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Vanishing $10 ISBN

Killing the cheap ISBNThe $10 ISBN is dead! We are sorry to report some sad news for our clients.  Someone has killed the cheap ISBN. Round up the usual suspects!

CreateSpace has dropped the $10 custom ISBN option. They now offer just three options:

  1. Free ISBN, which lists CreateSpace as publisher.
  2. $99 for a custom ISBN (a discount from Bowker’s usual $127)
  3. Buy your own ISBN from Bowker directly.

We recommend the Free Option. For most of our fiction clients, we now recommend going with the free option. It has been our experience that most fiction sells far more in e-book format than as a paperback. The exception might be if you expect a great interest from bookstores wanting to carry your paperback and are worried that the “CreateSpace-as-publisher” designation will cause them to reconsider. Frankly, most clients will not be carried by more than a handful of independent bookstores, and then it is usually due to a friendship the author has already established with the owner.

Non-fiction clients are a bit different. Such clients often have a much larger percentage of their sales coming from the print version. However, we would still recommend the Free Option to most, since a majority of print sales are still coming from Amazon. If you anticipate a large interest from other sales venues (college bookstores, specialty outlets, etc.) then maybe consider a custom ISBN.

Does this mean no more custom Imprint names? No, it does not. Many clients are still choosing to create their own imprint name, but are using it only on their e-books. They will still put their imprint name/logo on the print book’s cover and title page, but are choosing the CreateSpace ISBN as their official publisher for that version.

At Public Author, we still offer the optional service of researching imprint names and designing a basic imprint logo as an add-on to your book project.

Before we go on, let’s talk about some of the basics of ISBN.

What is an ISBN and why do I need one? All print books must have one. However, most online retailers (such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble) do not require an ISBN for an e-book, although a few will assign one. Here is how CreateSpace explains it on their website:

An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a unique 10-digit number assigned to every published book. An ISBN identifies a title’s binding, edition, and publisher. An EAN, or European Article Number, is a 13-digit number assigned to every book to provide a unique identifier for international distributors. The 10-digit ISBN is converted to a 13-digit EAN by adding a 978 prefix and changing the last digit.

We superimpose an ISBN barcode on the back cover (in the lower right corner) of every book we manufacture.

Who is listed as the “publisher” when I take a free ISBN from CreateSpace? Your book’s imprint-of-record will be listed as “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.” They are some retailers who avoid any books from CreateSpace because they know it is a division of their arch-enemy Amazon but, for most authors, that enmity will have no impact on their sales. Frankly, most of our clients report over 90% of their retail paperback sales coming through Amazon already.

What about books I sell in-person? When books are sold by hand (at events, signings, conferences, etc.), there is no way for the customer to know who is designated the official publisher, unless they are one of the few people who can actually read an ISBN and know how to recognize CreateSpace’s unique prefix. You can still add your imprint name/logo to the cover and title page and they will not know the difference.

Who did this?

Who did this dastardly deed? For those suffering from Amazon Derangement Syndrome (ADS), the obvious one to blame is evil Amazon. They lured independent authors in with the bait of a cheap ISBN and then snatched it away from us! (Cue the evil Bezos laugh.)

But consider the facts. There is one company that has the monopoly on issuing ISBNs in the USA, and that is Bowker. While Bowker charges $127 per individual ISBN, when they sell in bulk they only charge pennies per number. Big Publishers buy these numbers by the hundreds or thousands and then shuffle them out to their various new titles and reprints under dozens of imprint names. CreateSpace also buys ISBNs in similiar quantity, but now all those numbers purchased from Bowker must be listed as coming from one imprint- CreateSpace itself.

Who is the culprit behind this change? Most sane people will point to Bowker, assuming that they are trying to squeeze more cash out of authors/ publishers, and that is a good assumption. But, then again, maybe it is CreateSpace who decided this, since it simplifies the process for them. Either way, this was probably an economical decision and not some nefarious attempt to sabotage the careers of independent authors. You can still get a custom ISBN, but now you have to pay $99 or go direct to Bowker and pay as much as $127.

For more details, talk to your publishing consultant at Public Author. As always, the pricing on our publishing services remain reasonable. You pick the services you want and we only charge one-time fees. Simple, yet professional author services.

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What is Thomas Nelson up to?

iStock_000008393401XSmall[1]I have just noticed something odd on Amazon: hundreds of books released by Thomas Nelson lists the publisher as the author. You might expect that on their releases that are collective works like Bible translations, but why stuff from well-known Christian authors? Books by Charles Stanley, John C. Maxwell, and Sarah Young have the author’s name scrubbed. Is this an attempt to improve their brand name at the expense of their authors? Or is this just sloppy uploading of the books’ data by someone in their offices? I’m not certain, but I find it weird. We aren’t talking just a handful of titles here, but dozens upon dozens.

See for yourself at Amazon. My first thought was that maybe it was a glitch with that retailer, but when I checked Barnes and Noble online, the same thing came up. (Here’s the Barnes and Noble search results link). However, I didn’t find the same issue at Family Christian’s online store.

I don’t think this is some grand conspiracy to steal the spotlight from deserving authors, but it does make me question how professional their team is. Thomas Nelson isn’t some small outfit- they are a division of HarperCollins, one of the Big 5 Publishers here in the USA. (By they way, I checked the parent’s company works and didn’t find this happening- HarperCollins only claimed authorship to some media tie-in books and some collaborative works like dictionaries.)

Did they do this on purpose? So why are they claiming to be the “author” of books where they have only been the publisher? If done purposefully, then they are hurting their authors’ works, for most readers would search by the author’s name, not the publisher’s. Most have no clue who the publisher is and really don’t care about that. So why is the publisher now claiming to be the author of the work? Well, at least they didn’t purge their names from the actual cover images.

Is this just an oft-repeated error? More likely, this is a mistake from someone in Thomas Nelson’s office. Maybe this is just a data-entry error that keeps getting repeated with every new upload. But if that is the case, you need to wonder about their quality control. Has no one higher up in the company ever bothered to check their products at Amazon or Barnes and Noble to make sure everything is correct?

Frankly, if I were one of their authors I would feel rather insulted by their actions. What are your thoughts on this odd claim to authorship? Is it purposeful or just bumbling?

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