How to Get an ISBN for Your Book

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Have you ever noticed the 13 digits on the barcode of a book? That unique string of numbers and letters is an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. An ISBN is a code that individually identifies a book and logs all of its information into many different databases, so that people can easily find and see it.

All professionally-published books have an ISBN and no bookstore will carry anything without one. Without an ISBN, your book will be assigned an in-house code by your distribution service, and that’s one of the biggest “tells” of a self-published or otherwise amateurly written work. If you want to increase the legitimacy and overall visibility of your book, then you absolutely need to get an ISBN.

Luckily, anybody can do this. Here’s how to get an ISBN.

  1. Create an account on www.myidentifiers.com. This is the website for Bowker Identifier Services, which is the easiest service through which to get your ISBN.
  2. Register either as an individual, an organization, or an LLC and enter your necessary information.
  3. Buy ISBNs. If you’re only publishing just one book, then you can buy just one ISBN. However, if you have or are looking to have multiple books to publish, then you may want to consider buying a “batch” of ISBNs at a discount. You will also need to register a new ISBN for each format of your book (paperback, hardback, eBook, and audiobook), so the bulk purchase is almost always the better deal.
  4. Go to “My Identifiers”, then to “Assign Title”, and then fill out the book’s information as prompted. Be very careful of spelling, price, and that you choose the correct format option, as you may not be able to change it later.
  5. To generate a barcode for the back of your book, go to “Barcode” and click “Manage”. Under “Barcode Downloads”, you can choose between an EPS or PDF file.

If you are looking to create a book that looks as professional as possible, then an ISBN is not optional. Getting an ISBN assigned is pretty easy, but it can be expensive. Even at a bulk rate, they can be about $30 each. If you have a production budget for getting your book produced and published, then always make sure to factor in this cost. While an ISBN is a small detail, it can take your independent book to that next level of professionalism, and that is well worth the cost.