How to Get an ISBN for a Book – Guide for Indie Authors

How to Get an ISBN for a Book

Publishing your book is always a bit complex for authors, especially for indie authors as they don’t go with the traditional publishing methods. They decided to take control of the entire publishing rather than getting the services offered by the book publishing houses.  One of these services is getting an ISBN for the book. It is a way to make sure that your book is easily found by the readers along with other additional advantages.  Although it is not that hard to get it most indie authors don’t know how to get an ISBN for a book. But it is not the end, we are here to help you with this. 

In this brief guide, you will be able to know how you can get the ISBN for your book. 

What is an ISBN and Why Do You Need One for a Book?

An ISBN or International Standard Book Number is a simple 13-digit number that helps uniquely identify your book. You must have the ISBN for your book for several reasons.   

Distribution – Most bookstores, libraries, and online retailers need an ISBN to stock and sell your book. 

Identification – It distinguishes your book from others to make sure that it can be accurately tracked and purchased.

Professionalism – An ISBN gives your book a professional touch and makes it more appealing to potential buyers. 

Without the ISBN, your book might be limited in reach and accessibility and it could affect your sales and visibility. 

The Structure of ISBN – Knowing the Basics

The ISBN of your book consists of five parts. 

Prefix Elements: it is a 3 digital code usually 978 or 979. 

Registration Group Element: It identifies the country or language group participating in the ISBN system. 

Registrant Element: It identifies the publisher. 

Publication Element: It identifies the specific edition and format of a particular title. 

Check Digit: it is the last number that validates the ISBN.  

Also Read: How to Publish a Book

How to Get an ISBN for a Book

Follow the steps below to get the ISBN for your book. 

Step 01 – Determine Your Country’s ISBN Agency

The first step to knowing how to get an ISBN for a book is to determine the ISBN agency of your country. Each country has its own designed agency which is responsible for issuing ISBNs. For example, in the United States, Bowker is the official agency. You can find the agency of your country by visiting the international ISBN Agency’s website.  

Step 02 – Decide How Many ISBNs You Need

If you are publishing just one book, then you might think a single ISBN is enough. Although, each format of your book such as hardcover, paperback, and e-book needs its own ISBN. 

You must consider buying a block of ISBNs if you are planning to publish multiple books or editions in the future as it can be more cost-effective.  

Step 03 – Register with the ISBN Agency

After determining the number of ISBNs you need, register with the ISBN agency of your country. It typically involves creating an account and providing information about yourself and your publishing plans. 

For example, if you are using Bowker, you have to visit their website and create an account to fill out the necessary forms. 

Step 04 – Purchase Your ISBN(s)

When you are done registering, you can purchase your ISBN(s). The prices might vary by country and the number of ISBNs you want to buy. In the US, a single ISBN from Bowker costs around $125, while a block of 10 ISBNs costs $295. You can check your country’s ISBN agency for specific prices. 

Step 05 – Assign Your ISBN(s) to Your Book

Once you have your ISBN(s), you have to assign them to your book(s). it includes entering details about your book, such as title, author, format, and publication date into the ISBN agency’s database. The process makes sure that all information about your books is correctly associated with its ISBN. 

Things to Consider While Getting an ISBN

1. ISBNs for Different Formats

As mentioned above, you must make sure that each format of your book has a unique ISBN. If you are releasing your book as a paperback, hardcover, or e-book, you will need three separate ISBNs. It helps retailers and libraries manage inventory and makes sure that readers can find your book in the format they prefer.   

2. Self-Publishing Platforms and ISBNs

As an indie author, you must know that some self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offer free ISBNs. Although it looks like a convenient option, there are some trade-offs. Such as the publisher listed with the platform (e.g. independently published” for KDP) rather than your own imprint. Owning your ISBN gives you more control and professional recognition.  

3. Barcodes

An ISBN is often accompanied by a barcode which is essential for physical sales. There are many ISBN agencies that provide the barcodes when you purchase the ISBNs or you can generate one separately by using the tools available online. A barcode is a way to make sure that your book can be scanned at retail points of sale.  

Maintaining Your ISBN Records

Once you have published your book, it is also essential that your ISBN records are up to date. If any detail about your book changes such as new editions or updated covers, then you must update the information with your ISBN agency. 

Also Read: Top 25 Literary Agents in the USA

it is the simplest way to keep yourself assured that the bookstores, libraries, and distributors with your ISBN have the most accurate and updated information about your book. 


So, now you know how to get an ISBN for a book. Indeed, obtaining an ISBN is important in the publishing process for indie authors. It is to ensure that your book can easily be found, tracked, and purchased by readers. 

Follow the guide to simplify the ISBN-obtaining procedure with confidence that your book is professionally published and ready to reach its audience. Step by step you can get an ISBN without much hassle and wasting time.