The essential guide to ISBN’s

An ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This is a numbering system for books and every book needs to have one! I’ve set out a guide below to help you understand why you need one, where you can buy one and what it’s used for!

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN is a 13 digit numbering system for your book. It is divided into 5 groups of numbers with dashes between them. Your ISBN numbers give information about the country the book will be published in, the publisher, the title and a final verification number.

Where is the ISBN placed?

Your ISBN is placed in the copyright page (on occasion) and also on the back cover accompanied by a barcode. If publishing on Amazon, you can obtain a free ISBN and barcode from them. However, we always advise buying these separately through your country’s main supplier i.e. Nielsen in the UK and Bowker’s in the US, which allows you to expand your reach for your book and potentially get it into retailers.

Do I need a barcode?

As Publishers, we always advise you to buy an ISBN number and also a barcode which gives you the added advantage of being able to scan your barcode (should your book appear in book stores) which gives more information directly through this. If you’re only planning to sell your book on Amazon, you do not need to buy either an ISBN or a barcode.

How many ISBN’s will I need?

You will need an ISBN for each format of your book i.e. paperback and hardback and eBook if you choose to sell out with Amazon or other self-publishing software companies. It’s far less expensive to buy a pack of 10 rather than just one.

When should I buy these?

It’s important to buy these before the full design of your book cover as it must be placed on the back cover.

I hope that’s answered some of your questions around ISBN’s, but you can reach us if you need any further information.

Sharon Brown

Founder - The Book Chief