The Importance of Owning Your Own ISBN When Self-Publishing 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A few years back, when Bowker released its annual self-publishing report and shared that as of August 6, 2014, there were 458,564 self-published titles in the United States, it had to remind its readers that this number represented only the number of ISBNs registered in its Books In Print database, not the total number of self-published titles.

The Importance of Your Own Self-Publishing ISBN

Unfortunately, if a title doesn’t have an ISBN and is not registered in an ISBN database, there’s no way for your many friends in the book business to know about it, including: retailers (brick-and-mortar and online), distributors, wholesalers, and libraries. These are the key players who receive ISBN data and the prime people you want to receive it. No ISBN means fewer opportunities for your book to be discovered and purchased.

Self-publishing authors often ask why they should get their own ISBNs or why they should get an ISBN at all, especially if they intend to publish their book only as an e-book. The above is one of the reasons, but the simplest answer is control.

Owning Your ISBN Means Controlling Your Book Metadata

Owning your ISBNs means controlling the book metadata that goes with it. No one knows what your book is about better than you, and your book metadata is how your book is described to the world. Don’t you want to be the one to describe your book? If others assign the ISBN to a title, or worse, the title has no ISBN at all, the author gives up that control and must rely on what someone else says about his or her book.

Book metadata is how a book is introduced to the world, it is how a book is found, and it is perhaps its most important marketing tool. Controlling it is essential, and control comes with owning your ISBNs and managing your metadata. Book metadata includes basic information like your book’s title, subtitle, author, ISBN, format, and pub date, but it also includes the BISAC category you assign to it and it’s long and short descriptions. This information is critical to your book’s discovery, because when someone conducts an online search, the results that search returns are going to be based off of the metadata that’s been entered about those products.

For more information on book metadata and its importance, feel free to download our free Title Metadata Guide.

Whether a book is in electronic or print format really makes no difference. If you want to self-publish and maximize your opportunities, assign your own ISBNs and provide good metadata. This way, your book is more discoverable to its potential readers. U.S. authors can purchase Bowker ISBNs at a discounted rate directly from their IngramSpark account during the title setup process.

IngramSpark Staff

Hi there! It's your friendly IngramSpark staff here, happily sharing a wealth of publishing knowledge with people from all walks of the self-publishing biz.