ISBNs – One of the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing

nuts and bolts

If you’re an indie author and plan to self-publish your book, there are a lot of nuts and bolts details that goes along with that. One of the first details you will need to see to is getting an ISBN. An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. An ISBN’s purpose is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition.

Explanation from Bowker:

“The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributor.”

So clearly if you want your book to listed in library and distribution catalogs you will want and ISBN. You may opt to accept a free ISBN from Amazon for example, however, ISBNs are not transferrable and Amazon will be listed as your publisher if you accept their offer. Personally, I like to just ‘get my own’ if you know what I mean.

It wasn’t really a daunting process

I don’t know why but I was really nervous about buying the ISBNs – and sent queries to Bowker because I just couldn’t get my wits wrapped around. Although, the fact that I was about to drop $300 probably influenced my emotions somewhat. However, once I followed through I found the process to be really pretty easy and not stressful at all.

Steps to take in obtaining and registering and ISBN

To purchase your ISBN(s) go to: You can purchase one ISBN for $125 but you can get 10 for $299. If you are planning to write more than one book or have different editions such as eBook and Print you will need a different ISBN for each – so it makes more sense to buy the 10-pack in the long run.

The site accepts the usual credit cards but does not accept PayPal.

You will also have to set up a free account with my identifyers so that you can follow through on the assignment process of ISBNs to your book(s). The ISBNs are not just emailed to you in a zip file (yes, this is what I envisioned).

After you have purchased your ISBNs you will receive a confirmation email from Bowker, with live links back to the site to manage your ISBNs. Which though it may seem daunting is a very simple process:

1. Go to:
2. Log in to your account
3. Under the “My Account” tab, click on “Manage ISBNs”
4. There you will see a table with all your ISBNs listed.
5. In the left column click on “Assign Title”
6. You will be taken to a page with fields in it to fill in – in all there are four pages .(Title & Cover, Contributors, Format and Size, Sales and Pricing) and you simply fill in the information requested. Note: you are only required to fill in those fields that have a red asterisk.
7. Part of the process requires you upload a copy of your manuscript in PDF format. If you don’t own Adobe software, you can convert your document to PDF at: It’s free, very quick and simple.
8. You will also be asked to upload your cover image which should be a JPEG
9. Once you have completed all the pages and filled in the necessary fields, you hit the submit button and viola your book now has an ISBN – which can gleefully enter on the copyright page of your manuscript.

I realize this is not a sexy or scintillating topic but I hope it is helpful to anyone planning to self-publish.

How about you? Any good self-publishing tips you’d like to share? Were you as daunted and weirded out as me when you got your ISBNs or did you handle it like a pro? Feel free to share your wisdom in the comments.

Writer Chick

13 thoughts on “ISBNs – One of the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing

  1. Thank you for the easy guide, WC. Could you elaborate more on why you chose to have your own, rather than using a free Amazon one? What do you mean by non-transferrable? Also, who is listed on your book as a publisher, the author, or did you create a publishing company? Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ana,
      You’re welcome. 😀 As to why I would use my own, this post explains it perfectly: As to the ‘not transferable’ statement – if you go to Bowker’s site they state you can not use another’s ISBN and someone may not sell or give you one of theirs. If you use another entity’s ISBN you are essentially giving them publisher status of your book. I highly recommend you read the linked post – she does an excellent job of explaining.



      1. Thanks again, WC. Interesting that she herself does not have ISBNs for ebook titles, and that you can retrospectively assign them to already published books…I totally agree with taking a long view on your business.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t quite remember how I went about purchasing mine, but I seem to recall a phone call was necessary at some point. Maybe it’s different for non-US citizens? The topic might not be scintillating, but it is exceedingly useful. I’m bookmarking the page 🙂 The way you describe it sounds so painless! GREAT post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Ramona,

      Perhaps they have a different system in Europe? I did not notice there was a mention of how to go about getting ISBNs if you are not in the U.S. on the site but I didn’t pursue it to see what the process was. It was surprisingly easy – and after I got over my inexplicable nerves of doing it, everything went fine. And quite fast too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right. LOL. That’s why I decided I’d blog everything that I go through and try to help others navigate the process. I swear the whole ISBN thing had me a nervous wreck – but when I went to do it – turned out to be super easy. It’s that fear of the unknown and fear of making a mistake I think that hurts us the most. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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