Last week, I looked into the question of whether or not an ISBN is necessary to sell your book. While the answer was clear, no you do not NEED one, I thought it would be useful to add some pros and cons to both sides of the ISBN conundrum. So, let’s get started by first looking at the pros and cons of NOT having an ISBN when you are ready to sell your book.

Pros and Cones of NOT having an ISBN

Pros:

  • You don’t need to have print books in bookstores in order for readers to find your stories.
  • You can go to all 5 of the major eBook retailers (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and GooglePlay) to sell your book.
  • Data about who has bought your book, where they bought it from, author rank, etc. can all be seen through Author Central.
  • Amazon and Apple both provide graphs and data on your book sales, and you can see near real-time data for all Exciting Press titles.
  • You can make Amazon’s best-seller lists (i.e. Top 10, Top 100, etc.) without ever having an ISBN attached to your book.

Cons:

  • You will not be found in most bookstores, whether online or in your neighborhood, without an ISBN.
  • You will not be able to have your books in libraries.
  • Many publishing and supply chain systems are based on ISBN information.
  • ISBNs are required for electronic point-of-sale systems in stores.

Pros and Cones of HAVING an ISBN

Pros:

  • You can have a free ISBN and list a publisher like CreateSpace and you will not lose any rights to your book.
  • You have the option to get one FREE! Excellent pro-point if you are on a tight budget.
  • If you go with a free ISBN, there are many self-published authors who would recognize a name like CreateSpace, and many of their friends, family, and coworkers support the self-publishing spirit.
  • A free ISBN through CreateSpace can sell through Amazon, Amazon’s European websites, CreateSpace eStore, and all expanded distribution channels.
  • If you already have a publishing company or imprint and you plan on publishing multiple books in multiple formats, you can save money and buy a block of ISBNs rather than purchasing them one by one.
  • IngramSpark offers discounted ISBNs when you get a membership with them.
  • ISBNs allow different product forms and editions of books to be clearly differentiated. This will help to ensure that customers receive exactly the version they want or need when ordering your book.
  • Information on your books can be found easily.
  • Book ordering and distribution is fast and efficient.
  • Accumulation of sales data is tracked, which allows varying successes of different product forms & editions to be monitored. This also allows comparisons between different subject areas and different publishing houses.

Cons:

  • If you go with a free ISBN, whoever you go with will be listed as the publisher on record. You will have CreateSpace or Amazon listed, for example, rather than your own publishing imprint if you have one.
  • A free ISBN will create a red flag that your book has been self-published. This could be bad news if you are trying to blend in with traditional publishing, get into bookstores & libraries, or get noticed by people who do not review self-published books.
  • A free ISBN can’t go with you if you switch printers.
  • If you have a free ISBN and you DO decide to switch printers, it can be difficult to get a new ISBN for a book already in print. There are ways to retire an edition previously sold through CreateSpace, but it will remain on their list and you will still have to pay for a new ISBN for each edition you choose to distribute through your new printer.
  • Having your book listed in databases through ISBN information for easy retrieval and sold at competitive rates does not guarantee you will sell more copies. Publicity is still necessary, and getting noticed can be just as difficult with an ISBN as it can be without one.
  • Using a free ISBN is only good if you plan on publishing only one book and in only one format. If you plan on publishing multiple books, multiple editions for a book, or multiple formats for a book, then free is off the table since you will need an ISBN for each book, edition, and format that you publish.

So there you have it. Nice, neat, and to the point. If you are someone who likes to weigh their decisions carefully, take a look at side by side comparisons of good vs. bad, or just someone who likes it laid out for them in short, organized lists, then you should find this post of some, or possibly even great, use to you in the ISBN decision-making process


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