Monday, June 13, 2022

What Can Bowker do for Authors?

If you are setting up a publishing company or self-publishing, Bowker is an important component of your publishing set-up.

Bowker provides numerous services for publishers and hosts the largest database of titles in the industry—Books in Print. They are also the sole legal supplier of ISBNs. All other sources, regardless of money paid by the author or publisher, are simply “renting” the ISBN. Titles using those ISBNs are still listed as published by the original purchaser of the ISBN, not the author or publisher “renting” the ISBN. (Examples would be using an ISBN provided by a distributor such as Smashwords or using one from a subsidy press.)

Once you have your contact information (address, phone number, email, web address, etc.) register your publishing company with Bowker. Upon approval, you will be given a password and be able to access their services and Books in Print. Then you will be accessing Bowker’s My Identifiers.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. If your titles are to be sold through retail outlets, online or in the real world, you’ll need ISBNs. Each ISBN is unique to a book’s format and designates hardback, paperback, eBook, or other format. Currently, eBooks require only one ISBN regardless of format, but this could change in the future.

Once a ten-digit number, ISBNs are now thirteen digits – e.g., 978-1-9816210-2-9

Bowker sells ISBNs in batches of 10, 100, and 1,000. Single ISBNs can be purchased, but there are downsides. Part of the ISBN represents the publisher identifier number, but when a solitary one is purchased, it is not assigned to a single company. Since it does not represent a particular publisher, this can throw up the red flag of “self-published.” A single ISBN is also half the cost of a block of ten. Unless you only intend to publish one book and in one format, purchasing a single ISBN is impractical.

A block of ten or more allows for multiple books and formats. It also gives you a publisher prefix and legitimacy as a company. ISBNs are non-transferable, so once you have made your purchase, those numbers are assigned to your press forever and cannot be given or sold to anyone else. Fortunately, those numbers never expire.

Once your book reaches this stage, you can add it to Bowker’s Books in Print. (Which you do in your "My Identifiers" area.) Enter as much information as possible. You can go back and enter details later. Once the book is listed in Books in Print, it can be accessed by any retail outlet.

Bowker is one of many companies that supply bar codes. Some online businesses provide bar codes for free but be warned—often the disclaimer states that the bar code may not scan properly. (Wouldn’t it be terrible if you printed 1,000 books and the bar code didn’t work? No magic “beep” at the register?) Bar codes are necessary if your book will be sold in a physical store. Even if your print book will only be available online, it will appear more professional with a bar code.

Bar codes shouldn’t be purchased until your book is formatted and the price is set. When ordering through Bowker, you can order them singularly or in blocks for a discount. In your “My Identifiers” section, you will then be able to generate a barcode for each ISBN. Be sure you have set the price as it will appear in the barcode. Note that bar codes are not required for eBooks, only print books.

Now that you know all of the ways Bowker can help authors and publishers, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity? Time to look more professional and level the playing field with the big boys!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice overview of Bowker! They've made some site improvements recently that have made it much easier to assign ISBNs to a title, too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Diane - though this doesn't affect me - I enjoy knowing that we have this great wealth of knowledge-friends here ... obviously a good overview too - per Elizabeth ... thanks so much - cheers Hilary

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for letting us know about Bowker. Good to know fro Elizabeth that they've made improvements recently to make the process easier.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Elizabeth, yes they have. The new dashboard is so much easier to navigate.

Computer Tutor said...

I always buy ISBNs through Bowker. I want them registered to me, not someone who could go out of business.

cleemckenzie said...

Great information. And you reminded me that I bought a group of ISBNs from them, then totally forgot. Thanks so much.

Toi Thomas said...

Great information.