I took a a big step for my writing career. I bought ISBNs for Indie Bee Press which makes it a proper publisher and I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors.
First I'd like to talk about ISBNs and what in the world are they?
From Nielsen Book Services: The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique product identifier for books and related material. Whilst it is not a legal requirement to allocate ISBNs to your books, it is used by publishers, booksellers and libraries for ordering, listing and stock control purposes. It enables them to identify a particular publisher and allows the publisher to identify a specific edition of a specific title in a specific format within their output. Systems used by publishers, booksellers and libraries all rely on the ISBN to identify books ensuring they select and stock the correct title and edition.
Because allowing Amazon or IngramSpark to provide me with an ISBN would make them my publisher - not me. I would still have all my rights as a self-published author to do what I please with my work, but *I* wouldn't be my work's publisher I'd hand that over to the platform. That's something I don't want to do.
Here's some words from the Alliance of Independent Authors that sums up my reasoning for doing this:
While technically you don’t need an ISBN to publish an ebook, ALLi [Alliance of Independent Authors] recommends that you do purchase and use your own ISBNs and use one ISBN for each format e.g. hardback, paperback, ebook, audiobook.
Our reasoning? Owning your own ISBN makes you the publisher of record, rather than the platform you’ve used to distribute your book: KDP, Smashwords, Bookbaby, or anyone else. One of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is that you are the publisher, retaining all rights. Why then allow somebody else to be identified as the publisher?
Owning our own ISBNs means our books can circulate properly in the industry supply chain, and allows us to freely work with bookstores and libraries, who use ISBNs to select the format of book they want to purchase.
In these outlets, and all book distribution ecosystems, ISBNs help with discoverability, sales, and analysis.
Not owning our own ISBNs also adds to indie author invisibility. Nielsen and Bowker, the Australian ISBN Agency, the national libraries of New Zealand, Canada and many other countries, provide reports on the publishing industry each year, based on ISBN tracking. Since many indie authors do not use ISBNs for their ebooks, the indie world remains a “shadow industry” untracked on official reports. This gives rise to many misleading headlines about indie publishing and author income.
And that is also a good transition into why I decided to join ALLi.
There aren't too many professional bodies out there for Independent Authors and I wanted to find a place that focused specifically on success and support for Indie Authors. I discovered this alliance through my membership at Jericho Writers. I was doing a few of their webinars for Self-publishing and watched the video with Orna Ross the co-founder and director of ALLi.
It was created in 2012 because she realised there was nothing out there in regards to support or advice in a professional body for Indie authors. I decided to check out the non-profit alliance and the benefits (IngramSpark set-up fee (£49) and revision (£25)) waived was nearly enough to get me to sign up, but what really caught my eye were the campaigns - I'm an activist at heart - and I liked that this organisation is working towards getting indies more visible in the trad published arena as well as calling out Amazon's audible policy which hinders indie authors. Not to mention the advice, forum and other discounts available to members on every level. It seemed like a missed opportunity not to join this group and at least have a place to go to if I ever had a problem or a question I need answering.
I didn't know I'd be essentially starting a publishing company when I decided to self-publish my books but if anyone knows me, when I want to do something I don't tend to half-ass it and I will always *always* do my research and of course join a cause that fights for justice and equality 🤷🏾♀️💪🏾.
So, if you're thinking about becoming self-published or indie author I'd definitely recommend buying and owning your ISBNs if it's a viable purchase for you. I'd also recommend joining an organisation that fits your needs for your writing career. I'm biased right now and I'm going to recommend the two that I've been part of:
Jericho Writers - supports Trad and Self Published authors.
Alliance of Independent Authors - Supports Self Published Authors
Where to buy ISBNs
Nielsen (UK authors) - https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Isbn
Bowker (US authors) - https://www.bowker.com/en/products-services/isbn-us/
I hope this has spread some awareness and knowledge of what being your own publisher can do for you and why I think it's important. Whatever you decide is best for your writing career - I wish you the best of luck and if you're a BIPOC writer feel free to join The Tribe - a BIPOC writing group for authors of color:
The Tribe - https://discord.gg/pKcuQ2eYwz