SelfPublished: Deciding Whether or Not to Have a Paid ISBN Number for Your Newly Published Book Title

SelfPublished:  Deciding Whether or Not to Have a Paid ISBN Number for Your Newly Published Book Title

If you’re a self-published author, you may be wondering how to decide whether you should have a paid ISBN number for your newly published book title.

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I recently published “Skipping Childhood:  A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer).”  You can find this dark urban drama in Amazon’s Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category.  You might be surprised to learn that in addition to the suspense element, my novel is also a coming of age story.  It chronicles the life of a twelve-year-old girl who resorts to murder and turns into a borderline sociopath.

When I released the book this past December, I struggled with the idea of whether or not to purchase an ISBN for the Skipping Childhood title.  I had to go back and read some information I posted over two years ago concerning this issue.  After considering all the facts about obtaining my own paid ISBN, I decided to wait for now.  I will, however, be giving the topic much more consideration, especially with regard to buying a block of ISBN numbers from the Bowker website.  The following details and comments from the “experts” may help you understand a little more about free versus paid ISBN numbers.

ISBN Facts

  • The ISBN number is actually internationally accepted as the “standard book number” for a publication.
  • It appears on the detail page and it is there for a reason; to identify that particular, unique version of your book.
  • An ISBN number for your print book will not be the same as your digital book.
  • If a book appears in different languages, you need to have an ISBN for each language version.  The same is true if you create another edition.

Free ISBN

Publishers such as Smashwords and Amazon/Kindle (also distributors), do not require your new digital book to have an ISBN number.

The reason that mandatory because they will assign a “free” number to the title; one that will also help them to catalogue the book according to their own procedures.  Since the “free” number is specific to whichever publisher happens to publish your book, you will usually get a warning about using it with different publishers.

This kind of makes you wonder whether or not multiple numbers will end up causing confusion?  Bowker (ISBN.org) is the official site for everything pertaining to ISBN numbers.  Here is what they had to say on the issue.  “If an ISBN is obtained from a company other than the official ISBN Agency, that ISBN will not identify the publisher of the title accurately.”  Bowker is the official source for ISBNs in the United States.

From their statements, we can “assume” that it makes more sense to pay for your own ISBN number.  Paying for your own will allow you to use the same one for all your digital publishers.

While this may be the case, you still have another dilemma; whether to use a free, versus paid number for the PRINT version of your book.

ISBN for Print Books

Print books do not share the same ISBN number as their digital counterpart, even when you pay for the ISBN.

If you prefer purchasing your own ISBN number for your newly published title, you will need to buy two; one for your print version and one for your digital book.

ISBN Prices

You will spend no less than $10 for each ISBN if you buy them one at a time.

You can select the more expensive option of about $99 (or more) for a block of numbers.  ISBNs are sold in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000.  The price per ISBN decreases, the larger the block that you purchase.

Important Considerations

The ISBN publisher prefix is considered the “root” of the ISBN number.  It identifies a single publisher; that is why, if another publisher subsequently obtains that same ISBN from the assigned publisher’s block of ISBNs, the publisher of record will remain the same.

That means that when someone searches the industry databases for the number, it will identify the original person as the owner of the ISBN number, even though it has been re-assigned.  Ultimately, this can lead to the huge expense of applying for a new prefix, and re-assigning a new ISBN.

For print books, it could also lead to ISBN stickers being applied to books that are already printed and in circulation

Notice what the Bowker, the experts and final authority on the issue, stated to new authors and self-publishers:

If you are a new publisher you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above. There are unauthorized re-sellers of ISBNs and this activity is a violation of the ISBN standard and of industry practice. A publisher with one of these re-assigned ISBNs will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books In Print or any of the industry databases such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon or those of wholesalers such as Ingram. If you have questions, contact the US ISBN Agency for further advice.

ISBN.org by Bowker

Since ISBNs are sold in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000, Bowker suggests you estimate the amount of publications that you will be publishing (as much as five years in advance), then purchase the block that will suit your purposes best.  For exact details on purchasing your own block of ISBN numbers for future use, visit their myidentifiers.com site.

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Promoting Your New Book Title with Amazon Marketing Services (Update)

The Amazon Marketing Services available for KDP authors might be just the boost you need to help gain more book exposure. You get to create an enticing book ad and have it displayed in a couple of ways.

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As any author with a newly published title knows; gaining exposure for your book can be difficult, especially in the very beginning.  The Amazon Marketing Services offer a couple of different ways for you to try and increase your odds for exposure.  Those two ways are by means of creating promotional ad campaigns for your book title; either a Sponsored Products ad campaign or a Product Display ad campaign.

