For Children’s Writers: All About ISBNs

For Children’s Writers: All About ISBNs

In case you are a children’s writer and are thinking of self-publication, there are a few technical things that you need to get right. One of these is ISBN. So, what is ISBN and what do you need to know about it?

Basics of ISBN 

Don’t be intimidated by the formidable looking abbreviation. It’s a simple enough concept.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s an international system of identifying books, with a differ­ent unique identifier being assigned to each separate edition of a published book.

Let’s take a look at the use of ISBNs for the book Matilda by Roald Dahl. The paperback and hardcover of the book Matilda are two different editions. So the paperback version and the hardcover version will have different and unique ISBN for each.  This will ensure that readers searching for the hardcover version of Matilda don’t end up with the paperback instead.

One Format, One ISBN

Each format requires a unique ISBN. So if a book is published in all formats, the list of ISBNs used for the book may look like this:

Paperback : ISBN 9780141314501

Hardcover : ISBN 9780141314512

Kindle :      ISBN 9780141314523

ePUB :       ISBN 9780141314534

PDF :           ISBN 9780141314545

For a more detailed explanation of the numbers in ISBN, check this link.

Do you really need to buy ISBN?

Many publisher services companies and print on demand vendors offer free ISBN as a part of their service. But then “free” ISBN will always identify the company and not the writer as the publisher. And this is likely to cause trouble for a writer who wants to switch to a different printer. So, if you want to keep control over your manuscript, it is better to invest in buying your own ISBN. Here is the link to the agency that issues ISBNs in UK.

What is the Barcode?

The ISBN for a book appears as the barcode on the back of the book. The barcode is just a scan able version of the ISBN. The barcodes can be supplied by the printer; alternately there are plenty of vendors who supply them at minimal cost.  Or you can contact for the service.

When is an ISBN not necessary?

If you plan to publish or self-publish a book only for family and friends. Or you plan to sell it yourself to a limited audience, during a personal presentation or at gatherings, then your book does not require an ISBN.

For the last word on ISBN, before you make up your mind, here some notes from a publisher.
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