ISBNs

You may find these links of use:

For the record, I chose to buy my own ISBNs through Nielsen – though you will find that you can opt to get free ISBNs through many of the self-publishing services such as CreateSpace, Smashwords and Lulu.


30 Responses to ISBNs

  1. Catherine Gardiner says:

    This is probably a really stupid question but I am really confused over this issue. On the Nielsen ISBN form for new publishers what do write for question twenty about who your UK distributor is? If I use Ingramspark would I put that or Lightning Source UK?

    I have tried to research this but I am not getting anywhere and hearing different things. In my research I found that if that section is not filled in that I have to deal with orders myself which is something I just don’t want to do (or I am ready to deal with at this present time).

    I am sorry for bothering you regarding this but I am really stuck in this matter.

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Catherine – I’ve just called Nielsen’s for you πŸ™‚ They said just put Ingram Spark via Lightening Source and that will be fine. BTW they are really nice and helpful should you need to call them! Very old fashioned but lovely telephone service – not a call centre feel at all!

      Karen

      • Catherine Gardiner says:

        Thank you so much. πŸ™‚ You are a life-saver because I was starting to get stressed over this and I don’t know how to thank you. The words just don’t seem like enough somehow.

      • kareninglis says:

        No problem. I hate going in lifts so I can empathise with have phobias about doing certain things that others find easy! Best of luck with it all!

  2. Hello Karen, your blog and info has been a fantastic source of support and I wanted to say thank you for sharing your wisdom. I have a question! I have published a children’s book with createspace, I have my own ISBN for the book from Nielsen and published it under the name of my own publishing house. I would like to publish the exact same book with Ingram Spark in order to widen distribution and sales. Howevs…as I opted for the expanded distribution with createspace it seems Ingram Spark won’t accept the same ISBN.. so can I simply switch off the createspace expanded distribution and then all will be ok (bearing in mind that Ingram are the ones printing this book on Amazon UK behalf) or will it confuse Ingram. If it’s a case of can’t use same ISBN Can I simply just bung another ISBN on to exact same copy of the book for Ingram purposes?? Finally and this bit really confuses me! If I do same book with Ingram and a new ISBN…does that mean that there will be 2 copies of my book on Amazon?? Thank you!
    Carolyn

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Carolyn – look out for a reply tomorrow – it’s been a long day and only just getting to this! The short answer is I think once you’ve been in EDC you can opt out but can’t re-use the same ISBN. So I think you would need to create a second edition with a new ISBN. Which would then result in 2 copies of your book on Amazon, which would be a tad confusing, though the likelihood (my guess) is they would show it out of stock – not sure! I’ll check with a couple of people and try to let you know tomorrow. K

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi again Carolyn – I have further feedback for you having exchanged notes with someone who went through this:

      – Because you opted for Expanded Distribution via CS, albeit using your own ISBN, then in the Ingram database its shows CS as the printer (and possibly even as the publisher). (Not good news if you want bricks and mortar stores to look favourably towards your title..).
      – To solve this you CAN opt back out of CS’s Expanded Distribution Channel and then you will be fine to carry on with your own ISBN on Ingram Spark. However Ingram won’t accept this same ISBN until CS has fully deleted your record from it expanded distribution lists and evidently this takes a bit of chasing via customer services….
      – If you do as above CS will the list and print your Amazon orders and Ingram will do the rest

      Here’s what she said: (nb Ingram owns both Ingram Spark and Lightning Source)
      “If you have a book with CS and opt for [via CS] for Expanded Distribution and if it is YOUR ISBN, then you can use it for Ingram BUT you must get CS to unlist your book at Ingram (remove from Exp Dist and followup with customer service). Until that happens, your book is listed in Ingram’s DB with your ISBN, but with CS as the named publisher, and Ingram won’t permit you to also list it under the same ISBN. EVEN IF IT’S YOUR ISBN. That’s how bookstores can tell a book is indie published even it you use your own ISBN, because CS lists themselves in the Ingram DB as the publisher.”