Tweaking the Ads is Important

So far, what I’ve discovered about both types of ads is that you have to keep tweaking them in order to come up with the right dynamics.  I’ve purchased both types, and so far, I’ve started and stopped a few different campaigns.  I’ve also allow a couple to run to completion (just two days each).  I won’t try and explain the difference in the two ads, and how the campaigns need to be set up, because honestly, I’ve yet to get the hang of things.  The basic difference in the two are:

  • Sponsored Products Ads allow you to select targeted keywords
  • Product Display Ads allow your ad to be displayed with similar or related products

I’m currently running two different Ad campaigns.  In the screenshot below, it shows all the campaigns I’ve run, even those that have ended, been terminated or paused.  There are only two active ones right now.  One is the Sponsored Products ad (Yellow), the other is the Product Display ad, (Red).  As you can see, the more than 17,000 impressions where my ad was visible has gained me 31 actual clicks.  I’ve paid a total of $13.64 for those clicks, but none of the clicks have led to actual sales.

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As for the other ad, it did even worse.  There were only 1593 impressions of my ad, and they only gained me 3 clicks, and once again, I can only assume that no sales were gained because my total number of sales on the other Report page did not increase.

Possible Benefits of Amazon Marketing Services

I could very easily assume that neither ad is doing me any good, if it weren’t for one more important stat that I’ve noticed.  On my page where the book sales are reported, I’ve been noticing something I never noticed before.  The KENP pages.  This refers to pages of your book that have been read and you somehow gain a portion of the “global fund”.  In order to be eligible, your book must be enrolled in the KDP Select program at the time, as well as having received allowable page reads.

I’ve always gotten notices about this fund, but don’t recall ever having any qualifying book reads, until now.  Since the number has been gradually rising, I decided to document the number so I can try and determine just how much this number is increasing.  I also suspect that maybe the ad campaign is affecting this number.  I guess I’ll need to keep a tight eye on this development, and let you readers know more in the future.

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While I usually ignore the email from Amazon about the “global fund”, the next time I receive a notice, I’ll pay more attention to what it says.  I’m pretty sure I’ve read that eligible authors earn a portion of this fund, in addition to our regular royalties.  If your reports don’t show any number in this area, it means that none of your titles have qualified “normalized page reads” to earn you any cash from this fund.  Apparently, I never noticed this area before, because I never had any qualified page reads.

As best as I can understand (according to details I’ve read), the fact that Skipping Childhood now has 679 qualified page reads is not that big a deal to get excited about.  It is simply equivalent to a little more than two people reading the entire book when you consider that there are about 253 pages (according to Amazon, so I’m guessing that’s digital pages).  Of course I could be understanding this whole thing wrong.  But as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad that at least people somewhere are reading the book, even if the sales and reviews don’t seem to reflect it.  I look forward to providing more details in the future on what the KENP global fund is all about.

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Book Marketing Blues: There’s More to Publishing a Book than Simply Writing it!

Many NANO authors and other indie authors with new releases will often come down with a case of the book marketing blues.

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This happens when authors complete their manuscripts, only to discover that there’s much more to publishing a book than simply getting the writing done.  Marketing and promotion is really where all the hard work comes in.  No one wants to hear it, including me, but the reality is; it’s not unusual for a new title to take up to two years before starting to gain some momentum.  All the experts say that even this kind of timeline will be dependent on just how much time the author is willing to devote to marketing.

The above viewpoint, and slight variations of it seem to be all I hear when it comes to having a successful novel.  It seems almost unbearable, the amount of hard work that goes into trying to gain exposure and recognition for something that you’ve already poured your soul into.  The challenge to try and get your book into someone’s hand, and then have them talk about it continues to get harder and harder.

Comes with the Territory

For unknown or unpopular authors and titles, the book marketing blues basically comes with the territory.  No matter how excited you are to finally upload your work and publish your book; be prepared to have a little air let out of your sails.  Just like the thousands of NANO writers who completed this year’s challenge, I too released a new title on December 1, 2016.  The book, Skipping Childhood:  A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer) is now available exclusively on Amazon, via their KDP Select program.  Since that time, I’ve been monitoring book sales, while trying out a number of different ad campaigns and book marketing services.  The results are far less better than I anticipated.

Although I didn’t participate in NANO, I have no doubt that lots of those writers are probably facing the same book marketing blues that I’m having myself.   This is especially true when you’re a first time author, but even though this is my second novel, the whole marketing situation is still discouraging.  I learned two years ago (when my first novel:  “Experimenting with Murder” was released) just how foolish it is to expect your numbers to soar overnight.  It didn’t’ happen then, and it’s not happening with “Skipping Childhood”.

Stay Focused

One thing I’m determined to do this time around is to stay focused on the big picture; which is to always be writing.  When you’re so wrapped up into trying to market one product, it can make you lose sight of your actual brand.  I believe that my “Charm Baker” brand is good enough that people will love it, once they actually discover it.  So I can’t afford to put all my efforts into marketing just the first, second, third, or even fourth novel.

