ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is the identifier you see on the backs of books. It allows each edition of a book to be uniquely identified.
If you’re traditionally published, the publisher takes care of this for you, but if you choose to self-publish, you have to handle it yourself.
Since I plan to start releasing books this summer, it’s time for me to acquire the necessary ISBN’s. In the U.S., there’s only one place that sells ISBN’s, an organization called Bowker.
So that makes it easy, right?
Not so fast. Here is the pricing structure for ISBNs:
Quantity: 1 Price: $ 125.00
Quantity: 10 Price: $ 295.00
Quantity 100: Price: $ 575.00
Quantity 1000: Price: $ 1000.00
I know what you’re thinking, because it’s exactly what I thought: huh?
That’s right. A single ISBN costs a hundred and twenty-five dollars, but if you buy a thousand, they’re a buck apiece.
Because of this pricing, it’s really important to accurately estimate the quantity you’re going to need. Let’s do some math.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you need a unique ISBN for each edition of each book you publish. So, if you’re going to publish an e-book and a paperback, you need two. If you also plan to do an audio version, that’s another ISBN. Hardback? (Probably only if you’re traditionally published)–another ISBN.
Also, if you later release an updated edition, say with a new cover, that’s a whole new set of ISBN’s.
Right now, I’m planning to publish two, possibly three, books this year. Initially, I plan to make them available both as e-books and as paperbacks. If sales justify it, I may also release them as audio books later.
So, 3 books x 3 formats = 9 ISBNs.
If that were the end of my publishing plans, the ten-pack might make the most sense. But I intend to write and release a total of nine books in my Touched by a Demon series as well as half-a-dozen contemporary romances set in the small, fictional town of Russet Springs. I also have plans for a couple of women’s fiction books.
Now we’re looking at (9 + 6 + 2) * 3 = 51 ISBN’s
At this point, it seems safe enough to go with a quantity of a hundred. I have to say, though, if I suddenly become prolific and manage to push out twice as many books as expected, I’m really going to regret paying $5.75 per ISBN when I could have gotten them for a dollar.
Maybe we should form a collective–Eight Ladies Publishing–and buy a thousand.