      I hope this helps.

      For info (and not wishing to confuse matters further…) I use the same ISBN for CS and for Lightning Source but I don’t use CS’s expanded distribution. In theory because Ingram’s expanded distribution includes Amazon that means my book could potentially appear twice on Amazon with the same ISBN… because CS is listing it already. This doesn’t seem to happen or where it does the non-CS copy is hidden away at the end of lists. Amazon fulfils the orders with its own stock.

  3. Hi Karen,
    I just wanted to say your website has been invaluable to me as I embarked on my own self publishing journey. Could I ask a question?
    What do I need to do to get my book into my local bookstore? From what I have read, I start by purchasing an ISBN from Nielsen at Β£144 then what? I am currently using CS for POD copies for my Amazon orders. Do I need to register with Ingram Spark next? Are they the preferred POD provider?
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Juls

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Juls

      You need to read through my section on print on demand to assess your options and then go to Ingram Spark if that is what you opt for (which I think is probably sensible ) But take care to read what about opting out of CreateSpace’s Extended Distribution Channel – – also discussed in the comments I near the end I think, as well in the comments above this one. In terms of getting your book into bookshops read my section on marketing. It really only works if you approach local stores as those are the ones where you can offer to do signings etc. The info is all on those blog pages and in the comments. All the very best! Karen

    • kareninglis says:

      BTW I should have said I’m glad the site has been of help πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Karen,
    Can I ask some advise? I’ve read through your brilliant blog and it looks like it would cost around Β£250 give or take between buying ISBN and LS charges. My book is under the contemporary romance genre which is a very crowded market. It would be local bookstores I would be targeting, but that’s a lot of books I need to sell to cover the cost and at a lower percentage. Is this a good investment in order to get my book known?
    I have referred to your website again and again, can’t thank you enough for all your hard work providing the necessary information required to self publish in todays market.

    Juls

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Juls

      It’s hard work getting noticed in bookshops. Why don’t you concentrate on building up a track record through your online print sales and if they go well then think about trying to get into bookshops? Another idea would be to order 5 or so print copies for yourself from Amazon (you will get royalties for those sales…) and take them to local shops to test their reaction? As you say this is a crowded market and you might be better concentrating on selling them online, which is where most of them are likely to sell anyway. Check out Joanne Phillips’ blog as she writes contemporary romance and she may be able to give you some advice. As I write for children it’s not really my genre… So yes – maybe hold off on the ISBNS for now… You will find Joanne’s site here: https://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/ I would also recommmend checking out the Alliance of Independent Authors – follow the link in my menu above to find out more. It’s a very supportive organisation and there are different levels of membership and a closed facebook page where people help each other out. All the very best πŸ™‚ Karen

  5. Moyo says:

    Hi Karen,
    This is really a fantastic site. You have done a great Job.

    I just completed writting my christian book. I am about to publish as ebook and the publisher is saying I dont need to have a ISBN for my ebook. I dont know if this is true.

    The package i an being offered is also going to make my book available as POD on amazon and amazon will apply their own ISBN number to the book.

    My question is if amazon ISBN is assigned to the book, will it affect other distribution chanels?

    I hope to get a response from you

    Thank you

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Moyo —

      First on eBooks: you don’t need an ISBN for Kindle files on Amazon — Amazon asigns you what’s called an ASIN number and if you look at Kindle versions of books on Amazon you will see this number quoted. However, you can also choose to have your own ISBN for your Kindle file if you want – but that ISBN should only used for the Amazon .mobi format file as it’s a unique format. Technically you don’t have to have an ISBN for other distributors of your eBook which would be in ePub format (eg via Apple, Kobo etc) – but the benefit of doing so is that your sales may get tracked and fed into sales data that’s collated by Nielsen etc, though I’m not fully clear how this works! (I’m also not sure if your Kindle sales would be tracked if you chose an ISBN for that format too — I have a feeling not as I don’t think Amazon shares its sales data…but don’t quote me on that!) For info, I don’t have ISBNs for the Kindle versions of my books but I do have a unique ISBN for the ePub version of each book and I enter that number when I upload the ePub to Apple, Kobo etc when using those sites. (ie one ISBN for each book – same one used on all of those distributors of my non-Kindle eBook.)

