Before you publish on Amazon, you need an ISBN number for your book. (International Standard Book Number). Any published book needs one of these numbers if you want to market it at all. It makes the book uniquely identifiable. To get one, you have to go through R.W. Bowker, the only agency licensed to issue ISBNs in the USA.
As of January 1, 2007, all newly issued ISBNs have 13 digits. Prior to that, they had ten and the old numbers can be converted free of charge on the highly confusing Bowker website (www.bowker.com). Now, when you buy an ISBN, you get one in each format. I think you also get a bar code, but I haven’t had to deal with that yet.
As I mentioned earlier, many people choose to use electronic publishers to help them get their book online, and I am beginning to understand why. For one thing, by using a publisher, you get your ISBN directly from them and don’t have to get your own. That, in itself, is almost enough reason to hand over part of your percentage to them.
I have a feeling that as things go along, I will discover many more reasons why using a publisher is an easier route. I like to do things the hard way, though.
To begin with, let me say that buying my ISBN took up the better part of a day. This was mainly due to Bowker’s poor service. As with all monopolies, they just don’t care. I finally found salvation toward the end of the day with “Serge,” their Ukranian techie, who made things work where they hadn’t before. He said it was “magic.”
When I registered, they said I was already a customer. I have never ordered a number or anything else from them. I accepted the fact that they knew my email address somehow, and tried a variety of my common passwords. None worked, so I sent in a Lost Password notification. They said it would come back in my email, but it never did. NEVER DID.
So then, I tried to register as a new account using a different email address. It would not accept the registration, for some reason. I finished the form, but their system didn’t accept the form. When I pressed Upload (or whatever), nothing happened.
In the late afternoon, I started trying to reach them. I sent a note to tech support but they didn’t respond, so I called them in New Jersey, and no one answered the phone. I left a detailed message. After waiting a while, I called the Sales department, who also wasn’t there.
Then I tried tech support live chat, which just disappeared as soon as I typed my question. It never came back.
Amazing. Does everyone have to go through this? Not only was the site kafka-esque, but it just flat-out didn’t work at almost every turn.
I called tech support again and got a recording, so I left a rather desperate message. A few minutes later, my knight in shining armor, Serge, called, and walked me through the website, adjusting things on his end to pave the way. He was actually getting the system to accept my data by doing god-knows-what at his end.
Now that I have an account, I think it might be easier to use the site if Iwent back for another ISBN.
Other websites had told me that in order to be a publisher, you had to buy a block of ten ISBNs (about $250). But the Bowker site said that buying just one still made me a publisher, so that’s what I did. The site said that one number cost $25 but it turned out to be $125 if you wanted to be listed in commonly used book searches and reference databases, which is a major reason to get the ISBN in the first place.
Then I had fun filling out all the incomprehensible Bowker forms for info about my company and my book. I named my publishing company Intelligent Life and made my book a reality by putting in the searchable keywords, defining the approximate size, publication date, and so forth. It was pretty exciting.
So thank you to Serge, or it wouldn’t have happened.
Now all I have to do is finish the book and then I can confront the next challenge – uploading to Amazon. It looks simple, but I am deeply suspicious.