ISBNs – What Are They And Why Do I Need One?

jack_sparrowOne of the more ambiguous problems that Self Published authors face in their adventure to publication is the debate of the ISBN, more specifically what they are and why do you need one?



What do all the numbers mean?

ISBN’s, or International Standard Book Numbers, are a thirteen digit number that is often printed as a part of a books barcode. This unique number system was invented in 1965 and is used to identify your book across the world. It is a combination of codes breaking down your regional group, publisher and title and if you want your book printed you will need to register an ISBN for it.


 Why is having an ISBN number so important?

The main reason is that it identifies your book and book like products internationally so that booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors can not only find your book but also market it more efficiently. There is always a strong possibility that some one else in the sea of authors will have the same title as yours, with multiple editions, so your ISBN is essential for customers to differentiate between your book and all the others when ordering. It’s important to note that while it’s a specific number for your work, ISBN’s are not a part of copy write. Unless you live in Australia, where you automatically own the copy write to your artistic endeavours, you will still need to register your works through the Copywrite Office (U.S) or the Intellectual Property Office (UK).

 How do you get one?

The good news is that there are a few options out there. If you plan on releasing one title or a thousand Thorpe-Bowker has multiple packages at whole sale prices as does Nielsen in the UK. Prices can start from $42$125 for just one, but the more you buy the cheaper they end up each.

Can you get free ones?

There are publishing houses like CreateSpace and Lulu that give you the option of using one of their free ISBNs or you can still provide your own. However be aware, if you use one of their free ISBN’s they will be listed as the publisher of record, even though you will still retain all your rights.

How many am I going to need? Can’t I just use the same one?

ISBNs, while handy for people to find your book, are also limited to their single book format i.e. Ebooks, audiobooks, hardcovers, soft covers are all separate formats. You cannot use the same ISBN for your paperback and your ebook and for the moment there is no such thing as an e-ISBN.

What about E-Books? 

ISBN’s are necessary for printed editions of your book but ebooks are another more shadowy story. At the moment you don’t need an ISBN number to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, Apple, Kobo or Google. In fact according to the most recent study by Author Earnings at least 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S alone do not use ISBN’s, making all of the industry marketing surveys carried out by Bowker, Nielsen, AAP and BISG grossly inaccurate.

shutterstock_171423347The beauty of the self publishing world is that there are so many different choices you can make while managing your project and ISBNs are no different, only you will ultimately know what’s best for your book. Knowledge is power in this industry and with the torrent of information out there staying well educated and knowing what is required in all aspects of publishing is essential for your success.

Check out the below links if you want more info on:

As Writers what are your thoughts on ISBNS? If they are mandatory should they be free? Or like much in the rapidly changing Publishing Industry is it time to search for another option? 





Are you a writer or an authorprenuer?

authorprenuer-403x500When a writer decides to self-publish, it’s a golden moment. Full of hope, inspiration, determination and drive. But it’s also likely at that moment they don’t realise they’ve just committed themselves to running a business. A business that takes patience and perseverance, which needs constant attention and energy if you want it to be successful.

So how do you know if you’re just a writer, or if you’re an authorprenuer?

Cover this check list, and find out!

  1. The authorprenuer knows their job doesn’t stop after pressing ‘publish’,
  2. The authorprenuer is prepared to research all aspects of self-publishing to give themselves the best chance of success. This includes publishing, layout, marketing, price setting, and best standards,
  3. The writer only wants to publish to share their book with their closest loved ones, not to share with the world,
  4. The writer is not ready to take on social media, and grow a readership base,
  5. The authorprenuer starts promoting their book before it is published,

  1. The authorprenuer hires the professionals to make their book the best it can be,
  2. The writer has one simple goal: To write,
  3. The authorprenuer has several goals: To write, to plan, to launch, to direct, to test, to change, to overcome, to promote, to grow, to skill up,
  4. The writer has many, many finished and unfinished manuscripts and doesn’t plan to return to them.
  5. The authorprenuer has many, many finished and unfinished manuscripts and plans to give each one the best spit-and-shine they can.

You might be one, but you’re most likely a bit of both.

Authorprenuers are ready for self-publication and are prepared to do the yards required in order to make their book a success.

Writers are dedicated to their craft and love it for what it is. They don’t need to share it to enjoy it, but it is very personal to them.