      For print on demand I don’t recommend using Amazon’s CreateSpace ISBN. Bricks and mortar bookshops will see that CS has in effect published your book and will be less receptive to ordering it if you try to persuade them to stock it. Also if you plan to use Ingram Spark to do the rest of your distribution they will not accept a CS ISBN. Far better to buy your own ISBN and use that to self-pub direct to CS and then opt out of Expanded Distribution and then use Ingram Spark for everything else. Go and read my section ‘Print on Demand’ to get more detail on this.

      But my one big question is this: who is offering you a package? What is the package and what are they charging you? I ask because lot of indie authors are getting ripped off by services and I’d hate to think you’re one of them! Hopefully you are fine but be careful – you should not need to be paying huge sums to get your book onto Amazon in eBook and print format, nor handing over your royalties etc — most of us upload the books ourselves and just pay for the formatting. (Are you a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors? We have loads of info on our closed Facebook page where authors ask each other questions as well as directories of trusted partner suppliers and a Watchdog service that warns about services that overcharge authors. As I say you may well be fine but thought it best to check that you’re not paying a huge sum to get your book up on Amazon etc!)

  6. Jason says:

    Hi Karen
    I purchased some ISBNs through Nielson and applied for title editor.
    Received an email from them asking how my e-book would be published as I had indicated eBook and print and gave them Ingram’s details. They now want details of who will distribute the e-book.

    I’m not sure what to put – should I put kindle? The whole reason I purchased the ISBNs was to allow my book to get into a bricks and mortar store by not revealing I was also selling it through Amazon (not extended distribution).

    Any advice would be gratefully received!

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Jason — you don’t need to assign an ISBN for the Kindle version of your book, assuming you are going to upload that yourself to KDP. So for that channel there is in effect no question to answer to Nielsen

      But are you planning to distribute through other platforms as well? If so which? This will help me answer your question! (And I may or may not know the answer but may be able to find out for you.)

      (BTW I’ve never notified Nielsen of the ISBNs for the ePub versions of The Secret Lake and Eeek! so haven’t had the question!)

      Are you using Ingram Spark for your print distribution? If so I assume you’ve indicated that to them?

      I hope I can be of more help once I know more about your eBook plans…

  7. Dragonish says:

    Hi Karen,
    I’ve written an illustrated book poems, for 4 – 10 year olds. I’m using Createspace and free entry on Amazon (via Createspace I think), but I’m purchasing my own ISBN’s through Nielsen. The question of ‘distributor’ was really confusing me. I’ve been in contact with both Crteatespace and Nielsen. Createspace said ‘leave that section blank or contact Nielsen’. Nielsen were really very helpful and confirmed that, if left blank, orders may come to me. They said that I could contact ‘Lightening Source’ as they may be the UK distributors for Createspace. I have not yet contacted LS, but instead I visited your really cool site. From reading the other posts here it appears that I would probably need to put: ‘Createspace via Lightening Source’? If so, do I have to some how register with Lightening Source as well?
    PS This is a truly excellent site.

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi there — you would only list Lightning Source as distributor if you upload your book files to them as well and use them for expanded distribution (ie to distribute your books outside of Amazon). But from the sounds of thing you don’t (which won’t surprise me…). Can you confirm what options you are using within CS for distribtuion? Is is just Amazon.com and Amazon UK/EU? Or have you chosen expanded distribution also? Also, are you based in the UK? If you can confirm these last two questions I’ll be able to give you a more helpful answer πŸ™‚

      Karen

      PS it’s in the sales channels section on CS that you will have chosen your distribution options…

  8. ak says:

    Hi Karen,
    Getting close to publishing a book of mine thanks to the support from your blog.
    Planning on using Createspace for Amazon UK, EU, USA, etc. and IngramSpark for distribution to other outlets. Good plan?

