How to Get an ISBN


Getting an ISBN is a necessary process in your quest to become a published author. While it doesn’t have to wait until you’ve built your characters, plot, and finished the book, it is needed before you self-publish. Fortunately, it’s an easy process, and there are agencies on hand to guide you through it.

Okay, first things first. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and you will need it if you plan to publish your book. In fact, the reason you’re probably reading this is that you’ve been told to get an ISBN number.

To clear up any confusion, let’s make it clear who needs it and why. The ISBN does not give you legal or copyright protection. It is a product identification number. You will need it if you wish to sell your book through any retail channel, such as bookstores, libraries, or online. Books printed for private use or a closed distribution don’t need an ISBN.

This 13-digit number is a unique numeric code assigned to the book so it is identifiable around the world. Booksellers and readers can use the number to check what book they’re buying; what it’s about, who the author is, and so on.

How to get an ISBN

So, how do you get one?

Well, first of all, you need to apply to your national ISBN agency, as ISBNs are assigned in the country where the person/body applying is based. These are listed on the International ISBN Agency website at

It’s relatively straightforward to buy an ISBN, and it’s most likely available for purchase online. The cost can vary depending on the amount of government or other funding the agency provides. But often it’s more economical to buy ISBNs in blocks rather than as a single unit.

As an ISBN is non-transferable, even to subsequent editions of the same book, and neither is an ISBN able to be  resold, it often makes more economic sense to buy them in blocks of 10 or more, depending on your needs. In any case, some agencies don’t sell single units.

When you apply for an ISBN, you need to comply with the guidelines provided and supply the metadata requested about the publication, such as the title, author, and format. The agency you apply to will advise what metadata is required and how you should submit it to them. The forms to fill in may be available online or sent to you on request. You will also need to provide full contact details.

Getting your ISBN is a little bit of legwork, but a necessary step in the process of becoming a published author. The only other thing you have to do now is make sure you include the ISBN number on the copyright page.

Originally posted 11/10/2015 and happily updated 10/27/2017. Thanks for reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

First Editing is equipped to edit ANY type of document you can write! Over the past 10 years, we’ve perfected tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, ebooks, theses, dissertations, essays, letters, websites, articles, scripts, business proposals, poetry, and more! Let us transform your draft into a perfectly edited masterpiece! Click HERE for a FREE sample edit and price quote…
Projects less than 50 pages are completed in just 2-3 business days. Longer documents (manuscripts, dissertations, etc.) require 7-10 business days depending on their length. If you order multiple documents totaling 50+ pages, they can all still be completed in the standard 3 day timeframe since each document may be assigned to a different editing team simultaneously. Additionally, 1-2 day rush services are also available. See our order form for more details.
Professional editors of successfully published books, journals, articles, and more are working around the clock to ensure your editing is letter-perfect and delivered according to your deadline. Each editor has a minimum of TEN years worth of professional writing & editing experience. Show us some of YOUR writing and we’ll send YOU a FREE editing sample!
First Editing is one of the very few online editing services that GUARANTEES client satisfaction! If there is ANYTHING about our work with which you are not 100% satisfied, we will correct it at no additional charge. First Editing is also the ONLY service of its kind to GUARANTEE on-time completion. We NEVER miss a deadline…EVER!! Read more about our Editing Satisfaction Guarantee.
Our basic rates vary from just 1 U.S. cent per word to just over 3 U.S. cents per word. Most basic copy editing that does not require rush delivery costs between $0.0097 and $0.013 USD per word (approximately one cent per word). Larger orders often cost even less. Factors influencing your total price are document type, length of manuscript, turnaround time required, & level of editing required. For a free, no-obligation price quote, CLICK HERE.

Share With :

Get a free editing sample outlining areas you need to fix before publishing. Discover what works!

Add Your Heading Text Here

Add Your Heading Text Here