Updated: Jan 13, 2020
I wish I knew who was spreading lies about ISBNs. New authors have enough to worry about, without taking a simple barcode to mythic levels.
Here are some of the falsehoods I've read:
The person who registers your ISBN has publishing rights to your book. NOPE!
Spending $125 on an ISBN is a great way to get marketing exposure. NOPE!
If you don't have an ISBN you can only sell on Amazon. NOPE!
Do you really need an ISBN? There is a very, very simple way to tell. Just answer one question.
Are you ready for it?
Open wide and tell me...
Is your total marketing budget more than $1,000?
No? Then don’t do it.
Most indie authors get the majority of their income from ebooks, which do not need ISBNs. When they do sell print books, practically all of them are on Amazon’s platform. In order to break even on purchasing a single ISBN you would need to make that amount back in print sales on IngramSparks, or another POD distributor. And the thing is, you rarely lose the print sale if you only have an Amazon option.
I do understand the pride point about having your name listed as the publisher. It is totally cool. But $125 could also buy a book trailer, or 1,000 bookmarks or an ad in RWA's magazine and those might make some of your money back.
Go ahead and purchase an ISBN if you have a large marketing budget and a strong library plan. But you won’t lose many (or any!) sales if you skip it.
Did you learn anything? Share this with an indie author you love.