Monday, May 22, 2017

Why ISBN Ownership Matters


What makes a book traditionally, self, or subsidy published? It all comes down to two things - who owns the ISBN and payment.

Let’s tackle payment first. What did the author pay for? If the author paid a company or service to do most or all, then that is subsidy publishing. If the author paid for an editor, a formatter, a cover artist, etc., then that is likely self-publishing. If the author paid nothing and will receive royalties, that is most likely traditional publishing.

But the true test lies in the ownership of the ISBN - the 13 digit number associated with every book. ISBNs are only available from one source - Bowker. The person or company that purchases the ISBNs from Bowker is the publisher on record - forever. ISBNs cannot be sold or transferred.

If the author signs with a traditional publisher, that publisher buys the ISBNs from Bowker and is listed as the publisher.

If the author buys the ISBNs directly from Bowker, that author is listed as the publisher.

If the author buys the ISBN from Smashwords or a subsidy publisher, that entity is listed as the publisher, not the author - and the author is not truly self-published.

Before you jump into the author ring, understand the differences!


For the next two months, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. is giving away a different audio book each. Visit @DancingLemurPre on Twitter and reTweet the pinned Tweet for your chance to win. ReTweets to spread the news also appreciated.




The Insecure Writer’s Support Group welcomes new Admins, Nick Wilford and Pat Hatt.



Nick will be running the contests page.



Pat will take over @TheIWSG Twitter.


Thank you for coming on board, Nick and Pat!

63 comments:

  1. An interesting topic Diane,and one I will remember.

    Yvonne.

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  2. I read an interesting blog recently that discussed several supposed indie books were traditionally published. One of which was the 50 Shades. It's not that easy to independently publish and publicize a book.

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  3. So interesting about ISBN's and that once they list a publisher there is no changing it. I didn't realize that.

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  4. There's so many publishing definitions tossed around these days, it's always good to get some clarification!

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  5. And what are the kitty cats jobs?

    Thanks for the ins-and-outs of the ISBN.

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  6. What about createspace where you don't pay anything but get the ISBN assigned?

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  7. I figured as much. I still use the createspace isbn though. Can you say I'm a umm cheapo? lol

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  8. Ann, no it's not.

    Natalie, they can't be transferred, so it's always whoever purchased them from Bowker who is listed as the publisher.

    Holly, they are there for the cute.

    Karen, CreateSpace is listed as the publisher.

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  9. Great information. I had no idea.

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  10. I bought my numbers direct from Bowker... But it's still confusing... :)

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  11. Great information! I've done both, interesting!

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  12. It may be because I didn't go through Lightning Source, but when I used my own Bowker ISBNs, I didn't sell as many books and seemed to have a more limited range of visibility. I will have to try again.

    Congrats to Nick!!!

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  13. Good to know.
    Awesome to have Nick and Pat on board.

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  14. My writers group was just talking about this not too long ago. I'm pleased to report that I had the differences between them right!

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  15. That's interesting. I thought the ISBN I got from Smashwords for Lightning Crimes was mine, and meant I was the publisher. Hmm...

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  16. That was super duper interesting. I didn't know any of that. Thanks for explaining it. Thanks for commenting about decluttering on Alex's blog, too. I agree with you, it feels good. Will you be doing another go?

    We are in the middle of moving my husband into a new room for his office. Thanks to decluttering, and that feels lovely.

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  17. Bish, that makes you the publisher!

    Tyrean, I think Lightning Source had more to do with that.

    MJ, good for you.

    Chrys, now you know. Smashwords buys them in huge batches and for less than $1 each.

    Happy Whisk, it needs another go.

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  18. Good info to know for sure!
    Thanks!

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  19. You are so right. I bought a bulk of ISBN's from Bowker--a hundred! That made them quite affordable for someone like me who publishes a lot of books (mostly non-fic). I just didn't trust anyone to own the right to be called my 'publisher'.

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  20. Great topic today Diane. I know Nothing lol. Welcome Nick and Pat :)

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  21. Thank you for explaining clearly what IBSN ownership entails, Spunk. I appreciate it.

    Nick and Pat are good men for those respective tasks.

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  22. Good explanation. I did not know all that.

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  23. Good to know, thank you. Always appreciate your insight and expertise. :) Have a good week!

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  25. You always have great information and advice.
    Thanks to Pat and Nick for helping out our support group.

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  26. It just goes to show an author can put their heart and soul into a really good read and because of a simple administration error who ends up listed as the publisher? Blow me down, I never knew these slip-ups occurred in the publishing world, now I know. Thanks, Diane. Pat and Nick - may luck favor the courageous in spirit, Quapla!

