5 Common Mistakes Authors and Self-publishers Make While Assigning ISBNs to their Books

It’s not enough getting the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This numeric identifier that contains thirteen digits needs to be properly understood before you add it to your book. In this article, we look at five common misconceptions that people have about these much-coveted ISBNs.

                                                     Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Using the same ISBN across different titles
An ISBN doesn’t represent an author, so you can’t use the same ISBN across all your titles. It is even more specific than a single title.

2. Using the same ISBN across eBook and print book
ISBN not only represents a title but also a specific format and edition of the book. It cannot be shared between eBook and print versions of even the same title.

3. Using the same ISBN in paperback and hard cover
Even using the same ISBN for different formats of print books is incorrect. Paperback and hard cover must have different ISBNs.

4. Using the same ISBN across different editions
An ISBN has to be unique to a specific format of a specific title. It also has to be unique to a specific edition. If a new edition of a book is being brought out, it can’t reuse the previous edition’s ISBN. Reprinting with the same ISBN is fine. This concept, however, runs into some trouble with print on demand since you can keep making small changes in the books all the time.

At what point does a book deserve to be called a new edition? When you make significant changes,  calling it a new edition and assigning a new ISBN will be good from a marketing perspective. Another recommendation we have is if your changes are significant enough that they change the physical specifications of the book like the number of pages or page size, then you should treat this as a different edition and assign a new ISBN.

5. Using the same ISBN across different country editions
Even if the content is the same, if you are creating different editions to sell at different prices in different countries, you should use different ISBNs for them. ‘Price change’, as such, does not require changing the ISBN. But having two differently priced editions at different places at the same time is not exactly a price change. It is really two different editions. Keeping the ISBN the same across differently priced editions can also create confusion in the listing of your book on online stores. So, use two different ISBNs in such cases.


Let us know if you have any ISBN related queries that haven’t been answered.


Three Essential Ingredients for Online Book Marketing

Once considered the black sheep of publishing, self-publishing is now the mainstream. No longer deemed amateurish or even unglamorous, writers who have even been published by traditional publishers are choosing self-publishing.  Why? Control and profitability!

By having control, the author now must take the book’s marketing into his or her own hands. This is not so difficult any more, considering that the author can create an online presence on her own. A web brand is a sure-shot way to  market the book. A strong web presence is the first step in an author’s marketing campaign.

Here’s three ingredients that help create a successful online book marketing campaign –

  • An author centric website which informs as well as acts as an outlet to purchase the book.
  • A social media profile on all the major social media sites – like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc
  • The author’s personal blog that will create comments and bring readers to the book. Interaction is essential for a successful online marketing campaign.

With all marketing content linked back to your website, those interested in purchasing your book can do so easily. That is the purpose and design of a successful online presence. With all of these efforts, be prepared for the long-term, nothing happens overnight.  Take you time and build your audience.

Let’s look at these essential ingredients.

Your website

Websites come in every shape and size. You can have just one sheet – that just introduces the book and gives the reader a place to purchase it. You can build a 10- page site, with photos, your bio and excerpts from the book, as well. To develop a site can be very inexpensive and a very cost-efficient method to reach readers. If you are not tech savvy, there are many different ways to manage your site.  It will be the major platform where your readers can reach you. 

A Social Media Profile

The next aspect to your web presence is your social media interaction. Everyday it seems like there is a new social media site emerging. Facebook is still the #1 way people connect on the web, with 250 million users a day. Google says that YouTube airs 4 billion videos per day and Twitter is the third most popular. Some more potential sites in the image below:


All of these sites translate to millions of potential fans and buyers for YOUR book. Plus, every social media page/profile you create will be linked to your site so purchasing your book is easy and quick. All that is needed is your willingness to create pages/profits for each social media site (almost all free) and invite everyone you know to join. Yes, it can seem like a full time job. And once again, there many ways to manage your social media posts. (We will go into this further in subsequent posts)

Your Blog

Blogs are controversial because there are so many. But more than 50% people online read more than one blog a day. Blogs are how people are getting their news, their opinions and advice. For a writer, a blog can be a fun experience or seem like a chore. But you will be glad you have one. Your blog will create interaction and feedback. Exactly what Internet marketing is all about. Here are a few tips on what makes a successful blog –

  • Speak to your target audience. Be direct and interesting.
  • Don’t make them too long… 400- 600 words
  • Make them easy and fun to read
  • In other words, show don’t tell. Stories sell, facts tell. Tell a great story.
  • Try to engage the reader – include a call to action at the end that gets them excited and involved.

