Memoir Author Linda Hoye Returns with a Discussion of ISBNs

by Matilda Butler on June 8, 2012

Book Business PaperclipPost #95 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Memoir Author Shares Publishing Insights

One week ago, June 1, Linda Hoye launched the publication of her first memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude. Women’s Memoirs helped her celebrate by publishing her article about the factors behind her decision to self-publish. If you missed that article, here’s the link.

Linda returns today to give you more information — this time about that funny-looking barcode on the back of every book.

Linda, welcome back. We know how busy you are and we’re so pleased that you have taken the time to share your learning curve with our readers.

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Linda-Hoye, memoir author, memoir and ISBN

The Mysterious ISBN

By Linda Hoye

Ever wondered about that strange-looking barcode on the back of a book? It always has some numbers above it. It is called an ISBN and you’ll need to understand it if you make the decision to self-publish your book.

Yes, one of the first decisions you’ll be faced with is obtaining an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. What is an ISBN? It’s simply a unique number that identifies a book’s title, publisher, and binding. Don’t think that matters? Without an ISBN, a retailer (online or brick) can’t order the book or track it within an inventory system. An ISBN means a book’s vital statistics will be in the Books In Print database.

ISBN, memoir, memoir writing and ISBNHere’s a breakdown of the ISBN for the paperback edition of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude:

978 – European Article Number (EAN). Currently all EANs are 978 or 979.

0 – The group identifier identifies the country or language in which the book is published. 0 means it the book was published in English in either UK, US, Australia, NZ, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Puerto Rico or Swaziland.

615 – The publisher prefix that represents my own imprint—Benson Books. Each publisher has a unique prefix.

60675 – The title—Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude

0 – And finally a check digit that validates the accuracy of the ISBN

I worked with CreateSpace on the set up of Two Hearts and learned early in the setup process that they could provide a free ISBN for my book. The owner of the ISBN assigned to a book owns the rights to that book. One of the most attractive aspects of self-publishing to me is having control over everything to do with my book; it made no sense to let another company take ownership of the rights.

Instead, I chose to purchase my own ISBN from Bowker so my own imprint, Benson Books, would be listed as the publisher. Bowker is the official ISBN agency. The cost for a single number is $125. The cost for 10 is the same as two ($250) so you might as well get 10. Of course, if you are thinking of lots of books then the real bargain is 1000 ISBNs for $1000. I wasn’t quite ready for that step. (By the way, in Canada there is no cost to obtain your own ISBN.)

Had I used an ISBN assigned by CreateSpace they would be identified as the publisher of Two Hearts and I would be tied to them for printing and distribution. By purchasing my own and publishing under Benson Books, I’m the publisher, I retain all rights to my book, and I can choose to print and distribute my book wherever I want.

At this time, I’m using CreateSpace but I could, if I wanted to, switch to Lightning Source for printing and distribution. There are pros and cons for using Lightning Source or CreateSpace that I won’t go into here. The point is: the choice is mine.

You have to have a unique ISBN for every format of a book so I also had to purchase an ISBN for the eBook format that will be coming out soon. The process to obtain this ISBN was exactly the same as for the print version. If you create an audio book version, then it would also have a unique ISBN.

Oh, One More Thing: A Publisher Logo

Finally, I needed to create a graphical representation for Benson Books. Take a look at the title page of almost any book and you’ll see a graphic that represents the publisher’s imprint; this graphic also often appears on the spine of the book.

Linda-Hoye-Logo, Benson Publisher, memoir author, self-publishingIf you’ve read Two Hearts, you know that the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is the home of my heart and I spent many happy childhood days in the tiny hamlet of Benson — hence the choice of Benson as the name of my publishing company.

I had a photograph of grain elevators that I’d taken the last time I was in Saskatchewan. I tweaked it with some editing software to make the elevators stand out as silhouettes, added the name Benson, and that’s all there was to it.

I hope this information demystifies the mysterious ISBN and helps you make the choice that is right for you when the time comes to publish.

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Linda-Hoye, memoir author, self-publishing Linda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma. Her memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude offers hope and inspiration to anyone who’s life has been touched by adoption. Linda’s work has appeared in an assortment of publications in Canada and the US. In 2009 her piece, The Face in the Mirror, won second prize in the Susan Wittig Albert LifeWriting Competition. She is active in the adoption community and is an advocate for transparency in adoption.

She currently lives in the state of Washington with her husband and their two Yorkshire terriers, but Saskatchewan, Canada will always be her heart’s home.

Connect with her on her blog A Slice of Life Writing, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

Prefer to read on the Kindle? Here’s the link to that version: Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude

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We invite you to leave Linda a note in the Comments section and to click on the Like button below if you find this article helpful.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Pooler June 8, 2012 at

Excellent post, Linda. Thanks for demystifying this part of the self-publishing process. I love your story about becoming your own publisher under the very official name of Benson Books! I’m bookmarking your post.

Linda Hoye June 8, 2012 at

It was confusing for me at first, Kathy, and I’m happy to share what I learned along the way.

Sherrey Meyer June 8, 2012 at

Great post, Linda! Thanks for the tips on ISBNs and the “owner” issue. Despite having obtained trademarks and copyrights on my own for our small business, I’ve not delved into applying for ISBNs. Free isn’t always the best price! Like Kathy, I’m bookmarking this one for future reference.

Sharon Lippincott June 9, 2012 at

I’ve known about ISBNs for years, but you added a couple of clarifying points I had not been aware of. Thanks Linda!

Linda Hoye June 11, 2012 at

Sherrey and Sharon, I’m happy I could help demystify ISBN’s. And Sherrey, when I did my initial investigation about the route to take I was reminded of the adage that “you get what you pay for”!

Patricia Awapara July 15, 2012 at

Hi Linda,
I read a couple of your posts. They were helpful and clear. I am new to this world. I started seriously writing only 6 months ago. There is much to learn.
By the way, I found your page in a post at LinkedIn. I was undecided about the ISBN, but thanks to your post, not only I understand it better, but I have decided to go that route. My book was finished (so I thought) until I received feedback from a good friend.. hehe. I am adding material, characters and underlying plots. Not sure how long it will take, but I rather publish late, than be sorry.

In the meantime, I will be reading your articles to get informed.

Anyway, I subscribe to your webpage. Looking forward for more.

All the best,

P.S. I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors. English is not my first language, so I tend to use the wrong prepositions. :(

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