Self-Publishing Tips – Getting An ISBN

Once you have made the decision to self-publish your book, you need to start thinking about some of the details that go into self-publishing and marketing it. If you plan to sell your book in a retail store, one of the most important things you can do is to get an ISBN. The International Standard Book Number or ISBN is the 10-13 digit number that tells the world that this is your book and no one else’s. It makes your book unique and makes you a publisher in the book industry. You’ve seen it thousands of times before in barcode form, on the copyright page in the front section of a paperback book or on the back of the dust cover on a hard-bound book.

You have to have one if you want to sell your book through a retail outlet. The IBSN works on the same principle as the barcode you see on a package of potato chips at the grocery store and it allows a book retailer to scan your book at checkout just like a grocery UPC barcode does for those potato chips. Getting an ISBN isn’t too difficult to do: you need to visit R.R. Bowker, the exclusive U.S. ISBN Agency that is responsible for the assignment of the ISBN Publisher Prefix. They assign ISBNs to those publishers with a residence or office in the U.S. who are publishing their titles within the U.S. The ISBN breaks down into four parts: the group or country identifier, the publisher identifier (you!), the title identifier (the title of your book), and the check digit at the end which validates the ISBN, similar to the way that credit cards now come with a three digit identifying number on the back of the credit card.

When getting an ISBN, you’ll need to fill out an application:

  • You’ll need to have your contact information, publishing company name, and the name of your book to complete the application.
  • You can fill the application out online or print out the application and send it in via regular mail.
  • If you apply online, you’ll need to pay by credit card.
  • Allow 15 business days for processing your ISBN application after you submit it.

Once you get your ISBN, you’ll need to register it with Bowker’s Books-In-Print by signing up for BowkerLink. This is a free online tool that is used for uploading book information, such as title, price, or status of the book. You will want to be sure to sign up for Books-In-Print because it is the leading provider of bibliographic data. Your book will be exposed to many facets of the book industry just through this single web application. Last, but not least, register your book’s copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

For more information about getting an ISBN number, contact the book printing experts at, call them at 1-800-698-2071, or email them today.


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