What is an ISBN?

As I continue to work on Sunnyville Stories episode 8 “Make the Grade”, I thought I’d talk some about publishing and printing your comics in book form.

There are some things you’ll need for that.  The biggest thing you’ll need if you want your graphic novel, trade paperback or hardcover on Amazon, at your friendly neighborhood bookstore and at your local library is an ISBN.

You’ve heard that term before.  But what exactly is it?  ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.  The ISBN basically serves as the unique identifier for each and every book out there.  The ISBN was originally devised in 1965 by  Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the British bookstore chain, W. H. Smith.

Between 1970 and 2007, ISBNs consisted of 10 digits.  As of January 2007 however, they’ve been expanded to 13 digits.

Sample ISBN-13 with barcode

See this image?  This is a sample of what an ISBN-13 looks with (this picture incorporates it into a barcode).  Just as a reminder, Sunnyville Stories Volume 1 does have its own ISBN of 978-0-615-65392-1.

Now that you know that, you’re probably wondering where do you get one of these.  It depends.  Depending on what country or part of the world you’re in, you have to get ISBNs through various agencies.  If you live in the USA, the only entity authorized to issue ISBNs is the Bowker Agency.  You can purchase 1 ISBN for US$125, a block of 10 ISBNs for US$250, and even more for higher amounts.  They’re cheaper the more you buy – but then again, are you really going to put out 1,000 graphic novels?

Mind you, this only needs to be done if you go the self-publishing route.  If you’re going through a publisher, they’ll provide the ISBN (which they’ll own).  If you use certain digital printing services such as Lulu (I’ll talk about that in a future post), you have the option of acquiring an ISBN that they own.

That’s all for today.  I’ll have more posts soon enough on getting your book printed and distributed.  In the meantime, please subscribe via RSS or email if you didn’t already.  Make sure you buy a copy of Sunnyville Stories Volume 1 or get a copy from these other retailers. As usual, your comments and questions are welcome. What’s your opinion? We’d like to know.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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