Aim to have the strengths and passions of both, so that you enjoy the journey no matter where you’re at!

What do you think you’re more of? A writer? An authorprenuer? A third as yet unidentified species of writer?

3 places to get feedback for your eBook cover design

When you, or your designer, have put together a couple of different options for your cover where do you get valuable feedback? Can you be trusted, as the author, to make the right call for which cover works better? Here are 3 different places you can tap into to get great feedback for your work.

  1. Writing/Self-publishing forums.

aw_logo_cropped kb-logo

Forums like AbsoluteWrite, KindleBoards and FM Writers are packed full, bulging with authors waiting to give their thoughts. They also know about genre, and what to expect from your book cover as a demographic. If you’re a member of forums get in on there and tell them your synopsis, your genre, and post the cover to get the feedback. If you’re not a member… why are you still reading this? GET ON OVER AND DO EET.

  1. Your beta readers/editors.

Beta readersDon’t ask them as professionals, ask them as general readers. They see book covers all the time and can give you an honest opinion about whether your cover works for your book or not. The extra benefit here is that they have already read your book and have more insight than anyone else.

  1. Your social media network and blog

social media for authors

Don’t forget your real readers that you should be trying to connect with at all times. Hit them up on Twitter, Facebook and post up a blog post asking for honest, no-shit critique. They will surely give it!

But let’s be honest, finding places to share your cover to get feedback isn’t the problem. It’s asking for honest, unbiased critique which has the potential to hurt your feelings (especially if you DIY). So in each instance make sure you are specific and clear about wanting real thoughts, even if it runs the risk of you feeling temporary wounded.

Remember: Writing wounds really are temporary, and tomorrow you’ll feel better again and can make the cover everything you want it to be!

What are the best places you’ve found for great feedback? Any secrets you want to share?

How do you find an illustrator for your book cover?

Illustrators make beautiful book covers. They’re unique, eye catching, and when done well, absolutely stunning. If you’re planning to publish a historical, fantasy, sci fi or perhaps YA fiction and have thought about hiring an illustrator, here’s a guide to help you find the right one.


Word of mouth:

Ask friends and families, and your writing community, for any recommendations of illustrators. Especially in a self-publishing forum there will always be artists or authors who have worked with artists willing to give their 2c for who they think is worth the price!



On the cover:

If you’ve seen an amazing illustration on a book cover, get in touch with the author, or look inside of the cover. You’d be surprised at how affordable some illustrators are so don’t hesitate to get in touch with them.



There’s a lot of crap on Deviant Art but there’s also some amazing stuff there as well. Start shopping around, check out the forums, see who catches your eye and get in touch with them.



Behance has a fantastic array of illustration port folios. This is professional standard, so if you got money to spend this is where you should go.


Hire an illustrator:

Also another amazing folio site of illustrators ready to take on your book cover work!


As always, communicate. Don’t go in blind but have a clear outline for what you want. Share examples, take notes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

What illustrators can you recommend? What positive/negative experiences have you had with them?

Sources of inspiration for book cover design

The Inspiration of Saint MatthewThat’s it! You’re taking the plunge! You’re going to design your very own book cover! But where in Freddie and Fanny’s fantastic flummox do you start? You start with being inspired.

This part is fun.

Step 1 in getting inspired: 

Lay back and have a bit of a daydream about what you want your book to look like. How you want your audience to feel when they see it on the shelf, or online? It could be a mixture of awe, and curiosity. Or perhaps suspense and a bit of adrenaline? Do you want to stop them in their tracks by something that is confronting and makes them a little uncomfortable? Or is there a caressing quality, a sweet whispering sense that draws them in to buying your book?

You need to know this so you can recognize it when you’re window-shopping for ideas.


Step 2 in getting inspired:

Create a folder on your computer titled ‘book cover inspiration‘. In that folder save all the images of book covers you love. This includes covers you see in RL, and if possible can take a photo of it on your phone. I know this isn’t a possibility for everyone, but if you know the book go online, find the version with the book cover you like, save the image of the cover in the folder, like this:

But WHERE do I find inspiration for design?


Your library

Your personal library at home.

Start with books you love, start with your own book shelves. There’s a good chance you write in the same genre you read so it’s the first logical step.


The books of your favourite authors.

