In my previous articles I explained how to write a novel, and the publishing options. So, you have now written your masterpiece, are thinking of self-publishing it and even got a perfect cover, but you ask yourself what the small 13-digit barcode is you see on the back of books. How important is it?
The International Standard Book Number may not look significant, but it is as important to a book as a passport number is to a person. Without it, your book will not reach a worldwide audience, as the ISBN helps with distribution and marketing of the book. Distributors, retailers and most bookshops will not sell or market a book with no ISBN.
How to get an ISBN
ISBNs can be applied for by the country you live, as each country is responsible for issuing them. Nowadays they are applied for online and cost around £89. However, self-publishing companies, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble supply their own. But beware if you are going to give your self-published book to bookshops, only the self-publishing companies can sell books with their own ISBNs. Therefore, you will need to purchase your own.
For example, in the UK the official agency supplying an ISBN is: http://nielsenbook.co.uk/isbn-agency/.
What’s the point of an ISBN?
It identifies specific editions, titles and formats of that particular book. It also identifies the publisher. For example, the paperback, hardcover and the eBook will all have different ISBNs. A specific publisher can also be identified.
Are barcodes included with your purchase?
A barcode will also be included with your order. There are two ways to have it applied to the back of your book. Either, by your printers, or KDP and Barnes & Noble give an option to place it automatically. However, they will always place it at the bottom right (which is the standard). If you wish for the barcode to be at the bottom centre, then your printers will need to place it manually.
What do the numbers on an ISBN stand for?
The first three numbers are always the same— 978 or 979. Then there is the registration group (country), next the registration element (publisher), then after that the publication element (title and format) and lastly the check digit.
The history behind ISBN numbers
In 1965, WHSmith, the largest book retailer in the UK, created Standard Book Numbering (SBN), as a way to organise books in its new computerised database. By 1968 the ISBN was used in the US and became widespread around the world.
January 1st 2007, ISBNs contained thirteen digits— compatible with Bookland/ European Article Numbers, which have thirteen digits.