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Indie Pub: The ISBN Question - Corinne O'Flynn

One thing that’s had me puzzled as I move through the indie pub maze is whether or not an indie title needs an ISBN number from my own Bowkers account or if there is any potential harm to be incurred by using the $10 ISBN number you can get from Createspace. One thing I have realized: there is a TON of misinformation out there.

Buying your own ISBN from Bowkers, which costs $125 for one, or $295 for 10 (temp price $275), and using for your book at Createspace, gives you the option of having your book listed for sale as published by your own imprint. But what does that really mean in terms of discoverability? Do readers notice or even look for this? I don’t think so. I was a reader long before I became a writer, and I’ve never once looked for a book based on the ISBN or imprint, or even noticed the imprint (unless it had a neat logo!).

Since becoming a writer with a growing awareness of the publishing industry, I do scroll down to the “Product Details” section and look at that publishing information. Still, it doesn’t drive a purchasing decision—I do it out of plain old curiosity.

I was under the impression that I simply must use my own ISBN number in order to get my books into libraries and other mysterious avenues of distribution that become closed to me without it. But the truth is actually opposite. Using your own ISBN number when you publish through Amazon’s Createspace actually closes off distribution channels to you. You’re better off using the $10 ISBN option and have a number assigned to you from Createspace, in order to get that wider distribution.

I just loaded my print book files into Createspace and have ordered my proofs in the mail. Can’t wait to see them!! It was during this process that this question came up and prompted me to stop and do a little research. I think that if I were to get hardcovers printed through Ingram, an ISBN would be needed, but not sure if that’s something you can purchase through them as well.  There is so much to learn, but for now I remain super stoked that even now, there are no barriers to getting my book out to readers.

I’m in NY this week, enjoying the humidity and the sights. Living in Colorado, my memory of the weather back here had lapsed.

Big hair in the city.


About the Author Corinne

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  1. I love posts like this that prove that to be professional you don’t have to follow the experts’ advice all the time. Typical advice is that you have to have your own ISBN, but I agree with you.

  2. Thanks Mark. It’s interesting how the “rules” don’t really stand up as things change the way they have in publishing. I was reading a blog from Hugh Howey where he said (last summer) that he hasn’t ever purchased his own ISBNs and instead uses the ones from the vendors. I think the best course of action is to find out as much as possible and consider the source whenever you are about to take advice, especially when that advice requires that you spend money.

  3. I remember when I did my first book and I forgot to add page numbers. I thought I needed to get another ISBN in order to upload the fixed version. My book went a while w/o page numbers before I discovered that I could use the ISBN I had (which was from Createspace.) I’ll have to share this post since you found some good info that others might now know. Thanks.

  4. OMG Patricia – that’s crazy! I am going to do a follow up to this post on ISBNs because I learned something more in the interim: you can opt in at Smashwords for most of the same “extended distribution” that you’d miss at Amazon. So, if you wanted your own ISBN or preferred to have your book listed under your imprint name, you could still do this and opt out of the extended distro at amazon, and get in all that and more via Smashwords.

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