The Final Steps

NORDISCO was supposed to be released today, February 26, but due to issues I touched on here, I’m going for a March 26 ship date instead.

I’ve got everything lined up decision-wise or already done for prelaunch: design, an editor, etc. But what has been killing me is the ISBN issue.

Any printed book in retail circulation requires an ISBN. Ebooks don’t require it; however, it’s a good idea to have one, and it’s an even better idea for the author to own the ISBN themselves if they are self-published.

Seems easy enough, right?

Except that in the United States, all ISBNs are monopolized by an agency known as Bowker. In most other countries, ISBNs are issued free of charge or for a very low cost. In the U.S., buying one single ISBN is $125, and they are only sold in blocks. So the next quantity I can purchase is a block of 10 ISBNs (ideal for first-timers like me) for $295. If you want one thousand ISBNs…it’s just a thousand bucks.

Wait, a buck a piece? If you have a grand to drop? But why so much markup if you don’t have that kind of cash or need for so many numbers?

I’d guess the answer is obvious: gatekeeping for independent authors. Bigger publishers with deeper pockets can buy up the numbers in large quantities because the ISBN will always be registered to that publisher on record. This is why self-pub services offer “free” ISBNs. You may not pay anything additionally, but you absolutely will be “paying” in terms of the service’s bottom-line. Because ISBN packages are so cost-prohibitive, it would maybe make an independent author think twice about self-publishing and sticking to a larger company instead, who then, of course, gets a cut of everything.

I’ve been hemming and hawing over what to do with my ISBN situation. NORDISCO is going to have a very soft launch–initially, the push for me simply to get the very basics of the book done (editing, copyright registration, ISBN, and printing) and get copies into the hands of my friends and family. After is when I start working on a real push.

There are so many methods of book launching, advice for first-timers out there, and way too much pressure for the first book to be a big splash. I’ve accepted that may simply not be the case for me. Right now the most important thing is simply to get it done. 

So what that means for me is: deciding what to do about the ISBN. In my daily life I make very little, and for the most part, live check-to-check. Scrounging up for a whole year to gamble launching a 100-page book is too much for me to plan at one time.

My biggest upfront expense for this title, by far, is editing. Which I’m happy to spend the money on, and to me is the one “big ticket” item that absolutely no writer should ever go without. If your book is edited beautifully and well-written, who cares where the ISBN goes? It’s all a win for you and the publisher.

But…but. I want that legitimacy. I’m fiercely independent. So I have to strike a happy medium somewhere. It frustrates me that I simply don’t have the immediate cash to plop down another $300 for book registration numbers, but I will pony up the exorbitant $125 for one single ISBN so I can print the paperback the way I want it done.

What that means is that for now, I won’t be selling eBook versions. I will eventually, hopefully, sooner than later. For those who preordered an eBook, those will still be delivered.

Things are coming together rather quickly! Even with the delays, I can’t wait to see it in hand!

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