    Got another question regarding ISBNs. Is it necessary to buy one from Nielsen or can I buy one from a website like this: http://www.ipubnet.co.uk/buy-isbn-numbers/ or this: http://www.isbnservices.com/product/basic-isbn-number-barcode/
    What would the differences be between buying from these sites and Nielsen?

    Thanks a lot!

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi ak – sorry for the delayed reply. I’m afraid I’ve not had time to look into this — but why not call Nielsen and ask them yourself what the difference is? They are really helpful. I will get around to checking myself but deep into writing/formatting images at the moment. If you get a good answer please do leave it here. And sorry for not answering your question! Karen

  9. Richard Dodd says:

    Hi Karen,

    Amazing website, firstly. So much information in one place! Far more helpful than anything/everything else on the web as far as self-publishing in the UK goes.

    I have recently self-published my first children’s book, about a magic penguin named Fluffy!
    Being on a limited budget, I went for the CreateSpace free ISBN. (Also, I went into it very unaware of my options).

    I am now a lot more informed and I would like to aim for getting into bookshops, starting local and branching out, (pun intended!).

    I will have the sequel ready in the next few months and plan to do other children’s books about different animals with different genres later also. But my books would all be linked in carrying a strong message for the reader.

    I am planning on writing and self-publishing a few books through CreateSpace’s free option until I can afford to buy 10 ISBNs, which I believe is about Β£150? Then, I would switch all of the books to one of my own ISBNs and create my own publishing label which would go to some extent in hiding the fact I am self-published.

    My question is, would you do anything differently?
    I am aware of the difficulties of switching ISBNs, can I simply re-publish the book with a new ISBN and unpublish the former or is there a better way?

    Any advice would be amazing

    Thank you

    Big fan!

    Richard Dodd

  10. Karen says:

    Hi Karen!
    I just wondered whether or not you are registered with Nielsen’s enhanced data service? I am guessing you are because many of your titles have a full synopsis on Waterstones and I am told the enhanced service is the only way to do that. If so, what benefits have you found of using the service? I am not allowing returns and I anticipate most sales to be on Amazon where there IS a synopsis so will paying for the enhanced service actually add anything?
    Thanks
    Karen
    http://www.livistarling.com

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Karen

      This is a question that I had when I first started out in 2011, with The Secret Lake. After really agonising over it in the end I decided not to use the enhanced service as, when talking to booksellers (ie owners of bookshops), I got the impression that their book-buying decision making was influenced either by people requesting already-known titles or by recommendations pitched by sales reps calling on them. Thus, to me, it felt that — no matter what the length of the book description — my unknown titles were unlikely to be ‘discovered’ unless people knew to look for them. Thus paying for the extra info to appear in the Ingram content feed (and print catalogues I think – can’t quite remember as I type!?) was likely to be a waste of valuable budget that could have been better spent on, eg, promo material for school or signing events etc

      I have, however, finally signed up to the enhanced service this year. This decision was driven by the fact that I now have five books out and a bit of a track record (in terms of online reviews etc as well as brand awareness) — albeit on a very limited scale when compared to JK Rowling or David Walliams! What also swayed me was that the cost for the enhanced service allows for up to 10 or so books (I think I have that right – but don’t quote me on it!) so it suddenly felt worth the trial for a year.

      I won’t be in a position to report back fully until next year but one thing I did notice was that 12 copies of Henry Haynes sold in one go in Australia (first of any sales there!) and I am having steady (though not huge) sales of my titles in the USA via non-Amazon channels each month – eg Barnes and Noble. I have always had a trickle of non-Amazon print sales over in the USA but I think it has upped very slightly since using the enhanced service.

      My advice would be to hold off until you have more books to sell. But in the meantime try contacting the main stores like Foyles and Waterstones to see if they will let you supply them with descriptive content for your book in an email. I did this in the early days with both of these sites and they took the content.

