If you are looking into self-publishing your book and this is your first time, you may not know about ISBN’s. If you do, you may be unsure as to why you need one. We’re here to help take you through what they are for, and how to get one.

What is an ISBN Number?

It is an abbreviation of International Standard Book Number which is a numeric commercial book identifier, intended to be unique.

It’ll appear on book covers (generally on the back) in the form of a bar code.

Why do I need an ISBN Number for my book?

ISBNs are great because it helps determine specific information about the book. Firstly, the book title, which edition it is. It also identifies where (who the publisher is) and what language it was published, and in what format (ebook, audiobook, hardback, softback, etc.).

Having an ISBN isn’t essential for a self-publisher. Of course, you could print and sell anything. However, if you’re looking to sell it through a third party (such as a brick-and-mortar store or alternatively online as a physical book, eBook or Audiobook), they will often ask that you supply an ISBN.

**Some online retailers such as Amazon, will have their own eBook numbers. This option is ideal if you feel an ISBN isn’t cost-efficient for you at this stage, as they can be fairly pricey.

How do I get an ISBN?

You will have to consider first if it is just one ISBN you need. Check the previous point above to see if you’ll be publishing different versions, perhaps languages or formats. Once you know how many you need, head over to the correct website to register one.

Once you have ordered and received your ISBN, we highly recommend adding it to the Bowker database. This way, your book will be discoverable alongside approximately 20 million other registered titles. That’s a big old library! It also makes your published title more recognised and easier to find.

It is also advisable to register your copyright. Having an ISBN number doesn’t automatically give you copyright, on the contrary to popular belief. So make sure that you have covered yourself in this area too.

How should I display my ISBN?

You must incorporate your ISBN onto your book cover so that it is easy to access with a scanner. With that in mind, it is critical that the bar code is printed at large enough size, and a high resolution. If it isn’t, then it won’t scan and is pretty much useless. For design services and advice, please speak to our specialised creative studio, Fifteen Ninety. For anything else, feel free to contact us directly.