Blog 4 – Buying your own ISBN


ISBN choice


So you have finally finished your book, eradicated all the spelling and grammatical errors, designed the cover and the blurb for the back page. Your baby is ready to go out into the world!

If, like me, you love the idea of having a traditional publishing deal and want more than anything to see it in print, then go ahead, contact all the agents you can find

… and I’ll deal with that subject another time.

It is a very time consuming process though, as every submission has to be tailor made to the agent you are submitting too. So what do you do whilst waiting for replies etc? I got frustrated, and started publishing in digital form via Smashwords, which is a great platform, but they do not make paperbacks. So I eventually drew up the courage to publish on Amazon, via their service, Createspace.

As part of the sign up process to Smashwords, and Createspace, you have a choice to either use their free ISBN or your own. An ISBN is not copyright, it is purely the right to say who it is published by.

Applying for an ISBN looks daunting with its paperwork and, most importantly, costs £99.99 for just one, or £149.99 for 10… but who wants ten? I’ve only got one book, and blimey, a hundred pounds just to put a bar code on the back! So the free one seems like a no brainer. It is sooooooooo easy, just click the right option boxes and it is yours, for nothing, zilch, nada!

And, if that was not enough, Createspace now seem to have an option of ISBNs to suit different purposes. For just £10, they will even let you put your name down as the publisher. My publishing name is Savant Press, as you can see from this web site.

I have this publishing name because I finally went down the ‘owning my own ISBN’ route. Yes, I wanted the freebie, and to be honest, it served me very well. I was able to publish my book and have it sold all over the world by Amazon and I felt like Stephen King. Wow, I can Google Amazon almost anywhere in the world, and there is my book selling with a whole load of the local lingo wrapped around it. In Japan, Australia, USA, UK, Europe etc, etc.

         And to be honest, if I wasn’t worried about sales or just trying to get my book the best exposure possible and respect that I think it so truly deserves (honestly, it is a fantastic book, but don’t just take my word for it, look at the reviews… I am biased though) then I could just leave it on Amazon to wallow, and tell my friends, family and anyone within earshot that I am a published, international author! It really is as simple as that. But it doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t get it read. So what is the next step? Getting it into bookshops of course.

So I’m standing outside on the street, the book is looking amazing with its new cover, and again I pluck up the courage for my new venture. With my pulse racing and my shoes wanting to walk in the opposite direction, I went inside Foyles flagship bookstore in London and asked to see the buyer. Ben is his name, and after graciously listening to my pitch, he accepted my book to read and decide.

I waited a month before my impatience got the better of me, as I had not heard from him to get any orders. Did he not like my book? Does he hate it?

No, thank goodness. In fact, he quite likes it.

When I went to see him again, he said he had already ordered it. He had tried Createspace, but it was not possible, so he ordered through one of their distributors, Ingram.

Ingram is one of the country’s largest distributors, and used by bookshops everywhere.

But maybe not by Waterstones for some reason (I’m still looking into that) so they use Gardner.

But Ingram then order it through Createspace (Amazon) and they don’t really like each other very much, so they do everything really slowly. Which also means that instead of printing the book in England, which they do if you order on, they print it in South Carolina in the USA… which is madness! All in all, it took about 6 weeks for Foyles to get my book, and they had very few details about it on their system.

Oh Jeez, this is becoming quite a long description… if only writing my new book was this easy.

So I decided that I would publish via Ingram Sparks. the Indie author route to their service, but you have to own your own ISBN. MotherFU$%R! It is not simple. But I did it anyway.

I registered and bought 10 ISBNs

Why 10?

Because every time you make a change to the cover, or even the paper type or whatever strange rule they have, you need a new ISBN. So buying 10 is by far the most economical way to do it. Also, every time you make a change on Ingram, you are charged £25.

Createspace are lovely, they don’t charge you anything and they are a lot more flexible in what changes you can make with your existing ISBN.

Sooooooooooooo, in short, and this is a bit naughty, because any changes should have a different ISBN, or Edition number, but… for the struggling writer, use whatever tools you can.

Soooooooooooo, when you really think it is ready, publish on Createspace and spend the £10 to use your own name, it will help a little as some bookshops don’t like Amazon as a publisher.

Then let it mellow.

Then, after some months, and listening to feedback, review the look of the book and the actual writing. Have any mistakes been found? If not, just change it on Createspace, free of charge.

Hint: When you make a change to createspace, you have to wait 24 hours for it to be checked. When given the thumbs up, publish again without checking, and then order a copy on Amazon. It is by far the quickest and cheapest way to see what it looks like as a book. Only then can you be sure.

After a fair while, and just before you go knocking on bookshop doors, buy / register your own personal ISBN and register with Ingram Sparks and the Neilson publishing list, which populates bookstore owner’s computer systems with info on your book. It takes about 6 weeks to go through.

Then email Createspace and ask them to retire your old title and create a link to your new edition.

Don’t try running the same book with two different ISBNs unless they look very different. It confuses the book buyers and your readers.

So publishing your book on Amazon is fab, very easy, and gives you the ability to give it a test run.

But they are not good as a bookshop distributor, so you will need Ingram Sparks as an Indie writer / publisher

So when you are absolutely certain, purchase your own ISBN to get it on Ingram AND Amazon (via Createspace).

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, just drop me a line from my contact page, it’ll be great to hear from you.



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