More online marketing tips to come. Stay tuned!

Winning Entry from “Draw Them Up” Contest: “I, Me Myself” by Shamila Janakiraman

The phone rings. Mrs. Padma Suresh picks up the cordless receiver and sees the caller ID and takes the call. It is from her daughter Shreya.

Mrs. Padma Suresh (PS): Hello, today my leg pain has returned with a fury. I just finished cooking and not able to stand also. I was better when I walked to the temple today all the way and back.

Shreya (S): Oh oh! Why…

PS: Just spoke to Lakshmi about an Ayurveda doctor. It seems his medicines are very good. Anyway I have started on the medicine given by the ortho specialist. The pain subsides for few minutes only, but. God knows if the doctor is good.

S: Give hot water massage and………

PS: Yeah, I did that yesterday before going to the jewelry shop. You know I gave my ruby necklace for repair. New one, it broke.

S: I didn’t know you bought one.

PS: Oh! Two months back. Oh yes…yesterday I ordered for a ring…4 gms. But while sweeping it hurts….. So after few days I will remove it anyway.

S: I thought you had a maid.

PS: Maids…bah! They take my life out. Give them money and suffer because of them.

S: At least you can rest a while.

PS: Maids are for lazy people. They demand too much. Rs. 400 a month for washing vessels. I could save that amount for few months and buy a jewel instead. Oh! My paining leg. I think I should see a neurologist next.

Did you finish cooking?

S: Yes yes I finished just now. I made……..

PS: What will you make? A sambar and one vegetable. Not like me. I used to make sambar or something gravy, 2 vegetables and rasam every day. We ate very well and I still cook like that. You people are lazy. Eat well so that you will have a worry-free healthy body later.

S: Children are busy with exams.

PS: Let them study, let them study. As for you, don’t waste time doing your office work. Pray every day. Are you reciting the sloka I wrote down for you last month when I came there? Recite that 24 times every day. Only then children will study.

S: They are working hard…..

PS: They may………. but how do you think you people got good marks. I used to recite the same sloka 1000 times a day. Where ever I was, whatever I was doing I went on reciting the sloka. You may have studied hard but it is the sloka which did its magic.

S: How is father?

PS: What for him? He is hale and hearty. It is me who is suffering with leg and knee pain. See my leg is swollen at the ankle. I am not able to go anywhere outside. How I used to walk to temples every day, such long distances. I used to take half an hour last year, now I think I will take even 2 hours for same distance.

S: You should have avoided all that…………..

PS: Hush! If I did not walk, I have to spend on auto rickshaw or bus or spend on petrol for car and driver salary.

S: You could have used transport, your leg would have been okay.

PS: Forget it I will be better soon. I have to become better to attend Savitha’s wedding. I am planning to wear the silk sari I bought last month. My latest. It is a beautiful orange colour sari with dark blue border. You know I bought raw silk cloth for the blouse. Quite expensive but will look beautiful and make the sari more attractive.

S: Oh good!

PS: Should ask the maid next door to do the cleaning for that day. But that woman will ask for 50 rupees. No other go, have to give her and get the work done.

S: Good.

PS: By the way, the priest from Vellore came. I gave him 5000 rupees donation for some puja. God knows how much he will pocket and how much will go for the puja. But I have to give for such donations so that our family health, wealth gets better.

Yesterday night, I dreamt of a cow giving birth to a calf. I think someone in our family will be blessed with a child soon.

S: Oh mother, all our families are full with 2 each. Please shift your dreamworks to some other family please.

PS: You people are always critical of whatever I say. Why did I order that ring yesterday, you know?

I saw the design in my dream and I was praying to Swami Ayyappa. Maybe the lord wants me to come to his temple at Sabarimala. That is my next venture.

S: Mom, first please make your leg alright. Then think about travel. Two days back only, you returned from Tirupati.

PS: Don’t talk in the negative to me. You are all spoil sports. Ok, shall I put the phone down.

S: I have to go to school to pick up…………


S: Oh Man! Same every day. But still have to call, otherwise I will get scolded for that too. (sigh)

Pothi.com’s Note: Shamila Janakiraman has published her collection of short stories through Pothi.com. The books is available in print and e-book formats at the links below

  1. Print Book – Hues of Emotions
  2. e-book – Hues of Emotions

Also check out “Just Retired” by Amar Agarwala