Throughout the process of writing a book, it’s likely you’ll come across the term ISBN when starting to think about publishing. Although it’s only a small part of your writing journey, there are multiple options for ISBNs, and it can seem confusing for first-time authors to navigate. Luckily, our team have answered some of the most frequently asked questions to help you learn about what an ISBN is, how to use it and whether or not you’ll need one for your book.
What is an ISBN?
An ISBN, short for International Standard Book Number, is a thirteen-digit unique identification number which will help your book and its information to be recognised worldwide. Found in the barcode, it helps to differentiate your book from any other, and most books will have one on the cover.
What information does it include?
An ISBN can include a variety of information about a book, including:
Do I need to have one?
If you’re planning to sell your book through traditional hardback or paperback formats, you’ll need an ISBN number so that retailers, libraries and distributors can identify your book amongst others. However, if you’re planning to sell your book in an eBook format, this will not require an ISBN number for publication. In fact, around 43% of eBooks published through Amazon KDP do not have an ISBN number.
Will I need multiple ISBNs?
To avoid copyright violations, ISBNs cannot be reused on more than one form of a book. Therefore, if you plan to release your book in more than one format (hardback, eBook, paperback) each will need a different ISBN.
Can I get one for free?
It is possible to get an ISBN for free from various online distributors, including IngramSpark and Amazon KDP. However, if you use a free ISBN the imprint associated with it will be that of the service provider, not your own. Only an ISBN you purchase outright will contain your publisher imprint, so bear this in mind if you’re considering getting one for free.
Alternatively, if you are considering publishing options, we offer ISBN Assignment as part of our eBook and Paperback Publishing Package. As part of this service, we will provide your book with its own unique ISBN as part of the publication process. The ISBN is the legal labelling of a book and is the way of identifying each individual book from all other books by libraries, bookshops, etc.
Where can I purchase one?
If you opt to purchase an ISBN outright, you would do so from the official ISBN agency in your area--in the UK, this is the Nielsen Book ISBN Agency.
When will I need to get one?
Your ISBN number must be ready to use before you design your book cover so that the placement of the barcode can be decided, so make sure that you’ve secured one before this point. If you’d like some help with book cover design, why not try our own services?
My book has already been published. Will I ever need a new ISBN?
If there are any significant changes to features such as content, size or language in the book, you will need a new ISBN. However, one is not required for minor corrections, such as a new cover or price.
Hopefully our FAQs will have provided you with a bit more clarity about ISBNs, meaning that using them for your own books should be much easier! New to publishing? Feel free to check out our other top tips for new authors here.