Talking about ISBNs for self published authors.

I now have ISBNs. Loads of them. This is a big deal for me as it’s a step closer to producing a better book.

I haven’t bought any up to now for the following reasons:

  • I want my books professionally edited.
  • I want legit covers designed.
  • I need ISBNs for them.

Professional editing costs a boat load. 1500 per book (pick any currency you like, it’s still expensive). I have 5 books currently. You do the math.

Legit covers also cost a bunch. I wouldn’t expect to find a decent commercial designer for less than £300-500 per cover. I have 5 books currently. You do the math.

I have ISBNs because that’s the easy part and I had a good financial year. All I had to do was find the money and buy them. That box has been ticked. ISBNs were wanted because I want my stories to be available outside of Amazon

I have a fear that a professional editor is going to want to change my book. Or point out some glaringly obvious hole in the story which means I’ll have to rewrite it or pull the book offline. Ho-hum. Better that than have readers experience it, hey?

As for covers: once a book is released outside of Amazon, it’s permanent. Meaning, legally I have to send a copy to the British Library for public record. I could ignore that legal requirement. I don’t think any book police are going to come after me, but I WANT to send a book to the British Library. I just don’t want to do it with a crappy homemade cover.

What are ISBNs and why would an author want them or not want them? 

ISBNs are the long number found under book barcodes. It forms part of the international publishing record for that item’s format with the British Library. It means no matter where you are in the UK (and overseas) a retailer, publisher, library, or whatever can track the registered owner for that work, and most importantly, pay them any royalties owed.

An author doesn’t need one if they only publish ebooks on or off Amazon. Ebooks don’t require them. If you publish through Amazon, they give you an ISBN which means they are the books publisher of record. Sure you can state that you’re the publisher, but in the eyes of the law Amazon are. Amazon don’t have to comply with the rules and laws of Book publishing because they don’t have to publish their book stats to anyone for public record, unlike traditional publishers (Book charts count the sales of ISBNs, whilst Amazon won’t release them at all so your book never stands a chance of entering the charts unless you’re selected for one of Amazon’s Publishing imprints). The British Library can’t insist that Amazon send them copies of every book published. Because of this you can’t take that ISBN and use it elsewhere (Ingram Spark, Blurb, or your local printer for example).

Therefore, an author needs an ISBN on each format of their book (omnibus, large print, paperback, hardback, audio book, eBook). AND a new ISBN is required for each issue. Minor changes are fine, but major changes require a new ISBN per format. Eg, if you have a 3 book series in paperback print and ebook, you’ll need 6 ISBNs. If you bundle the 3 books into an omnibus edition (print and ebook) you’ll need another 2 ISBNs = a total of 8. If you do updated version of the books because you changed a characters name, you’ll need another 8 ISBNs for all versions. Sheesh. You can see how easy it is to burn through a block of 10 ISBNs!  The good news is that with your own ISBNs your books will be available everywhere globally. Not just on Amazon, that opens you up to billions of book buying customers.

Ergh. My head is tired of thinking about ISBNs. If you have questions, ask me something.

I think the point of this post is I’m a step closer to being in control of my own Intellectual Property. I’ve just got to sort some stuff out first.



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