ISBN# and Barcodes – Never pay for a barcode again!

I guess I have to blog about boring stuff like ISBN#’s and Barcodes too. They are not nearly as fun to talk about as cover design and marketing – but I got to do it. Most people will need to buy an ISBN # for their book. I say ‘most’ because I have seen people who only want to print 25 books for a family reunion or something and I don’t think it is necessary in that situation. Some people may disagree. If you want to sell your book in a retail setting, you definitely need an ISBN. Most places will not accept your book w/o one and it will look unprofessional.

Bowker is the US ISBN agency. They are the source for ISBNs. You can purchase the # at Just go to Products and Services/Identifier Services/ISBN. You can buy one for $125 or a lot of 10 for $250. If you do more books, it makes sense to invest in the 10. It is super important to have a different number for each format too. So if you have an eBook, a printed soft cover and a hard cover – that would require 3 ISBNs.

An ISBN is a 10 and 13 digit number for your unique book. The reason it is so important is because this is how your book is cataloged in the thousands and thousands of books out there. Once you purchase the ISBN#, you will need to register it correctly. When Mira Publishing provides ISBNs to authors, we have asked for a form like this (ISBN Registration Form) to be filled out. The registration is essential because it places you properly in This is a database of all books – where libraries, publishers, bookstores, etc will go to search the marketplace for titles. You want to make sure you are on there and that your book is registered properly. Be sure to register each # for each format – eBook and print. You will also need an ISBN for other products such as audio books, DVD, CD, etc.

Bowker seems to have jumped on this author services bandwagon like every other Joe on the street. I noticed a service for submitting your manuscript to publishers for $99. I have seen services like this numerous times and I think they are bogus. I don’t have the money (like most new authors) to try every single one of these services from various publishers/printers so I guess you have to decide if it is worth it yourself. If you find one that works, definitely let me know! In my opinion, once they have your money they don’t give a crap. You have to consider the return on your investment too. ROI is a real thing and now that your book is your business, then you have to consider – If you spend $400 on some product to get exposure or whatever then how many books do you have to sell to break even at best? After printing cost, editing, and the service fee – maybe you have to sell 150 books. Well, that doesn’t sound very appealing to me. We will talk more about this with marketing blogs but cannot stress enough good old fashioned grass roots.

Anyway, so on to barcodes. The barcode is generated from your ISBN#. When you have your book in a store, they will scan this barcode and it will keep track of inventory and sales. You can also put a price in the barcode if you wish – some people leave price blank if they are unsure. The barcode needs placed on your back cover. The proper size of a barcode at 100% is 1.469” wide x 1.02” high. This can fluctuate a little smaller or larger if needed. The proper placement of the barcode would be 3/8” from the bottom and 3/8” from the spine. This is recommended but not mandatory. In the self publishing world – I have seen barcodes all over the place and every size. Being a self-publisher, you can really do whatever you want with your book. If you want to appear more professional though, I say stick to what is recommended.

Barcodes usually cost about $25. This is my gift to you for reading this whole boring blog on ISBN#’s and barcodes. Never pay for a barcode again! Here is a super easy link to get a barcode yourself online: All you do is put your ISBN# in and a price (if desired) and BAM – you got yourself a barcode. They will ask if you want a pdf or an .eps file. You can send this barcode file directly to your printer and they can place on book cover – usually for no charge. Be sure to scan and test barcode before printing!

Check out my previous blogs on cover and manuscript setup. If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted. My next ones will be about social media and getting your copyright.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.



Filed under Book Printing, Self Publishing Author

19 responses to “ISBN# and Barcodes – Never pay for a barcode again!

  1. Is it not a good idea to go through so that your registered book will get seen by book companies and book stores? ( t

    • Hi Lynn – when you go through Bowker, you are going through Their website leads you through to this link. When you register the ISBN, then you are automatically placed on Books in Print to be seen my book stores, libraries, etc. You can also purchase an ISBN from a printer or publisher too. You just have to make sure that they follow through and register the title for you and that you still own all the rights to the book. Hope that helps!

  2. marydouglass

    Mira Publishing contacted me after I purchased my barcodes. So glad they did! At the time it made more economic sense for me to purchase 10 barcodes rather than just one. But I still haven’t completed the rest of the books I’m doing. 😉

  3. Thank you for offering information to new authors, instead of letting them stumble about, and spending lots more of their thin funds to find out how they can publish. When I did my first book, everyone had their hand out for free (did not know it was free info at time) data they “sold to me.” Thanks

  4. Jill, I think that you might include the fact that if you want to sell your book on places such as Amazon, or elsewhere, the size, fonts, and placement must follow certain rules. It is not clear always that the barcodes that follow the rules are the same as the “standard”. Authors have to be careful. I would recommend that authors discover the rules issued for vendors at Amazon, and then make sure that this is the barcode that they can deliver. By the way, most of these retail rules require a price to be included in US Dollars, but I’m not positive about this.

    • Thanks Robert, I appreciate you checking out my blog and your insight. I know at Mira Publishing we have placed books on Amazon for authors and we didn’t come across an issue with barcodes, etc. Amazon is a beast so it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a section that might be more particular when it comes to selling books. I will be roaming through the site and placing my book for sale on there too (and blogging about it) so I will definitely keep this in mind. Take Care.

  5. Reblogged this on Elle Clouse and commented:
    A little bit of helpful info regarding ISBNs.

  6. So, are you saying before you go to someone like Middleton Book Conversions to get your manuscript turned into an eBook you must first secure the barcode and the ISBN# ?

    • Some eBook companies will supply you with an ISBN# for your eBook – for an additional fee. You will need one for the ePub version and the Mobi version. If you already have the ISBNs then you can send them to the eBook company to replace on the copyright page for you. The eBook will not require a barcode since it is digital. Only the printed copies will need the barcode. Hope that helps!

  7. Missy

    Hi Lynn,
    I Have a question for some of the self publishers out there and sorry if you said in your post and I just missed it. Using programs like Createspace and Leanpub, they offer you multiple packages when it comes to ISBNs. For example, using createspace, They have the free createspace isbn assigned one, a custom one, a custom universal and a author provided option. Which is the best and why?

    • Hi Missy – I have not worked with createspace yet but when companies provide ISBNs, you cannot take it outside of their platform. I would review the terms and conditions carefully. Honestly – I would just get my own and know that I am free and clear to do with my book what I please. I don’t really like the idea of a company giving me limitations with my book.

  8. Thank you Jill, this was very, very informative

  9. A Marie

    Hi Jill,
    Thank you for helping others with this blog. I think I had covered most of what you advised before my first book. I did a lot of research, but you did clarify about never paying for a bar code again.
    A Marie Weaver

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s