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Do I Need An ISBN?

Do I need an ISBN? It’s a question that we get all the time. For most people, the answer is “definitely.” A single International Standard Book Number is $125 (at the time of this writing) and is an excellent investment in your publishing future.

Basically, an ISBN is not required for face-to-face sales, sales on your own website, distribution to crowdfunding backers, etc. It is, however, required by bookstores, Amazon, book distributors like Diamond, Baker & Taylor, libraries, and so on. (Your friendly local comic book shop or local coffee shop might buy a few of your copies as a kind of community benefit.)

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is required for each version of your book: new editions, softcover and hardcover versions all need a unique identifier. The only place to purchase your own ISBN is www.bowker.com.

ISBN Barcode

When designing your cover or dust jacket, you can put the barcode and International Standard Book Number wherever you want, so be sure to include them in your art when you submit your files. Just make sure it’s 300dpi and 100% black on a white background (ideally a vector PDF file). Otherwise, it may appear too blurry to scan.

If you have a hardcover book with a cloth or faux leather cover, you can opt to put the ISBN on a dust jacket or on a sticker on the outside of shrink wrap. (We’ve done both.)

Given the above, if you think that you want to give online distribution a try, the $125 fee is a small price to pay!