Why owning your ISBN is important—or not

When you hire a vendor to produce your book, the company usually provides one of its own ISBNs, which makes it your publisher of record. This is also true if you use the free ISBN provided by Create Space or Smashwords.

book publishing isbn

Photo by Ove Tøpfer

Bowker is the U.S. registrar for International Standard Book Numbers. Each book receives a unique ISBN, which goes into the Bowker database booksellers and libraries use for ordering. When a bookseller looks up the book in Bowker’s database, the “Publisher” field will say “Create Space” or the name of your vendor.

How can this be if, as I said, you’re the publisher because you’re paying the bill? Continue reading

Why what you call a ‘publisher’ matters

Last week, I wrote about the differences, slim though they are, between vanity presses and subsidy presses.

In the comments, Jennifer wrote, “What a publisher calls itself does not matter. What matters are the terms of the contract.”

True. A company can call itself whatever it chooses, but whether it’s a true publisher or a vendor providing services depends on what’s in the contract, not its name.

But what the rest of us call these companies does matter. It troubles me to hear authors who’ve hired an author services vendor to produce their book refer to that company as “my publisher.” Continue reading

How publishing works

I once sat across a coffee shop table with a client and outlined the publishing process for him. He was astounded. It never occurred to him that someone else would bear the cost of producing his book. He was more familiar with the manufacturing business model, where if you want a product made, you design it and then purchase the raw materials and hire the people to construct it.

Publishing is different, and in a lot of ways, it’s a little crazy. Continue reading