Why Purchase Your Own ISBN?

First of all, what is an ISBN and why do you need it?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. An ISBN is a 13 digit number that identifies your book and publisher. You have to have one in order to sell your book.

Now that we have that out of the way, why is it important to own your own ISBN?

For the first book I ever self-published, The Lilac Princess, I went through an agency. They provided the ISBN. This means their publishing company was identified with that title. For my second book, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, I used the free one on CreateSpace. This means CreateSpace is identified with that title. Then, for my third book, Little Birdie Grows Up, I purchased my own ISBN because the person doing the formatting for me used IngramSpark and IngramSpark requires you to have your own ISBN. This means I am identified with that title as the publishing company. At first, I was unhappy about having to purchase my own ISBN for IngramSpark because it costs $125 for one ISBN. But, then I did a little research and found out the importance of having my own ISBN. The good news is there are sales where you can buy 10 ISBN’s for $250 and sometimes even cheaper than that.

What I have come to realize is that in order for me to control the price of my first book, I had to take it back from the agency which fortunately was okay and in accordance with my contract. I used my own ISBN and I did change the cover and added some pictures to the inside but I didn’t have to. However, with my second book, I cannot take it back from CreateSpace. Well, not easily anyway, I would need to change the title, possibly cover, and then provide my own ISBN.

What’s interesting and also disconcerting is that when using CreateSpace and providing my own ISBN, my book isn’t available for wider distribution.

So, you have to think about what you want to do with your books. If you’d like to be able to take them somewhere else and have them printed through other printing companies say Smashwords, LuLu, etc. then you’ll need your own ISBN. If you want to be able to market to libraries and stores, then you’ll need to use IngramSpark who is fine with you using your own ISBN or if you use CreateSpace, you’ll need to use the free one they provide.

All in all, for maximum freedom, it’s best to have your own ISBN so you can take your book wherever you want to and also use IngramSpark so you can use your own ISBN and have wider distribution.

This is all a learning curve for those of us new to self-publishing. Hope this tidbit helps you a little. Please feel free to comment and share your experiences and expertise.



Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She has self-published 4 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, and Little Birdie Grows Up). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at www.wandaluthmanwordpress.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wluthman.

5 comments:

  1. ISBNs identify the publisher and to be truly self-published, you have to purchase them yourself. Bowker is the only place that sells them, but $290 for a block of ten isn't bad. (100 is less than $600, so even better.) Who that ISBN ties back to can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting pre-publication reviews or books into a bookstore, too.

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  2. This is great, Wanda. I learned that as well before publishing my latest book. It's worthwhile doing!

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  3. Great information, Wanda. I just bought a ten-pack of ISBNs from Bowker. I doesn't pay to just buy one because any significant changes to your book, including a new cover will require you use a unique ISBN.
    And, absolutely get your own because as Diane mentioned whoever supplies the ISBN for your book will be the publisher on record.
    I'm actually deciding what to name my imprint. I was going with Writers on the Move, but my newsletter is The Writing World. Any input, anyone?

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    1. One other thing. I'm using CreateSpace just for ease of formatting and uploading. You can use your own ISBN. They even have a place for you to put your publisher name.

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  4. For Far-Knowing, a novel of mine, I let Create Space assign the ISBN. I just changed the cover and they used the same ISBN. Maybe you have to change something bigger, like trim size or page count (mine was like 1 page different) or title?

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