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  27. That's interesting about Smashwords. I hadn't realised that they are listed as the publisher if you buy the ISBNs from them.

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  28. I never thought about who owns the ISBN. I learn something new all the time. Two great guys to have on board IWSG.

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  29. Useful information, as always, Diane.
    Nick and Pat are great additions to the team!

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  30. Welcome Nick and Pat to IWSG. I'm sure you'll be awesome!

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  31. Thanks for this! Interesting food for thought.

    I'm ashamed to admit I've never given a lot of thought to my ISBNs.

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  32. Hi Diane - thanks for reminding us there are three ways to get the ISBN no and then what each represents ... really clear - thank you.

    Yes - Nick and Pat ... good to see them on board as IWSG admins ... cheers Hilary

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  33. Jacqui, good for you! 100 ISBNs are just a little over $5 each.

    Spacer Guy, many writers don't know. That's why research is so important.

    Lynda, they are. Technically, one "rents" the number from them.

    J.H., now you know the facts.

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  34. Welcome to Nick and Pat. I did purchase my own block of
    ISBN's for my publishing brand. It's a bite of cash up front, but to have them ready to go is nice. I believe there are many authors who don't realize that Create Space is the forever publisher of record on their titles. Not that it's a bad thing, but it may come as a surprise.

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  35. How are the audios doing?

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  36. Dean, you were wise.

    Sandra, two more in the hopper!

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  37. Very interesting - I had no idea about ISBNs.

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  38. Do all books have to have an ISBN?

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  39. Ken, if they aren't sold retail and only on Amazon, technically no. But to be sold elsewhere online or in a retail outlet, it needs an ISBN. It also adds credibility.

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  41. Did you get the storms and tornado warnings?

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  42. Yes, we had a tornado warning in our county but southwest of us. Still, spent some time in the bathroom. I haven't heard if one actually touched down though. Did you get bad weather?

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  43. Good information, thanks! I'm working on a press name so I can do my own collections of short stories, and then I'll have an LLC, and plan to get my ISBNs under that press name. Well, so far. I'm still looking into things before I jump in.

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  44. A big welcome to Pat and Nick!

    I had no idea CreateSpace was my publisher. Sad, huh? I just didn't pay attention because I was so excited about getting my book published.

    Elsie Amata

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  45. Yeah, we had tornado and flash flood warnings,but thank goodness no touchdown here. There was a touchdown in Autryille. Not sure where that's at. Near Asheville?

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  46. Very helpful information! Thanks for sharing!

    All the best to Pat! :)
    ~Jess

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  47. I never really thought about not being self-pubbed if the author goes through Smashwords or Amazon. I bet there are a lot of people who think they're self-pubbed who really aren't. lol

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  48. Wow. I didn't know where ISBNs came from. It was like this morning, during my exercise walk - I assumed the city cuts the grass alongside the sidewalks. But do they really? City governments complain they are short of funds. Am I not giving elves their due?

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  49. Very interesting to know this. I never thought about the difference, so you can see how publishing savvy I am.

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  50. Good morning, Di.
    Hope today is pleasant, productive and dry:)

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  51. Food for thought, that is. There is much to consider when weighing the route to pursue.

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  52. Welcome Pat and Nick! I'm sure they will do a great job.

    I did not know that about ISBN numbers. CreateSpace has a thing where you can either get a free ISBN number (which I understood means CreateSpace is the publisher), or you can purchase one from them, instead of buying several which is what you have to do when you go directly to Bowker. I thought you could be considered the publisher if you opted for the latter. I guess I will have to go to Bowker and purchase several ISBN numbers in the future. Thanks for the information.

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  53. Funny that I came upon this post right after I had to explain this to someone. :-)

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  54. Woo Hoo! You're getting several retweets.
    That was a good idea for spreading the word.

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  55. Thanks for the information. There is so much to learn.

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  56. Excellent on having two more in the hopper:)
    YOU have a great Thursday.

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  57. Good information to have. Now I should put it to work.

    Glad to hear that #IWSG will be keeping Nick and Pat busy. Now they'll hopefully stay out of trouble.


    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  58. I remember researching ISBN numbers before I published on Amazon and decided not to buy one and publish with Kindle Direct instead.

    Good luck to Nick and Pat on their IWSG jobs!

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  59. Thanks for the info.

    Good for Nick and Pat!

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  60. Hi Diane, though I knew about ISBN, I didn't know all these details. Thanks for the info.

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  61. Hope you have a pleasant, productive week:)

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  62. I self[published my first novel and learned a lot about ISNs. But was I ever surprised when the government sent me a letter asking for a novel for their archives. That I didn't expect. Thanks for putting all this in a language that makes sense, Diane.

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