I S B N-yone?

[ALERT : this blog post is really boring for anyone not interested in the brass tacks of self-publishing! Do not read while operating heavy machinery.]

Every published book MUST have an ISBN, but going POD (Print On Demand) means it is possible to avoid the cost of getting your own. So – why pay?

Part of the answer lies in which POD platform you decide to publish with. Many, such as createspace and Feedaread, offer a free ISBN number. And yet, I’ve decided to set up a publishing company and buy my own – so why pay? For me, the reasons are the following:

– IngramSpark is my platform of choice and they don’t provide a free ISBN. [There will be another blog about why I chose IngramSpark, as that’s a whole other thing.]

– Having your own ISBN gives flexibility. It means you can take your files and get a printer to do a short run of books. The cost is a little less than the per-book price via POD but really it’s about quality. Until I have a proof copy of the book produced by IngramSpark I want to leave the door open for the possibility of printing a bunch of books on different quality paper. Pernickety is my middle name … and I want that book smell!

– When you use a free ISBN whoever you are publishing through is identified as the publisher. Except they aren’t because in reality the publisher is the person fronting the costs! Now I could try and call it something else, but the reason this matters to me is probably just vanity.

– Using a free ISBN means your book is immediately and glaringly identifiable as being self-published. Vanity again?

– My platform choice was basically between createspace and IngramSpark. So I could have gone for createspace and nabbed myself the free ISBN. But some booksellers, particularly independents, are Amazon-adverse and this could negatively influence a decision to stock a book. It’s hard enough already without adding that one on!

– Arguably, there are upsides to setting up as a publisher. It provides a brand to work with. You have access to the Nielsen database, which means being able to get an education by checking other publishers’ book sales. It provides an identity separate from that of author, which could be useful when approaching other publishers – if ever that is needed.

So: how much? Each country has its own ISBN provider. In the UK it is Nielsen (http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk). You can only buy 10 ISBNs at a time. The first ten cost £132, which includes a new publisher registration fee. There is also the cost of setting up a company. I paid £10 – not much, but there is the worry that I may need to pay an accountant to file my taxes. So far I’ve always managed to do this myself but company taxes could be a bridge beyond my skills.

And that covers my experience of ISBNs!

Next blog will be about the book cover, which is still a work in progress but getting closer to being done.

Thanks for reading,



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