Knowing how to get an ISBN as a self-publishing author is crucial. Find out all you need to know about ISBNs in this article.
What is an ISBN number? An ISBN number (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13-digit number (formerly 10 digits) used to identify your book. It allows publishers and booksellers to track and recognize books like a fingerprint for your book.
It helps people identify your book and eliminates confusion between similar works. An ISBN could be critical if someone decided to publish a book with the same title as yours, for example.
Which Books Need An ISBN?
An ISBN can be necessary for your book for many different reasons. Some of the most common reasons for getting an ISBN can include:
- Publishing books in print rather than just online
- Each format of a book needs its own unique ISBN, meaning if you have an ebook version and a paperback version of the same title, each will need its own unique ISBN.
- If you are making substantial textual changes that would qualify as a new edition.
- If you are changing your publisher.
- If you are changing your book title.
- If the book is translated into a different language.
Some ebook distributors require you to have an ISBN, though most major ebook retailers won’t need one. Check with the service you’re using to distribute your ebook to online retailers to determine if you’ll need an ISBN.
An ISBN cannot be re-used, even if the book in question goes out of print.
How to get ISBNs
Publishing your children’s book through Amazon’s KDP will provide you with a free ISBN, this ISBN only available to use on the Amazon platform and won’t allow you to use it on any other platform. Using these methods will keep your name or the name of your company as the publisher of the book and listed as an independent publisher.
Ingram Spark also offer free ISBN for every children’s book that’s being published through them. But they also restrict using their ISBN outside Ingram Spark.
This means when you’re self-publishing your children’s book outside of these two platforms, you first need to purchase your own ISBN.
Each country or territory has its own regional provider of ISBNs. ISBNs are assigned by the ISBN agency in your country. Some countries provide them for free and others require a fee.
Perhaps the best-known ISBN provider is Bowker, the official administrator for the United States. In the United Kingdom, self-publishing authors can buy a number through Nielsen. In Australia, you can purchase ISBNs through Thorpe-Bowker is located in Victoria State. Also, through Thorpe-Bowker, you can purchase ISBN in a single unit, 10, 100, or 1,000. For a single ISBN costs $44 or $88 for 10 ISBNs, which only cost you $8.80/ISBN.
To find out whether ISBNs are free in your country (and for instructions on requesting a number), you can look up your local agency here.
How long does it take to get an ISBN?
It varies by ISBN agency, but you can usually get the number itself almost instantaneously. However, it can take the agency several days to process the information you submit (book title, author, etc.).
For a self-publishing author, buying a block of 10 makes more economic sense than buying just one or two for, say, the paperback and hardcover versions. If you ever want to revise or release your book in a new edition, you’ll need a new ISBN. You’ll also need another ISBN for future editions or a translated version. If you make all those single purchases via Bowker, you’re looking at $500 for 4 ISBNs, while a bulk purchase of 10 ISBNs will only set you back $295. Even if you’re only working on one book at the moment, 10 ISBNs are a sensible investment when you’re starting out.
Do I need a barcode if I have an ISBN? How can I get a barcode?
While the ISBN serves as a unique book identifier, sellers of physical books use barcodes to manage their inventory by reading the barcode at the time of purchase and sale. If you haven’t purchased a barcode with your ISBN, don’t worry. We will convert your ISBN into a bar code absolutely for free.
Do ISBNs expire?
No, ISBNs don’t expire. Make sure to keep any login information for your ISBN agency in a safe place so that you don’t lose access to any unused ISBNs you’ve purchased.
We hope this article was helpful. Have questions? Please feel free to get in touch!