Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Business of Writing: ISBNs and Imprints #MFRWOrg #ASMSG

Today on The Maze:
ISBNs and Imprints demystified!

Still-Life with Books
by an unknown Dutch Master, ca 1620
public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
ISBN: The acronym for International Standard Book Number, a unique commercial book identifier that is now most commonly 13 digits. Buy them in bulk from Bowker -- why? Because each edition (e-book, paperback, hardcover, graphic novel, etc.) needs a separate ISBN, which will chew through them fast if you are creating several editions of the same title.

To clarify: You do not need to assign a separate ISBN to the same manuscript file you publish via different e-book platforms (e.g., KDP, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, GooglePlay, Smashwords, Draft2Digital). Even when the requirements differ for the inclusion of licensing notes, you can still assign the same ISBN because the edition of the story itself is identical across e-reader platforms.

Furthermore, if your plan is to distribute only via Amazon, then you do not need to buy an ISBN for your e-book because Amazon's internal ASIN suffices as a substitute, and you can obtain a free ISBN from Amazon if you release the print edition via Createspace. That said, there has been a recent change to European VAT law -- not yet adopted by all EU members -- that allows for the VAT to not be deducted from your royalty if your e-book has an ISBN.

Decisions, decisions!

If you can afford to lay out $600 (give or take) for a clutch of 100 ISBNs, that's the most economical route short of buying 1000 or more. Bowker's next lowest bulk tier is 10 ISBNs for $295 as of this writing. But unless you're going to print your books via your local print shop, do NOT bother to buy the barcode they try to sell you. (More on those reasons in a future article, when I give my US$0.02 about book covers.)

And if you really and truly do want to buy a barcode, please contact me first. :D

Imprints: An "imprint" is simply publisher-speak for a label to define a body of work. Traditional publishers, such as Simon & Schuster, have established imprints for decades. For example, my first novel, Dawnflight, was published in 1999 by Sonnet Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. And the process for establishing an imprint isn't as onerous as you might believe.
  1. Decide on a catchy name for your imprint (e.g., Pendragon Cove Press).
  2. Do your homework to make sure someone else hasn't already decided that it's a catchy name (e.g., Pendragon Cove Press is my imprint). "Homework" includes any or all of the following steps, depending on how big of a network reach you wish for your imprint to claim:
    • Searching for the name on a book e-tailer site such as Amazon (these are the search results for Pendragon Cove Press). This step is a must.
    • Performing a "Whois" lookup, if you're also interested in snagging the domain(s). For now, points to this blog; that's all you need to do too, if you don't have time to set up a separate web presence.
    • Searching Gmail, Ymail, and so forth if you want to claim the imprint's name for one or more email accounts.
    • Searching for your desired imprint's name on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  3. Send an email to Bowker requesting that the name be added to their Imprints database. They include a "mailto:" link for this purpose on the page for defining sales & prices when you're setting up your book title's ISBN information. I don't know what their response time is today, but a Bowker representative got my Pendragon Cove Press imprint established within 24 hours last year.
It's that easy!

Once your imprint is established, then it will display as an option for assigning in your book's "publisher" field on the product page, rather than your name, which blares the "I Am an Indie Author-Publisher" label to God and everybody.

If you don't set up an imprint but have elected to incorporate (see my article here), then your corporation's name will be recorded as the publisher. That choice doesn't blare quite so loudly, but establishing one or more imprints for your books will make you appear that much more professional and perhaps give you a leg up on your competition.

Oh, and if you have sent in a new-imprint request, please use a little common sense in your follow-up correspondence if you believe it's taking too long. I imagine that they don't perform those sorts of tasks on weekends and US holidays.

Happy imprinting! :)


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