Out of all the book marketing methods I’ve read about in order to help gain more book sales, is the method of “creating another book, and another, and another…”  That is a philosophy that makes sense to me and definitely one that makes me feel positive about the outcome.  I’d rather be doing something proactive, than simply waiting around for people to find my book and buy it.  There’s nothing more proactive than writing another one.  That’s why, believe it or not, I’m just about ready to sit down and get started on a sequel to “Skipping Childhood”.

My plan is to continue talking about and marketing my newest release, but not to waste any time starting the next book.  So far, I’ve posted and positioned “Skipping Childhood” in many of the same places that most new authors submit to:  Goodreads, Kindle Boards, etc…  I’m using both paid and non-paid book marketing services, and I’m doing what I can in the way of social media (although this is probably my least effective resource).

Some authors really benefit from social media book marketing, those who have a large following on one or more popular sites.  I personally believe you can end up wasting your time and efforts on social media if you don’t really have a following.  I’ve lost time and energy trying to navigate social media sites that I don’t ordinarily interact on.  I think it’s important that each author focus on book marketing activities that are not foreign to them and that they actually enjoy.  These are the things that you’ll continue to do on a regular basis.

Prevent the Blues

You can prevent yourself from getting the book marketing blues if you find effective activities that you really enjoy.  If you enjoy making videos and want to market and promote your book in that way, than get good at doing that.  You don’t have to try EVERY book marketing activity that you read about; just the ones you actually want to do.  For instance, I operate a blog called:  “Skipping Childhood (Ramblings)” and it is a companion blog to my book.  The whole blog is devoted to topics related to the book, but it allows me to do what I love best; talk, share, and give my opinion on things.  My “ramblings” on the blog cover all kinds of thought provoking issues, all related to my book in one way or another.

I’ve given myself a whole long list of topics to choose from whenever I write a post for the Skipping Childhood blog.  The cool thing is, everything I discuss all comes back to the book, including the characters and scenes it contains.  This is one way that I’ve found to help get rid of my book marketing blues.  I feel confident I’ll stick to it, even if I tire out and stop doing all the other marketing activities.  This kind of close scrutiny of the book has helped me discover so many new things about the topics, about myself, and even about the book’s characters.  I look forward to this type of marketing each day, instead of dreading it.

Now, what about you?  How will you chase those book marketing blues away, now that your new title is published?  Feel free to share your thoughts.

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Amazon Book Review Policy: Blessing or a Malediction

Amazon’s new book review policy makes it really difficult for some new authors and titles to get highly coveted reviews.

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I say “new” policy, because quite frankly, it’s new to me, although it must have been implemented within the past two years.  The main issue is the fact that people who purchase a product (particularly a book for purposes of this conversation) need to have spent at least $50 in purchases on Amazon.  Not $50 in one purchase, but no less than that amount prior to leaving a review.  Personally, I think that sucks.

Quality Assurance

I’m sure that Amazon feels their policy is about quality assurance, and I can respect that.  When it comes to acquiring honest and legitimate reviews, I’m all for it – 100% and any author who really cares about their work and reputation probably feel the same way.  But I fail to see why a person who chooses to support an author by purchasing a book and following up with a review has to be a regular Amazon customer.

Any individuals who choose to try and defraud the system with bogus reviews aren’t hindered by this issue; not when they already have a budget in place for this type of deception.  It seems to me that the people who are most adversely affected by this are the authors who lose out on much needed reviews because some of their readers have no particular loyalty to Amazon.

I mention this point because my sister is an AVID reader, only she has a Nook (Amazon/Kindle competitor).  The more than two thousand dollars she’s spent over the years on books go to Barnes & Noble, or Audiobooks, not Amazon.  In the past, I’ve been hesitant about asking family and friends to support my writing.  Now that I’ve published: Skipping Childhood:  A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer), I’ve been busy rallying the troops to buy and review the book.  A dark urban drama about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. From child abuse to murder, the suspense mounts after each killing.

VIEW BOOK TRAILER

I had my sister set up an Amazon account and make her purchase there, but three days later after finishing the book, she wasn’t allowed to leave a review, due to the aforementioned policy.  I’m concerned now, because she won’t be the only one from my support system that has this problem.  So I guess I’m screwed on getting reviews from those I knew I could count on.  BUMMER!

Hands are Tied

With so many strict rules and regulations regarding acquiring reviews, the average new author and his/her titles have little to no chance of being discovered.  Most of those really creative ways that you come up with to obtain a review are now a “no no” with Amazon.  No review swapping and certainly no purchased reviews are tolerated.  This has really got some of our hands tied.  If any authors out there have found any ALLOWABLE solutions, feel free to comment below.

