Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
The things you learn when you’re fixin’ to self-publish…
I always knew that the ISBN — that long number that identifies a book as an individual thing in the universe of publishing — was important. I was secretly tickled when my first novel came out and had its own ISBN. It was something of a status symbol, as if the book itself wasn’t enough of an accomplishment.
So I was determined to nab an ISBN for my forthcoming novel, Yesterday Road, because, you know, nobody was going to take it seriously if it didn’t have one. That’s the conventional wisdom anyway. If you want to compete with traditional publishers, you need all the trappings of a traditionally published book, from a professional cover to top-notch editing to — better believe it — an ISBN. And the only way to obtain an ISBN for a book published via Amazon.com (Smashwords will provide one for free for its distribution network) is to buy one from Bowker. You have the option to fork over $125 for one or $250 for 10, a pricing formula that makes me want to whip out my old slide rule.
And I was just about ready to pull the trigger on a 10-pack when I stumbled upon this article by Will Entrekin: “Why You Don’t Need An ISBN (And What You Should Invest In Instead”).
Entrekin is the founder and creative director of Exciting Press, an independent digital publisher, and in his article he describes the real utility of an ISBN, which is to facilitate the distribution of physical books to retailers and libraries and to track the sales of printed books. An independent author wishing to publish only digital editions does not need an ISBN in order to upload a book to any of the big five ebook outlets: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony. Moreover, Entrekin makes clear that Bowker is not particularly effective in tracking and reporting electronic sales. Why? Because that market encompasses thousands of indies who didn’t purchase ISBNs.
He does recommend that you take the money you’d have spent on ISBNs and invest in establishing an LLC for your publishing endeavors (primarily to protect your own assets in the event that you’re sued). I’m not so sure about that, at least not at this point.
But I do believe he’s sold me on the ISBN thing. For my needs right now, and mainly because I’m not planning a printed book, I’ll pass on the status symbol this time around.
Any independents out there with a different take?