Self-Publishing: Why I Bought My Own ISBN Number (And Why You Should Too)


The truth is that when I first got into Self-Publishing I did not have much money. I also did not have much understanding. What I did have was passion, and nothing was going to stop me from pursuing my passion. Passion. It is what kept me going. At the time many of my earliest works were published, I wasn’t interested in building a company or making it any type of career.

Then 2014 hit and I got this major research itch. I became immersed in educating myself about Self-Publishing. I started reading and asking questions and listening and studying others and eventually I had to ask myself a serious question: “How serious are you about book publishing? Do you want people to actually read your books or are you content with just seeing them in print?”

The truth is I have been serious about writing since before I knew what publishing meant. I have been wanting to be a writer since before I understood what writing was. The truth is that for me, my career or “dream job” has never changed. I have consistently had the desire to write and have always wanted to be an author, and I definitely want to be read.

While I’ve come a long way, can I honestly say that I’ve given it my all? Have I invested in my absolute best? The truth is no. I look back on some of those earlier publishing’s and I just cringe. The truth is that its a constant learning process and with every book that I choose to publish it always comes with a new revelation on how I can be better. With my new release just around the corner, it comes as no surprise that this year I have decided that 2016 is the year of my journey into purchasing my own ISBN Numbers for my books, and I think you should come along with me!

I will tell you out the gate, that ISBN Numbers are an investment because they are not cheap and can run for as much as $50-$129 per number as each book needs its own number and each version of the book (Print and Ebook) needs its own number as well. There are some as low as $25 but with multiple books that can add up. With plans to reassign numbers to all of my books by the end of the year, it adds up to a lot of work. So why bother? Why go through all the trouble? Why invest in the time and in the funds?


The truth is that if your serious about your writing you have to think beyond today. Meaning you have to consider the possibility that a major publishing house may want to Traditionally Publish you, or a movie deal may not be far away. I know this is huge, but it is what serious authors think about. Even if you plan to always Self-Publish, thinking like this can help you to produce the best product. Ideally, you want your book to look no different (in quality) than any Traditionally Published book. Part of that process begins with your own ISBN Number. It may cost you a little, but not having one can cost you much more. The ISBN is worth incorporating into the book budget. Not only does it add a professional look, but it increases value and gives you the right to the title of Self-Publisher.


OK, let’s go a tad bit deeper.

Every POD says what when you go to them for publishing?

“You own your copyright and all the rights to your book.”

I hate to be the burden of bad news, but this is not exactly true. Of course, you are technically the publisher since you did publish the book. But technically, if you don’t purchase your own ISBN then you are not going to be listed as the publisher. This means that you are not technically the publisher which means you do not have all rights to the book. Which in turn means that if a movie deal is on the table it is not up to you. Why? Because you are not the publisher that’s why. I know, it can be confusing, especially when publishing companies say that it doesn’t matter. The truth looks a little something like this:

  • Publish a book on Smashwords and it is assigned an ISBN number owned by Smashwords, so my book will appear to be published by Smashwords, not me.


  • Publish a book on Lulu and it is assigned an ISBN number owned by Lulu, my book will appear to be published by Lulu, not me.


  • Publish a book on Createspace and it is assigned an ISBN number owned by Createspace, my book will appear to be published by Createspace, not me.

So forth and so on with every other POD (Print on Demand) Company. If you use a publishing service company and let them assign your book a FREE ISBN, they will be listed as the publisher, not you.

Are you in this boat? Don’t freak out! I’m right there with you. Like I said, its a process

Fun Fact:  It is interesting that I don’t hear a lot about this, but copyright in a work created on or after January 1, 1978, exists from its creation. This means that any work, including works of authorship, fixed in any tangible medium of expression is considered copy-written upon creation. Meaning that although advised for legal reasons, you do not need a fancy document for your work to be copy-written. This article here, the one you’re reading, was technically copy-written once it was brought into creation on my computer and it became published when I posted it to this blog. Of course, everything proven in court needs proof and that is why we get documented copyrights but technically anything is copy-written upon creation. That said, Publishing Companies can get away with saying you own all copyrights to your book. Of course you do! But this doesn’t mean the same as other rights of yours that may come into play later on down the road when it comes down to who owns the work and what qualifications determine who owns it.

At first, I didn’t really care about who was listed as the publisher, and I believe I may have written about that on this blog. But then I realized that if I was serious about my writing, freely assigned ISBNs can be a major set-back if I wrote a book that does really well. “If your book has movie potential, wouldn’t you want the right to make that deal?” Of course I would but if I am not the publisher that right is not guaranteed. Many book publishing companies keep certain rights and can exercise these rights without your input or approval.

In short, I started learning more about the rights of it all and that’s when ISBN numbers took on an entirely new meaning.

ISBN is short for International Standard Book Number and it is your book’s Birth Certificate, its Social Security Number, its License, State ID….you get the point. It’s your book’s identity and proof of existence. But, what made me look at ISBNs in a new light is the potential for my books to reach new heights. As a Self-Publisher with my own ISBN, I can publish under my company name, I can go to a different printer if I choose, I can open my own account with major companies and opt for national trade distribution, and I can even create my own team of publishing experts. The possibilities are endless.

I strongly believe my books have the potential to take off in ways I have not imagined. By purchasing my own ISBNs, I make that process much easier with the freedom to move around with efficiency. When I self-publish my book I am only providing the company with the right to print my work for as long as I want them to. But in the event of major change, I don’t want to be held back because of “technicalities”. This is the year of the ISBNs and let’s just say a lot is about to change.


Bowker offers the following blocks so you can purchase ISBNs in bulk instead of one at a time. Blocks are good IF you are writing a series or are sure you will publish more than one book in the future. Personally, I prefer to purchase them one at a time. I once purchased a Book Cover that I have not yet written the book for! I know I will eventually get to it, but you get the point. Don’t move too fast trying to be fancy. Funds are tight. As my husband always tell me, “Take your time. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Also, Google Bowker to get the link to their website or Google ISBNs to take a look at sites with cheaper prices BUT BE CAREFUL, there’s money in the ISBN business which means there are lots of scammer companies out there. It’s best to pay for what you know is legit. Bowker offers the following blocks:

$125 – 1 ISBN
$250 – 10 ISBNs
$575 – 100 ISBNs
$1000 – 1000 ISBNs


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