Friday, July 24, 2009

Self-Publishing for Beginners - Part IV

ISBN Number

If you want your book to be accepted and sold by an online retailer, your book must first be assigned an ISBN - International Standard Book Number. If you self-publish, consider obtaining an ISBN for your book and do a small print run so you have some inventory. A third option, which falls between self-publishing and selling your manuscript to a traditional publisher, is to publish with a "transitional publisher,"


Owning an ISBN book number is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of self-publishing your own book. Every book that is going to be sold commercially must have an ISBN book number, period.

What is an ISBN and Should a Self-Publisher Get One?

Many self-publishing companies include providing an ISBN in their self-publishing services or allow the self-publisher the option of providing the ISBN.

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a number that uniquely identifies each book. It’s been called the “social-security number for books.” The owner of the ISBN is the official publisher of the book. As the official publisher, the owner of the ISBN is the only company who can:
  • submit the book for reviews and awards
  • update publisher information on or
  • get a book carried by a distributor or wholesaler
Self-publishing service companies suggest they can save you the time and expense of requesting ISBN numbers from RR Bowker. But to have another company own your book’s ISBN number is to relinquish control over too many important aspects of your book’s future. So, ask or research to find out if the ISBN is theirs or if they are getting you your own ISBN. For more information on ISBN numbers visit

RR Bowker is the U.S. ISBN Agency in the United States, responsible for assigning ISBNs as well as providing information and advice on the uses of the ISBN system to publishers and the publishing industry in general.

NOBODY can assign, give, lend or sell you an ISBN except for the US agency, RR Bowker. So, when self publishing books, just visit to find out all the information you need to obtain an ISBN.

*While self-published books are not required to obtain ISBN's, distributors and most book stores will not accept a book without one.

Was this post helpful? Do you have any ISBN stories or information to share? We would love to hear them.

© 2009 by Leona G. Shankle


  1. my book doesn't have an isbn but I don't plan to sell it at bookstores but only on my own. next time I'll probably get one but it does cost money.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Lin. When I checked into the price I found out that they do indeed cost a bit.

  3. Yes, this post was helpful as usual. I do have an ISBN number.

  4. i didn't even think of that, thanks for the tip

  5. This was all very interesting and informative, Leona. Thank you for sharing it with everybody.


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