If you have a favourite author, follow through on their other books to see the style that carries through their design. You’ll find a lot of the time, especially with chick-lit and romantic comedy, that an author’s name transforms in to a type of branding or logo with the font face and placement on each book like  Sophie Kinsella, Jeffrey Archer or Terry Goodkind. This might be something you want to consider if you plan to publish a lot of work in the same genre, because it means you’re more easily identifiable when readers are browsing.

Your bookstore/local library.

Design for an eBook vs design of a paperback are two different things. You can include a lot of small, suggestive details in a paperback that you might not want in an eBook. A thumbnail image is what stops the finer details in design when it comes to eBooks. It’s a shame and it’s one of the reasons I love paperbacks so much more than eBooks, but hey that’s what the electronic reader generation has reaped. We shop for things 180px high.

So get your hands on some paperbacks and take note at the details that go in to them.


The Book Cover ArchiveGoodreads

Book websites

Goodreads and The Book Cover Archive are two vital links I always graze. Goodreads gives you the chance to search in genres, and more refined lists, and The Book Cover Archive is a fantastic collection of the best book cover design across the board. This can inspire you if you want to break barriers, and go against your genre standard. Don’t stop there, search other book sites like Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Finding out who designed a book you love (often on the inside of the book) will lead you to the website of the graphic designer who may have other books on display you can get inspiration from.


Alternate sources of inspiration: 

Movie posters, CD covers, photographs, illustrations, deviantart, pinterest, tumblr, and anything that strikes a light in your brain!


Don’t forget the designs you DON’T like.

Know where you want to stay away from, recognize the territory that you plan to stay out of. Know why it doesn’t work for you so you can spot these issues in your own cover.


Open up your mind and have fun with it. You’re limited by nothing. You can design your book cover however you want, no matter what anyone else says. This is YOUR book, have what you want. 



Hiring and artist or photgrapher

Who handles hiring the artists and photographers for the book cover?

Hiring and artist or photgrapherSo you’ve decided to get a book cover professionally designed. You’re not sure if you want to have an illustration or have photomanipulation or even just a title and a name, so your question is- if you want an illustrator or a photographer to create something that’s special, and unique to your book,  is that up to the designer or yourself to organize?

So many routes to take, so many options.

The short answer:

The designer is responsible for it.

The long answer:

This will come up a lot for professional designers, and each one will have a different answer. This is my answer to my own process, and I feel the best way to work with you- the author. You’re coming to me for a service, and a product.


I wouldn’t go to my pizza store only to have to visit the market on the way to pick up the veggies and the cheese for the base.

Male of ocythoe catenulataI’m an octopus, with my squidenticals out always feeling for new skill, new talent, new people to work with. This creates a grand network, like a huge collective business. Maybe even a marketplace. I have to collect my sources (illustrators, photographers, artists) so that when you ask about illustration, or having a photo shoot for your cover, I’m prepared.

It’s my job to guide you through the process, but if you feel confident enough to enquire about illustrators and photographers then that’s fantastic. That tells me you understand the process, you know what you want and you’re going for it. Just make sure you include me in the loop- especially since I’m the person who brings it all together in the end. I can help with the right dimensions, the right colour profile for printing, I can offer input as to what will and won’t work for your cover.


What if the author has something specific in mind?

If there’s an artist or photographer’s folio you’ve seen that you adore and must have and holy frankenballs I want them to make something for me, it’s best for you to let me know who that artists is so I can get in touch with them on your behalf.


Why is it better for the designer to get in contact with them instead of the author?

I have experience talking with freelancers, artists, and photographers. I know what I’m looking for, how to express it, what to expect in the contract of work and what rights we can work out for the work- exclusive or otherwise. I can talk to them about price, explain your budget, and how we can work within that. This also means I know what to expect when it comes to the illustration they’re going to send over, and can plan the book cover in advance. When they send over the final files it will make the whole process much more streamlined.

Contact your designer


How can the author stay in the loop?

Ask. Remember how I talked about communication between you and your designer? Just ask.

I do my best to keep my author’s in the loop and CC them in to every email between myself and the artist but sometimes something will happen that they don’t understand, or they missed a step, or they’re getting confused. If that happens then ask!


I don’t expect you to know how it works. That’s my job, that’s why you’re hiring me. It’s totally okay for you to ask questions. 


 What if you don’t know anyone with the style of illustration/photography I want?

I research. I contact the artists on your behalf, and pitch the illustrators to you just as I would any other concept I’m pitching to you.


