If you are planning to sell your book in retail stores, or to libraries, you will likely need an ISBN number for your book. While it is possible some independent retailers may offer to sell your book without the ISBN number, this is not normally the case.
An ISBN number is a 13 digit identification number issued by the ISBN Agency of the country you reside. In the United States, this number is issued by the ISBN Agency (also known as Bowker) directly to the publisher of a book. This number is normally printed on the copyright page of a book as well as encoded into the barcode which is printed on the back cover of a book. The ISBN number is broken into segments which contains a variety of information such as the geographic location of the publisher as well as who owns the rights to the book.
Unfortunately, many publishing companies use the ISBN number as an incentive to entice authors to use their services. The problem with using an ISBN number which has been given, or sold at a discount, is that the company which had originally registered the ISBN number is listed as the publisher of the book, not the author. The result being the author immediately loses the marketing rights to their book. To ensure you maintain full rights to your book, you must properly register your own ISBN number for your book.
To order an ISBN number in the United States, go to ISBN.org. The cost of a single ISBN is $125.00, while 10 numbers (to use on 10 separate book titles) is $295.00. The general rule is that is best to order the 10 ISBN numbers if you are planning to produce 2 or more titles in the future. If you plan to produce your book using two different binding formats (such as hardcover and the quality softcover format), each binding style will require a separate ISBN number. As well, producing your book in a variety of languages would require a separate ISBN number for each language. Once purchased, the ISBN numbers do not expire over time.
Once you obtain your ISBN number, your book can be listed in the Books in Print database. The Books in Print database is used by libraries worldwide to find titles to purchase. Adding your book to the Books in Print database can be done by visiting Bowker.
Because the Canadian ISBN Agency does not charge for ISBN numbers, we offer the ISBN registration at no charge to Canadian residents. The registration is completed using the author’s information which ensures the author maintains all rights to their book.