Questions to published authors

So I just read 'The Global Indie Author' by M.A. Demers, and it was a pretty darn good book on self publishing, prepping ebooks & the benefits/pitfalls of the various options available to an author.

Just out of curiosity...

1. If you're published or intending to get published soon, did you get your own ISBN, or did you get one supplied to you through a vendor?

I ask this because, as I understand it, the former option is costly; 250 for one ISBN, but if you're publishing in multiple formats, you might need as many as (or more than) 5 ISBNs for one work - Moba, epub, pdf, paperback, hardback, potentially setting you back $800 or so (costs reduce as you buy more). And there's a potential lack of privacy as anyone with access to the databases (public access?) can get your contact information via. your ISBN information.

But the drawback of getting an ISBN from a vanity publisher is apparently that they then get some power over the work, as far as being an intermediary for outside interests (so, theoretically speaking, if a movie studio was interested in doing a movie, they'd contact the owner of the ISBN, which would be the publisher, who would then have no obligation to contact the author).

2. Thoughts on DRM? People seem to be fairly divided on the issue of rights protections for ebooks. On the one hand, an author deserves money for what they produce, but on the other, DRM unfairly punishes consumers with inconvenience.

I think in Canada isbns are free, but I haven't had much time to look into it. Mei Lin Miranda is a good resource for publishing questions, she told me about a lot so maybe I should go digging for those emails.

Oh, hey. That'd be great, if it's not any trouble.

Potentially good news, that.

1. ISBNs cost money. Ebooks and such don't require an ISBN. If you have a proper publisher, they are supposed to provide an ISBN for you, probably bought in bulk -- it's difficult/expensive to buy just one. Not impossible, though. Do not use vanity houses. Even self-publishing hubs like Lulu and CreateSpace are a better alternative than paying a predator to bend you over a barrel.

2. Piracy does not harm business for major companies or beginning individuals/startup LLCs. For major companies, it's free advertising; for individuals, the demand usually isn't there. It's only mid-sized companies and relatively popular indie authors who will actually feel something of a bite from piracy.

Hope that helps.



It costs $250 for a block of 10 ISBNs. I think I have six left.

If you want to use LightningSource for POD books you need your own ISBN. For Ebooks, the individual sites will provide one for you, but... ISBNs are used to track sales, and if you have an individual ISBN for each vendor (B&N, Smashwords, etc) then your total sales numbers are divided between all of them. It's not an issue for those of us starting out, but if you start experiencing success, that success will be under-reported if you have multiple ISBNs because each isbn is treated as a separate book.

Ryan - I like that perspective on piracy.

That thought on the spreading out of sales numbers is really interesting, Ubersoft. Is the inverse true, though? If you have a single ISBN for different vendors, can you identify where stuff is selling & where it isn't?

Canada's isbn page:

I think everyone's pretty much covered the answers to these questions, so I will just toss in about piracy that DRM irritates your customers, which is bad for business. Trust them to do the right thing. And don't go after them for "lending" their copy to someone else either... that's how you create new fans.

I wouldn't recommend buying ISBN blocks unless you're intending to become a small publisher with multiple author titles. If you're doing your own thing it's far easier to get the POD company producing your books to issue you one of theirs. Companies like Createspace aren't vanity publishers, they're printers and distributors, and they have no "power" over your book due to their owning the ISBN, any more than Tor or DAW would have power over your book because they issued you their ISBN. The power's in the contracts you sign, so read those carefully no matter what company you use to produce or distribute your work.

Thank you very much, Gavin. Very useful, and a relief to know that's one factor I don't need to stress over.

Re: DRM, I'm generally pretty against it in other areas (video games, software), but it's funny, being on the other side of the fence. My primary concern, other than inconvenience, is that it violates reader privacy (information is gathered & shared by the same people that distribute the DRM).

So it's reassuring that you sorta back up my instincts on that front, Hogarth (and Ryan).

One point of clarification on what MCA said: the numbers issued by vendors like CreateSpace are not real ISBNs. Places like libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores will not be able to use those numbers for ordering.



Ryan? This is my ? face. You can distribute your books to brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries via Createspace. :)

If you're in the US and using an author services company like Createspace or Lulu then I'd say it's not worth getting a block of ISBNs - take the cheaper option.

If you're in Canada ISBNs are free and the better option for various reasons especially if you're going through Lulu.

If (like me) you're in the UK then I'd actually suggest you consider going through Lulu and buying 10 ISBNs if you think you can make enough sales to make it worth while. The reason is tax related. The US tax people insist non-us people jump through hoops or have 30% of their profits on US sales withheld. However, unlike createspace, Lulu only does this on US sales with its ISBN. If you apply a UK ISBN you're immune from this problem because Lulu then (rightly) claim they're not the publisher.

I'm currently prevaricating between the three Lulu options:

3. Lulu ISBN and extended reach (free)

Extended reach gets the book into all the Amazons, global reach gets it into all online Book Stores and makes it possible to get it into bricks and mortar stores). The latter two options are certainly cleaper but require making tax efforts. Having said that the Kindle version requires that anyway. Also if I pick number 3 I cannot later upgrade to global reach - I'd need to create a new edition. I've sold 5 paperbacks directly already so I'm waiting to see if I can shift the 30 which would cover option one in the first three months.

And for non-usians navigating the tax labyrinth here is a useful link

Hope this helps,