Writers: Own Your ISBN!

This applies to writers who will be publishing direct, not ones going through the traditional method of licensing their work under contract to a publisher. In the latter case, the publisher handles the ISBN.

Laura J. Dawson, who is the expert on book identification matters — which includes the ISBN — holds a one-hour chat on Twitter just about every Friday at noon Eastern Time. Pop the search term hashtag #ISBNHour into a search engine or Twitter search to see previous discussions.

Today I asked her why a writer should pay for their own ISBN (which is what is required, for example, to use BiblioCore as a distributor to the iBookstore). She replied:

And then someone else chimed in with an angle I hadn’t figured:

And she agreed:

Then I asked if an eBookstore couldn’t put their own ISBN over someone’s book. She replied:

But I was being a PITA with another side-agenda there and asked her again why one eBook wound up with two different ISBNs. She replied:

And there was this fitting end:


Let me also explain that originally I did not see any need for a writer to have an ISBN if he was selling his own work. Laura J. Dawson was the one to show me otherwise. So, this really matters to every direct-publishing writer.

Update: DOH! It’s Laura, not Linda. I’ve fixed all that. And now I give up. From now on, I’ll just think of her as “LJ.” She’ll really hate me now.

5 responses to “Writers: Own Your ISBN!

  1. Hey, you’re fast! [bows…] Thanks for all this. I’m eatin’ it up.

  2. ISBN numbers are free in Canada according to: http://andrewkooman.com/archives/3517

  3. Yes, but in America — where Dollar Uber Alles still rules — we must pay for them. Sometimes too damned much.

  4. Technically ISBNs are free in the US also. But since the agency’s budget is about nil, they outsourced the license function to a thieving bunch of crooks, Bowker. Oops, did I say that aloud?

    Nevertheless it is the cost of doing business. And if an author doesn’t consider her work to be a business, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t complain when their outsourced function of managing the ownership of their book [e.g., metadata] fucks with them. Or real thieves, like affiliate marketers.

    I respect the off-the-gridders, but I want to be above board. Being a revolutionary is one thing, but doing it to spite your own work seeing the light of day is quite another.

    Thanks for a salient post, and to Laura as well!

    ~jenn
    @revolucion0

  5. Pingback: Self-Publishing Review | Blog | Get it Together, Lulu