Authors, Book Publishing & ISBNs … Do You Need Them?

Book Publishing and ISBNs … Do Authors Need Them?

Do authors need ISBNs? Yes, they do … and that means you.

If you plan on selling your book, the answer is yes. If you are creating something that is not for re-sale—from the family history to your high school reunion … most likely not–books that fall into the “legacy” category.

How many should you have … just the one for your book or do you need others? What about eBooks and other book formats? Below are answers to the top three questions that I get on a weekly basis:

1 Should my eBook have an ISBN?

Most will respond, “It depends.” If you plan to have your eBook available for iPad readers then you must have an ISBN. Remember, your ISBN is the ID that the rest of the book retail world sees. It’s mandatory if your book is available in bookstores as well as with distributors and wholesalers. Amazon doesn’t require one—you get assigned the Amazon ASIN number–which stands for Amazon Standard Book Number. If you already have an ISBN, then you will enter that number during the publishing process with them–just click on the upload image tab. Others, such as B&N’s new PubIt doesn’t require it … they will assign you a number.

But, you are offering your eBook on other platforms, you need one.

My Tip:  “It depends,” is technically correct … but if there’s just one format that requires it … the answer is YES.  And include all of them on your ©   page stating which is which–hard, paper, eBook, and audiobook.

2 Can I use the same ISBN for my print and eBook formats?

In a nutshell—NO. Each is a unique edition and requires an identity. Think of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) as your book’s Social Security number. It’s the magic number that keeps track of what is selling. Beware, Beware, Beware of publishers who lump books together and register all their books with a master ISBN for sales to outlets such as  Amazon. What are they? Crooks. This has been a practice with some of the vanity presses.

 The International ISBN Agency recommends that publishers assign ISBNs to each format. That means print, eBook, audio, video and anything else that comes along.

My Tip: When you have a new edition; change your cover; add revised material… go back to the ISBN bin and pull your next one. It’s a new shout out for you book–a good thing.

3 How many ISBNs should I get?

Start with 10 (it’s cheaper to buy them this way).  In the U.S., Bowker is your portal. In other countries, Google where to go. Bowker’s easy to use website is and purchase them for $295 (includes process fee). It identifies your “publishing house” and gives you enough to cover the current edition, as well as any revised. Keep in mind: you need a different number for each format—hardback; paperback; audio; video; eBook, etc. If your book goes from hardback to paper, it’s another number.   If you revise your book or create a new edition, it’s a new number.

My Tip: You can always access your numbers via I  suggest you copy them to your computer and add them to your Publishing folder (you do have one, yes?). When you use one, code what type of book is with each number and the title.

Don’t buy barcodes … the majority of book designers will gladly provide your barcodes with the ISBN and the PRICE of your book within the barcode … and not charge you.

My two bits for today …


Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 35 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35, How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos has earned 7 national book awards in 2017. Get your copy now.

Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged Bootcamp, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2018, the dates are June 23-25.  Participate in her Judith Briles Speaking Unplugged Bootcamp held in March and November. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at

Follow @AuthorUYOUBooks and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact me.