Part 6: ISBN, Imprint, Copyright

The Definitive Guide To Self Publishing

Tell The World!

This is another section where I am just going to cut to the chase. You’ve got your edited manuscript, your cover files, your Meta Data Doc, and you’re ready to let the world know that your book exists…or will exist soon!


International Standard Book Number. You need one for each unique format and edition of your book. I say “unique” because usually an edit to your book does not constitute an entirely new edition.

What requires their own unique ISBNs:

  • Hardcover (sometimes labeled Hardback)
  • Paperback
  • A different print size of either of the above
  • eBook
  • Same Book, New Cover
  • Addition of a forward, afterward, new chapters, illustrations, or other major changes to the narrative

What does NOT require a unique ISBN:

  • Typo edits
  • Minor changes to narrative
  • Changing the cover
  • File format or margin changes
  • If you are using multiple distributors (Don’t fret over this one, though. As a self publisher you technically are the distributor.)

How do you get your ISBNs?

There are ten million places to buy ISBNs online but its important to know that they all come from the exact same place: Bowker. The only things you’ll gain from buying ISBNs from another company are agreeing to confusing terms and being added to another spam email list. Just buy from Bowker.

Purchase ISBNs from Bowker Here

Once you purchase your ISBNs through Bowker, they have a neat account portal that you access and assign your ISBNs to the correct versions of your book(s). There are also many fields to enter your meta data so it’s a good thing you have that Meta Data Doc!

Do you need a Barcode?

Yes! For any PRINT version of your book, you can assign a unique ISBN to a unique, downloadable barcode. These will come in handy when a local book store wants to carry your book or if you have your own scanner with a service like Square because you’re a boss. This also ensures that you have full control over what’s printed on the back of your book.

*Tip: If you are planning to do a hardcover, paperback, and an eBook, you will need to buy 3 ISBNs and 2 barcodes.


As of 7/13/23, these are the basic pricing structures:

  • 1 ISBN: $125
  • 1 Barcode: $25
  • 10 ISBNs: $295

Note: I personally went with the 10 ISBN pricing because I know I’m publishing multiple books in multiple formats and then I purchased $25 barcodes as needed.

Heads Up!

ISBNs are tied to the publisher (you), not the printer/distributor (Amazon, Ingram, B&N, or whoever). This means that, as long as your book is in the same format, size, and edition, you can use the same ISBN and Barcode across multiple print services. There is no law against it.

Where things can get hairy is if a printer/distributor requires you to have a unique ISBN or gives you a warning saying “ISBN already used.” Depending on how much time and patience you have, you can contact their respective support channels hash it out or find little workarounds on the internet.

If you are choosing to publish anything through Ingram Spark, make sure you upload your titles there FIRST. For some reason, Ingram does not like when you try to add an ISBN that has already been used on Amazon KDP. It will force you to enter a new one or transfer the title to them exclusively. (Silly, I know. YOU are the publisher, not them.) Just in case, here is a good article explaining more in depth what to look for.


You know those cool little logos on the spines of all your favorite books? That little penguin from Penguin Random House, the lamp post from Back Bay Books, or the cardinal from SoDak Publishing are all examples of, well, imprints! If you too dream of one day having a cute little critter crawling up your spine (book spine, that is), then I’m here to tell you you can, and should, make it a reality.

By definition, “an imprint is a trade name under which it publishes work”. As a self publisher, you can do this under your own name, but I highly recommend going big and creating a formal entity. I will go over the nuts and bolts and the importance of forming your own LLC in Part 7, but for now just understand that it will help you separate your personal life from your publishing one.

If an imprint is something you’d like to pursue, start brainstorming now what you would like it to be. Think of it as your “company logo”. What type of graphic represents you and your work? For SoDak Publishing I chose a cardinal because the same northern cardinal has visited my yard every day for the past 4 years. My wife and I call him Cardi B. 😁

Things to remember:

  • Even though you’re not traditionally published, an imprint will make you look more professional, which in turn signals to readers that you give a damn and don’t just slap your novels together
  • Your imprint will appear on your book spine, on your title page, on your website, and other promotional materials you may need to create along the way
  • Make sure your imprint is clearly visible/recognizable at many different sizes (big and small)
  • Your imprint will (should) appear on every book you self-publish
  • Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day it’s just a little logo


Copyrighting can technically wait until you’re completely finished with your book, or even a year after it’s released, but I HIGHLY recommend you copyright your book at some point. Though you are protected by U.S. copyright laws (As noted in Part 4), having your novel officially registered with the Library of Congress means there will be no dispute. You also get a cool certificate in the mail!

To copyright your book, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website and follow their registration process (Make sure you have your Meta Doc handy!). It cost me $65.00 to copyright “Man, Kind” using the Standard Application.

You Now Exist!

Now that you’ve purchased your ISBNs, assigned your barcodes, and have given lots of thought towards designing your imprint, let’s move on to every author’s worst nightmare: Part 7: Business, Income, & Taxes…BOO!

*Note: This is a living guide, which means I will consistently make updates and improvements as new technology and resources become available!