Why You May Need Different ISBNs

Cover illustration by Wesley Lowe. Cover design by Good Oak Press, LLC

Some first-time authors find ISBN numbers confusing. It’s actually quite simple. An ISBN is an identification number for a book.

Why you need an ISBN number

If you plan on selling your book, (and who isn’t?) the book seller will need the ISBN number. It’s also included in the barcodes. Every item we buy has a barcode number. I’m even seeing little barcode stickers on fresh produce. The days of cashiers punching prices into a cash register by hand are long gone.  An ISBN number is also required if you plan on selling your books online.

How to get an ISBN number

I purchase my ISBN numbers in bulk from Bowker. They sell them individually, or in lots of ten to one thousand. I prefer to buy mine in lots of ten. It comes to just under thirty dollars per number. The bigger the lot, the less per number. If you were to buy one thousand, each would cost a dollar and fifty cents. However, as prolific of an author as I am, I don’t think I could write a thousand books in my lifetime. Therefore, I will stick with buying lots of ten.

Please note the ISBN number is registered to the publisher. I registered a trade name with the State of Arizona when I started writing books. (As I was living in Arizona at the time.) Again, I highly recommend this, as it will make you look more professional. However, if you don’t want to take this step, you may want to consider partnership publishing. The partnership publisher will assign you one of their ISBN numbers.

Bowker has included other services since I first started working with them. They now offer copyright registration, cover design, as well as many others. I highly recommend them.

Some book selling platforms also offer ISBN numbers. This includes Amazon and Draft2Digital. When I left Ingram, I needed new ISBN numbers for my print books. Even through I purchased then from Bowker, Ingram was the original distributor. For whatever reason, it created an issue with Draft2Digital, but they offered me free ISBN numbers for their print editions. The Amazon editions still use the original ISBN numbers I purchased from Bowker.

When you need more than one ISBN number

Most authors will publish an eBook and print edition of their book. Some may also offer an audiobook. However, each edition requires its own ISBN number. Print editions may also require additional numbers, as a hardcover book differs from a paperback. While each version may have the same publisher, each edition is a different product. Therefore it is unique. The same rule applies if you were to offer a second edition of an older title. Because the content is different from the original, it will need a differet ISNB number.

Buyer Beware

There are, unfortunately, a lot of bad actors out there taking advantage of newbie authors. One common scam is to offer free or highly discounted ISBN numbers. The numbers are either fake, or they may have been assigned to a book which is no longer in print. Only buy an ISBN number from a trusted source, such as Bowker. As mentioned before, some distributors, such as Amazon or Draft2Digital may offer free ISBN numbers. However, there may be limitations to the distribution channels.

Make sure your happy with your title before you assign an ISBN

Once you assign an ISBN number to a book title, the title cannot be changed. I typically assign my print edition ISBN number to my manuscript while I am writing. However, I have not yet done so with the current book I’m working on. When writing fiction, you’ll find that characters can have minds of their own. This means they will sometimes take a story in a different direction than originally planned, as is the case here.  So, for now, I’m considering the title, Rivalry, as a working title only. Once the manuscript is complete, I’ll ask my editor if she thinks the title fits the story. If so, great. If not, then I haven’t blown $29.50 on an ISBN number which I may never be able to use.

Gayle Martin

 

From the Writter’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

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Why I No Longer Use Ingram Spark

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Once upon a time, there were two book distributing services in the United States. Ingram, and Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes to schools and libraries. Ingram distributes to book sellers.

The book publishing industry began to change in the early 21st century. Personal computers were becoming more sophisticated and more affordable. At the same time, new software was allowing people to publish from home. It even had a name. Desktop publishing.

So along came Lightning Source

Ingram created subsidiary called Lightning Source, although I’m not exactly sure when this came about. However, I first heard of Lightning Source in 2003, after I wrote my first Luke and Jenny novel. My original publisher used Lightning Source for their distribution.

I began working with Lightning Source directly in 2011, when I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. At the time, they were a fantastic company to work with. They were there to help you succeed. If you had any question or concerns, or if you just needed a little help uploading a file, they were only a phone call away.

Then came Ingram Spark

A new subsidiary, Ingram Spark, came along a few years later. It worked with independent, or self-published authors, so I migrated to the new site. Same company, same great customer service. I had a long and happy business relationship with both subsidiaries for over a decade

Unfortunately, times have changed, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been for the better. It all started when I was having some serious log in issues with my account. No matter what I did, nothing would fix it. It’s a rather long, complicated story, so I’ll sum it up by saying that after much frustration and many emails back and forth, I was told the problem was fixed. Only it wasn’t fixed. The issue still persisted.

