To buy or not to buy your own ISBN, that is the question.  I have read a lot of theoretical articles about ISBNs.  What’s the practical scoop for self published authors?  What is your experience?

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I think if you have your own publishing company (could be as simple as picking a company name and publishing just your own books) so that you can have a publisher's name, instead of your own name, as the publisher, which looks more professional and might get more readers/buyers of your books, then you should buy your own ISBNs. In fact, if you are a publishing company, you might have to buy your own ISBNs. Of course, there is nothing wrong with buying your own ISBNs if your name is listed as the publisher. The free ISBNs are good if you are using your own name as the publisher and want to save a few bucks. I go with the free ISBNs for those reasons.

I did exactly as others had. I started Writestyle Publishing and bought my own ISBNs because I did not want to loose control and it looked more professional in my own opinion. Where I live I had to run a factious name, $50.00 get a license $25.00, open up a business checking account and now I'm official. I also thought I could get into bookstores easier with a publishing company but I was wrong with that one. The POD gives it away that I"m a self published book therefore, it is closing doors. Which way is the right way, I believe it is all up to the author and their preferences.

To put a book on Apple or Google you must have a ISBN for you book so it will help you get on more sites if you have on.  you can get one for about $5.00.

If you are only e-publishing and only do so through Amazon and/or Smashwords, you don't need to buy your own. They will give you one for free.

I published through Amazon's CreateSpace. This is a good choice if you want to go with a recognized name. However, a couple of months afterwards, I had gotten an offer to sell my eBook with another company. They had read my book and liked it. Problem was I couldn't use my ISBN from CreateSpace. I had entered into a 90 day exclusive with Amazon. The 90 days are up and I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. I have been trying to figure out how to do this, and I think I need an ISBN, but it doesn't make sense to give a book two ISBN numbers. CreateSpace will not let me use the one they gave me. They say the ISBN for the eBook is there's exclusively. I also been trying to figure out how to safely offer my eBook even though it is protected by copyright.

I will be following this thread to see what you learn.

I have read about this problem and it concerned me.  I too will be interested in seeing what turns up about how you get out of the ISBN bind.  Because Amazon uses ASIN numbers and the ISBN numbers assigned by Smashwords only apply to eBooks it does not apply if the publisher is only concerned about the print ISBN.  The problem is a publisher usually wants both the eBook and print publishing rights.  This is not a concern to those who are self publishing their own print copies; they just get a separate ISBN for it.

If you change the size of the print book you will need a new ISBN.  That differentiates between the two different sizes just as an ISBN for your eBook differentiates it from the print book with a separate ISBN. 

My understanding is this: if you buy your own ISBN, then you become the publisher of record. If you accept a free ISBN, they become the publisher of record. I want to be the publisher of record, so I created a publishing company and bought my own ISBNs. That means it's my imprint on my book, and not someone else. I did this because eventually I want to grow my company. But having my own ISBN also means I have to keep up with Library of Congress filings and Books in Print bibliographical data, whereas if someone else is the publisher of record, then they do it.

Hope this helps.

If you buy the $99 ISBN off of create space doesn't it allow you to publish with any other publishing company, or is this deceptive?

You can buy ISBNs from Bowker ( if you buy it (or them, since Bowker sells them in bulk), you own it, and can use it on your book printed anywhere including Createspace and elsewhere.  Bowker is the official source for ISBNs and therefore probably the best place to get them.

I didn't have that impression.  I thought all their contracts are non-exclusive, and you can either buy one that is transferable, or opt for the free one that is not transferable.

@Roxanne: This is exactly what I did also and for the same reasons. I formed Questor Books and my ISBN's I bought and they're all tied to my small press. I only publish my own books, they're all registered through Bowker. Also, people don't always realize each edition must have it's own ISBN. If you do it through Smashwords, you have one ISBN, then if you publish separately to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc., you need an ISBN for each place, that is the correct way to do it so someone can find the correct edition at each place, such as B&N or Kobo. I've heard of some authors using the same ISBN for a book that is an ebook and a print book, and that has the potential to lead to a mess down the road.


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