free ISBN number with their membership. This relationship is certainly workable, and affordable. However, it should be known to all those self-publishing that the "ownership" of the ISBN number can make a difference. When a publishing service provider assigns one of their ISBN numbers to your book, the "imprint of record." of that ISBN number will be that of the service provider, not the author, nor the author's listed publishing brand, which in my case is Brother Coyote Publications, that I use for my books. To have your publishing brand or your name as author on the ISBN number, you will have to purchase the ISBN number from a provider of said numbers, which can be easily found on a simple web-search for ISBN numbers. The most known provider is Bowker. The author buys one or more numbers, which includes the requisite bar code. Each number used to cost about $10, and several numbers can be purchased as a block buy, saving the author money if there will be more than one book to be published. From my recent foray to Bowker, that price has risen drastically.

For some publishing service providers, such as Create Space and others, the expanded distribution channel to Libraries & Museums can only be done if the author uses one of their assigned ISBN numbers. If this doesn't alter the author's needs for book placement then the relationship is workable. If the author wants their personal publishing brand or imprint on the ISBN number as the "imprint of record", then buying your own number & bar code would be the preferred avenue. Through Create Space the price for your own ISBN number is currently $10. For any serious author, this is a very reasonable price to pay for having your own brand name on the “imprint of record” which shows up on the book’s listings, instead of the Platform provider’s name.

I am including an excerpt from Carla King in her book "Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook"; "Do not allow an author services company to buy your ISBN number for you. A book is always associated with the owner of the ISBN. If you ever decide to print your book independently instead of using an author services company, customers will not be able to find it. They will see only that it is no longer available at the original source."

There is more to explore with this subject, and every author intending on self-publishing should look at this subject carefully before making their decision. Personally, I see a tradeoff in this, depending on the author's ultimate intentions and goal. The important thing to remember is that the ISBN number in your book, and the bar code that shows up on the back cover, identify your book in all its aspects. One aspect being who is listed on the "imprint of record". Hopefully, that will be the author's name or author’s brand.


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