Self-Publishing: Why I Bought My Own ISBN Number


This post has been updated.

I am NOT going to get into the whole debate about whether you should or shouldn’t purchase your own ISBN. I am not going to get into it because what I’ve learned is that it depends on each individual’s vision for his or her book. Everyone is different and to say that someone is foolish for spending THEIR money on an ISBN or not isn’t fair. Some can’t get around why others would pay for something they can get for free and some can’t get around why someone won’t pay for one. The answer is simple.

A Createspace, for example (or Lulu) issued free ISBN lists Createspace or Lulu as the publisher. If you purchase your own ISBN, you are listed as the publisher. It will have your name or your company name, whichever you want. In the images below you see the difference. My Stella Books were published with a Free Lulu ISBN (all except for Book 3). Renaissance was published with my own ISBN:


Not everyone wants Createspace, Lulu, etc as the publisher of their books. It’s simply a matter of preference and each author’s goal for his or her books. It may not mean much to have Createspace as your publisher but it may mean a lot to someone else. So let’s stop stoning each other. If people want Free ISBNs let them have it and if people want to invest THEIR money into an ISBN, let them have it.

Now that we got that out the way, here is why I decided to invest in my own ISBN numbers.

What is an ISBN Number?

ISBN is short for International Standard Book Number and it is your book’s identity and proof of existence.

The ISBN numbering system is used worldwide and publishers around the globe identify their work in this standardized format. Owning your ISBNs also means controlling the book metadata that goes with it. According to Google and Ingram Spark, the book’s Metadata includes your book’s title, publication date, format, BISAC category you assign to it and more. The BISAC category, according to Ingram Spark, “is intended to guide shelving, categorization, merchandising, and marketing efforts. BISAC codes help signal to potential buyers, retailers, distributors, and search engines what your book is about – the primary genre(s), topic(s), and theme(s) that matter in regards to your book. Without these codes, readers and those within the industry cannot identify what your book is about or if they’d like to stock or read it.”

I purchased my own  ISBN for ownership and control of the associated metadata attached to the book. I love being listed as the publisher (me or my company) because it looks more professional. Createspace insists that you are the owner of your book even if you use their free ISBN. The only problem with this is that the language is a confusing  (to me) and may not mean anything right now, but can have bigger implications later based on the success of this book. It is my understanding that CreateSpace provides ISBN’s free to people using its service, but it owns those numbers and the associated metadata. My question is, if you don’t own the ISBN and metadata, how do you own the book? Just a thought.

I buy my own ISBN Numbers whenever I can afford them and when I can’t afford them I use Createspace. In the future, I’d like to purchase ISBNs for ALL of my books. I want to do this for the potential for my books to reach new heights. It’s not really about right now for me, it’s about the future.

It boils down to one basic understanding:

If an Independent Publisher wants to be identified as the publisher, the Indie must purchase their own ISBN and contrary to popular opinion, this is not a waste of money.  Right now it may not mean much but I want to ensure that when the time comes, I can maximize my opportunities. As an Independent 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. I know that with the vision I have for my work, I have to think beyond today so the ISBN is worth incorporating into my book budget.

Yecheilyah (e-see-lee-yah) is an Author, Blogger, and Poet of ten published works. Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) is her latest novel and is available now on


Self-Publishing: The ISBN Number

isbn_banner-640x240Some online POD (Print on Demand) platforms like Lulu, allows its self-published authors the option of not choosing to include an ISBN number. Other platforms also have this option available and as such I have seen books without an ISBN Number. I’m going to briefly explain why this is a bad idea. In our quest to produce books at the highest quality possible, it is not just the professional outcome of your book that demands this number, it is the profitable outcome as well. To start, what is an ISBN Number anyway?

If you’ve ever read a book in your life, you’ve seen an ISBN or International Standard Book Number. It’s the set of numbers on the bar code of the book, usually in the bottom right hand corner. There are bar codes that exist without this number, but if you are looking to expand your reach, you need an ISBN. Because not having one is almost like having a book that doesn’t really exist.


The ISBN was introduced in the 1960s as the Standard Book Number (SBN) jointly by J. Whitaker & Sons Ltd, the British National Bibliography and the Publishers Association who set up the Standard Book Numbering Agency (SBNA) for British publications. The SBN became the ISBN in the 1970s. The ISBN consists of a group of symbols which identify each book title as a unique product. The number consists of ten digits divided into four groups, usually separated by dashes or spaces, each group having a specific function.


The principal purpose of the ISBN is to make the identification of any book as certain as possible. It works almost like fingerprints: each individual person (even twins) has a different set of fingerprints. With these fingerprints, the information of a person can be accessed. The same can be said of a Social Security Number, everyone has one and it can identify a person by itself alone. Likewise, when a book has an ISBN Number, assuming it is quoted correctly, one can be almost sure that the correct book has been identified even with no other information.

Below are reasons to make sure your book has an ISBN number:

• The first reason you want to make sure your book has an ISBN is because ISBNs are the global standard for identifying titles. ISBNs are used world-wide as a unique identifier for books. They are used to simplify distribution and purchase of books throughout the global supply chain.

• Secondly, which is equally important, is that most retailers require ISBNs to track book inventory. Without an ISBN, you will not be found in most book stores, either online or down the street from your house. Buying an ISBN is your first step to ensuring that your book is not lost in the wilderness.

• And finally, buying an ISBN improves the chances your book will be found. Buying your ISBNs and registering your titles ensures information about your book will be stored in Books In Print database. This opens up a world of possibilities that your book is listed with many retailers, libraries, Bowker Books In Print, Bookwire, as well as online services like Google Books, Apple’s iBooks, Chegg and the New York Times.