      I hope that helps πŸ™‚

      Best of luck with your title!

      Karen

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Karen — I’ve now just clicked on your link and see that you have five books out — and on that basis, given what I have said, it might be worth using the enhanced service if you have the budget and have already some sort of brand awareness/following (Have you been into schools?) From the briefest of skim reads of the opener of the first one I think the stories looks very original. If you want me to review the first one let me know — I’ll give an honest review πŸ™‚

      • Karen says:

        Hi Karen! Thanks for your time in replying and for your insights πŸ™‚
        Does the enhanced service just reach bookstores or will it help for online sales? I don’t allow for returns through Ingram so am not sure whether the enhanced service would make a difference to bookstores who won’t be likely to stock the books anyway. They are also quite niche books being young adult christian fiction so I’m not making any determined effort to get into bookstores (other than christian ones who I can trade with directly and offer sale or return through me). I don’t have a following or brand as of yet as I only released the series two weeks ago so perhaps I should wait a bit…
        Thanks for the offer of reviewing the first book! As I said, they are young adult christian fiction so won’t be everybody’s cup of tea! I guess if you flick through the ‘look inside’ on Amazon and think you might like it then an honest favourable review would be hugely appreciated as I am trying to build up some good reviews. An honest UNfavourable review on the other hand would be less helpful… πŸ™‚
        Karen

      • kareninglis says:

        Hi Karen – (with apologies for a delayed reply!) The enhanced service shows up online as well; hence you see full details for all of my books on eg Foyles, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble etc — and logic says that in turn this means that someone browsing has a better chance of being persuaded to buy your book if they land on the page. However, given that most sales of books for 8-12* [see my corrected note below in the next comment – of course you are a YA writer!] tend to take place at events — unless you hit the big time — I don’t think that justifies spending the money at this stage. In terms of usefulness for bookshops I don’t think it would make a huge difference unless you have a huge marketing budget that means booksellers are likely to look you up! My understanding is that bookseller choices are driven more by recommendations from sales reps than from browsing catalogues – though I’m sure the latter does have some role. But then, as you say, the lack of ability to send back returns would be a negative. I hadn’t clocked that your books were YA Christian — I’ll take a look and let you know. Being honest I’m afraid the they may not be my cup of tea and hope you won’t mind my saying that. I will go back and look though as when I looked last time I thought they looked interesting… (sorry, I’ve not been back there again since!) I hope all this info helps. In short I’d hold off on the enhanced service unless and until you have more of a track record. And then you ‘d need to weigh up your decision based on how else you might use that budget. Hope that helps! Karen

      • kareninglis says:

        Ahh – sorry — you are writing for YA – and on that basis ignore what I said about 8-12s above. However, I’d still advise getting some sort of platform and Amazon etc reviews — and trying to get into schools — to start with. I’d hold off with the enhanced service for now and revisit it once you get a feel for how popular your books turn out to be. If they start to sell well, then you can put budget towards it… Just my view! Best of luck with it! K

  11. Karen says:

    Thanks Karen, that’s really helpful! I expect the majority of my sales will be through youth events or Amazon so I shall hold off for now. πŸ™‚ I appreciate your counsel and, yes, they are YA Christian, so no worries if that’s not your thing πŸ˜‰.
    Oh, I had one more question, if you don’t mind- have you done any direct sales with bookshops? If so, who pays the shipping? I assume the store pays for the shipping of the books they buy and you pay for shipping for any they return (unless of course you live locally and can collect them), but I just want to check I am correct… As I said, I’ve set it to ‘no returns’ through Ingram, but I am hoping to get a few independent Christian bookstores on board if they buy/return through me directly.
    Thanks again for your help and all the best with your books!
    Karen

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Karen – the direct sales I’ve made to bookshops have all been locally so I’ve not had to get into delivery costs. I’d chat to your local bookshop and ask how they would expect to handle that if buying direct from an author who lives farther afield? All the very best with it! πŸ™‚ Karen

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