If you’re not sure what your designer does- ask. You don’t have to go in blind, you can be involved in every part of the process, and give feedback when you want to. You won’t need to know what’s happening the whole way but it certainly helps your confidence in the outcome. 

Where can I self publish?

A simple list of self publishers for you to compare, and decide which is best for you. Please be aware some of these sites are country limited, so ensure you look over them closely and can sign up an account before committing yourself.

Please research these publishers! Make your choices with information, consideration and care. You can find recommendations, and warnings about them here:

Writer Beware

Books and Tales Publishing List


List of most popular print on demand publishers

CreateSpace- Amazon





Barnes & Noble

Equilibrium Books

Lightning Source



List of the less popular print on demand publishers






Virtual Bookworm

WingSpan Press

Authors Online

Aventine Press

Bookstand Publishing

Foremost Press

Infinity Publishing

Inkwater Press

Llumina Press



Fast Pencil

Publish Green

Can you recommend any publishers? Have you had a good, or a bad experience? What advice about POD publishers?

How to find a book cover designer

How to Find an Amazing Book Cover Designer

How to Find a Book Cover Designer

You’ve decided to hire a designer to design your book cover! Awesome! So where do you, as a writer, start?

First, where should you be looking?


Using search terms like “Book cover designer” (without the quotes searches for just those three words located on a page, whereas with the quote marks searches for that specific search term) or “book cover design for self publishing”, or an obvious variation of these. The more refined your search terms are, the better results you’ll get. Add keywords like your location, your genre, ‘affordable‘, or ‘beautiful‘. Try “book cover design” and get familiar with different websites, designers, archives or galleries. If you see some that you love follow through to the website of the graphic designer to get in touch with them.

Word of mouth

Facebook and Twitter are amazing resources as search engines. Get in touch with your writing community, ask other self published authors if they had good experiences with their designers or if there’s someone they can suggest. Try using this example:

“I’m looking for a book cover designer. Can anyone recommend a good one?”

This is an especially good resource to use since people’s experiences (especially from people you trust) are usually a reliable way to find someone who will work well for you.

Looking at a book you love and checking on the inside for the designer.

The majority of books will mention the cover designer on the inside, possibly on the copyright page or at the back. Pick up a couple of paperbacks you like the look of and check inside. If you put their name into your search engine, that should populate their contact details so you can get in touch with them for a quote. If you can’t find the designer in the book get in touch with the publisher and ask them for the details.

Writing/author self publishing forums

Search your regular writing forum and see if there are posts about book designers, experiences, and/or results. Writer’s love showing the end product, and they’re more than willing to share the details of the designer with the forum. If they haven’t, PM the user and ask them if they can provide you the details.


Second, when you’ve found the right designer…

Browse the work of the designer

You may like one of their covers but it’s important to be familiar with a variety of their work. The cover you like so much may be a one hit wonder, or you might find you’re drawn to their entire folio.

Consider their history and experience

Have they done only one or two covers, or do they have a large gallery? Are they a writer, which gives them the benefit of seeing things from your perspective? Do they have any testimonials? Are they a professional or hobbyist?

Go with your gut instinct

This is always the most important element. If it doesn’t feel right- don’t do it. Even if it’s a friend who has recommended them you’re not obligated to work with someone if you don’t want to. Writers are pretty instinctive people so if something rubs you the wrong way then keep shopping. You can always return to the website and get in contact with the designer!

Third, what you should be telling the designer…

  • What your book is about. Don’t go in to great detail but at least hit the main points, as well as the genre and sub-genre.
  • What design/theme you’re looking for. Try and find examples in other book designs so that you can give them a clear idea. If you don’t know then say that instead. Tell them you’re open to concepts and ideas they might have.
  • Your budget limitations. Whether it’s $10 or $1000 be honest. There’s no point is telling them you can afford more when you can’t, and you will be in a very tangled web at the end of the project when you are up against a contract that says you have to pay in full!
  • Tell them if you have a timeline you’re working with, or not.


That is usually enough information to get the ball rolling. Why not get out there now and start window shopping for your book cover? Or head over and read about the 4 things that will make you the perfect client for a designer, to prepare yourself.

If you’ve seen some of my work, and think I might be a suitable designer for your book, feel free to get in contact!


Share your experiences below! Have you had difficulty finding a book cover designer? What would make it easier? What resources did you use to find the right designer for you?