Sunday, January 16, 2011

Getting and Understanding an ISBN


When I first started writing, I had no idea there were ISBNs and LCCNs and all those other acronyms I've encountered. Feels a little like the military but here's the low down on ISBN.

First of all, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This unique number identifies the book's language or country, the publisher and the title. It comes in a ten-digit or thirteen digit format. The last number in the ISBN is called a Check Digit - they get this number by adding or subtracting or multipying all the other numbers to check for accuracy. If you want to go into all the fine little details, feel free to look it up. Wikipedia has a good explanation.

The book's ISBN is important because it allows libraries, booksellers, and universities the ablility to easily find a specific title. ISBNs are sold in bulks of 1, 100, or 1000. You can get one ISBN for about $150 or ten for $250. If you're publishing one book and you'll never write another book or have it made into a kindle or audio, then purchase one. However, I would advise you to buy ten. Simply because it's cheaper per ISBN if you buy in bulk.

Go through the Bowker site and set up an account. There are other sites who handle ISBNs but I feel safer going to them. They will assign you an account where you can register each ISBN.
The most frequently asked questions is - Do I need a seperate ISBN for audio, e-book, or other format? The answer is yes. When you assign an ISBN to your book and you decide to create an audio book or an e-book, you have to get another ISBN. It's fairly easy to assign the ISBN.

If you publish through CreateSpace, you have the option of getting your own ISBN or they can assign one to you. But if you decide to publish somewhere else then you can't take that ISBN with you. It's easier to get your own but if money is tight then use theirs.

Bowker will give you a barcode but CS will put one on the back of the book for you so will other self-publishing companies. There are also online sites that will create a barcode for you for free.

Be sure to list your ISBN on the copyright page in your book.

Be sure to come back next week when we discuss the LCCN and your copyright page. Also, check out the new author interview page.

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