Why I Left Ingram Spark

Ingram Spark is longer the helpful company I signed on with back in 2011. They have discontinued telephone support. Tech support is only available by email only. Unfortunately, the more complicated the issue, the more difficult it is to resolve it by email alone.

The initial response to the emails I sent always asked me for information I had already included in the original email, along with a screenshot. For example, if someone named Bill responded to my first email,  I’d reply with a, “Dear Bill.” Then would repeat everything I had described in the original email, along with another screenshot. Next thing I knew, I would get a response from Sally, asking me the same questions Bill had asked. So where was Bill? I thoughtI was working with someone named Bill. So, once again, I’m having to rewrite my original question and attach yet another screen. The next response came from Marco, who, like Sally, had never bothered to read the earlier emails.

Having to describe the same issue over and over again only made matters worse, and after awhile you realize they don’t give a damn about helping you. As a result, the issue was never resolved. Sometimes you need to communicate in person, but I no longer had that option. There came a point when it finally became a deal breaker. Thankfully, there are now some alternatives.

I recently learned that one of my author friends has never used Ingram Spark. This came as a big surprise. He’s been writing books longer than I have, and he has built himself a good following. He distributes his books through Amazon’s KDP Publishing, Draft2Digital, and SmashWords. So, I’ve  changing course too. I’ve closed out my Ingram Spark account for good.

Kindle Direct Publishing

As we all know, the Amazon Kindle has been a game changer. I started publishing my ebook editions directly with Amazon shortly after the Kindle came on the market. The platform easy to use, and I could upload my files for free. However, I had never published a print edition with KDP Direct. That all changed with my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. When I uploaded the print edition to KDP Direct I found it was almost as easy as uploading an eBook.

I admit I was a little concerned about the printing quality, but after receiving my first author’s copies, I can find no difference between KDP and Ingram. Both companies produce good quality print books. The only difference is that Amazon does not charge you a fee to upload your files. You upload them for free. So why spend money when you don’t have to?

Amazon also has outstanding customer service. You can contact them by phone, email or chat. I’ve found their phone support to be friendly and helpful. No long waits on hold either. You enter your phone number, and they will call you back. They will also work with you until the problem is fixed.

Other Book Distributors

I’ve started distributing my eBook editions through Draft2Digital. They offer virtually the same eBook distribution as Ingram Spark. My eBook editions are now available for the Barnes& Noble Nook, Sony and Kobo eReaders, Apple Books, and others. There is no fee to upload your files, and their customer support is available by phone or email. Draft2Digital is also merging with SmashWords, and I will soon be distributing my print editions with them as well.

Ingram Spark is by far the winner when it comes to convenience. Those who don’t want the hassle of having to upload their files to multiple accounts may think the forty dollar upload fee worth it. To each their own. Unfortunately, because of all the grief they have caused me, I’ve decided they simply aren’t worth headache, and I’d rather keep the forty dollars in my own pocket. I can only hope, for their sake, that they will take whatever steps are necessary to improve their customer service. They lost a loyal, long-term  customer when they lost me, and somehow I doubt I’m the only one. All I can say is I won’t be coming back.

Gayle Martin

UPDATE: Smashwords and Draft2Digital have merged. If you are using D2D they will now publish your books on Smashwords.

 

Print Books or eBooks?

The Amazon Kindle and other ebook readers have certainly changed the way people buy books. Ebooks certainly have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded. You can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. Ebooks are also more affordable. At least they used to be, once upon a time. When ebooks first hit the scene, they typically cost a few dollars, but not so much anymore. In fact, nowadays some eBooks cost almost as much as print editions. 

Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those with vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read. And who among us hasn’t been disappointed upon finding their device has a dead battery. Ugh! I’ve so been there and done that.

I publish a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans, so I took a survey from my subscribers. Did they prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. I was told that when if comes to fiction, most readers prefer ebooks. However, while not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.

Is the ebook fad finally coming to an end? Somehow I doubt it. There are still plenty of people out there who prefer ebooks, so I’ll continue publishing both Kindle ebook and print editions of my books. And in case you’re wondering, I personally prefer print books. They’re low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.

Gayle Martin