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