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New Amazon Authors: Do You Know What You Write and Who You Write For?

There is one all-important thing that I have come to appreciate about writing a book. It is important to know from the very beginning, as well as during the middle and at the end of the process, just exactly what you are writing and who you are writing for.  I know you’re probably thinking “Duh? That goes without saying.”  Or maybe something like, “I already know this”, or “Yeah, I’ve heard this before.”  Well even if you have heard it before, you’d better be good and certain that you fully understand what it means by the time you get to the end of the writing process.  Besides recognizing and understanding this point, you also need to apply it.

NOTICE THESE AMAZON CATEGORIES AND HOW MANY LEVELS DEEP THE SUBCATEGORIES CAN GO

amazon-category-structureIn the above example, you might lose out if you’re some kind of “epic” writing genius and you only list your title in the more broader “Romance / Science Fiction” category.

What are you writing?

I speak from experience, because this isn’t the first time that I have finished a complete novel and though I thought I was writing one thing, I later discovered that I had actually ended up writing something else.  Not something worse, just something different.

Finding this information out long after the fact can end up being detrimental to getting exposure for your book’s title.  I’ll save the details about my first experience with this for another time.  Right now, this conversation is specific to my new book:  “Skipping Childhood:  A Novel” (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer).

This dark urban drama about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship starts with child abuse but ends in murder.  The suspense mounts after each killing and a neglected 12-year-old fights to survive abandonment and foster care.

I wrote this book with all the enthusiasm of an author who is writing a dark thriller, full of suspense. But while Skipping Childhood has thrilling elements as well as elements of suspense, there is also another major focus.  It is the child abuse and the dynamics of the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship.

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In searching through the different Amazon categories, I came across the parenting and relationship option, which also offers two additional subcategories; abuse and child abuse.  Taking advantage of this particular category may prove to be a lot more beneficial to my title.  Not only is this category more specific to the book’s content, it is also a category that is not as broad as the urban, or thriller and suspense categories which are extremely popular. (More about this in the KDP section below)

On Amazon, listing your title in a category that has less competition means you have the possibility of your book receiving a higher ranking for that specific category.  Your potential to rank among the top 100 in that category is much more increased. This of course will get your book title more coverage and visibility than if you were at the bottom of a popular category.

So before you start to go with the mainstream and get buried in too broad of a category, you may want to think in terms of targeting a smaller niche subcategory. Since Amazon allows you to select two categories, you can even go with one broad category that matches your book’s content, as well as the more closely targeted niche.  This is what I recently did with Skipping Childhood.  The changes just became effective so I’ll try to watch the progress, although now, I also have some other variables to be considered.  (More about this in the KDP section below)

Who are you writing for?

Just because you’re smart enough to determine what you are writing doesn’t automatically mean you realize who you’re writing for.  One of the things that helped me to determine what it was that I had actually written (after the fact), was the blog that I created as a companion to my book.

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My Skipping Childhood (Ramblings) blog has helped me to take a good, long, and thorough look at the focus of my novel and what is driving the story.  This is when I was able to recognize how much the complex relationships between the characters stood out.  The blog has given me a valid reason to discuss the book on a regular basis, and a platform I feel strongly committed to.  As I began to interact and get feedback on book-related blog posts, I get closer to the people that my writing is for.  This doesn’t mean that readers who love urban drama and suspense novels can’t or won’t find me; it just means that those who prefer other aspects of the book will find me as well.

RECENT “”Skipping Childhood (Ramblings) BLOG POSTS:

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KDP select

Since the December 1st release of Skipping Childhood:  A Novel, there has been one decision that I wrestled with concerning distribution.  I hesitated on whether or not to submit the title to KDP select.  I’ve used it in the past, and did not experience the success that I imaged I would.  That is why I really hate the idea of tying up my new title for 3 months and making it exclusive to Amazon.  Nonetheless, I decided to do it anyway, especially since I’m prepared to do a whole lot more marketing of this title.  I’m determined to master the strategies of becoming a best-selling author on Amazon so now is as good a time to start as any.

Here’s the dilemma that I created for myself before thinking about it more.  Not only did I sign up for KDP Select, but I also started running another Amazon Marketing Campaign (the other one was short-lived because the keywords were off).  I also chose to run a promotion for two free days.  So now, I have:

  • New book category
  • New keywords
  • Amazon Ad Marketing campaign (2 days)
  • Free Days promotion (2 days)

I think I may be doing too many things at one time.  If something actually works, it may be difficult to determine what it was.  That means I’ll need to pay close attention to my Amazon stats so I’ll know how to duplicate an activity that actually succeeds.  By next week this time when I post again to this blog, I’ll have something more about this to report.