Can I publish and still be a cheapskate?
March 3, 2006 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to produce some books. I've read some previous questions in the archives but I'm after some more opinions, and have a few questions relating to ISBN numbers, publishing and other book-type things...

I'd like to publish a book of puzzles, and I'd l ike to do it in an on-demand fashion (Print On Demand) as I can't really afford the up-front fees of traditional printers, to get 1000 copies that may not sell. Also, it's a bit of a waste of paper. My questions are thus:

1. Is it worth me getting an ISBN number? If I want to publish it's better to have my own than buy them off other people.

2. Do I need one ISBN per book? I plan to have puzzle books of various levels of difficulty (Easy, Medium, etc), so does each one require it's own ISBN number?

3. If I publish the book in an e-book format, as a paid download, or something that doesn't involve printing it at my end (or using DRM) does that need an ISBN? I'm thinking around £2.50 per book which you download, and can print as many times as you want.

4. Ideally I'd like to produce real-world paper copies of these books, but some POD companies charge a setup fee per book, which I can't really afford. Is there any way round this? Normally these books come out around £9, which is a crazy price for what I'm selling. Surely there must be cheaper ways?

5. Any other good suggestions for getting myself published on a tight budget? How much can I do myself?
posted by gaby to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
If you're only doing POD sales to the public, and your POD company doesn't require a barcode for set up, I don't believe you'd don't need it. It's mainly used for retail scanning and inventory.
posted by Scram at 11:13 AM on March 3, 2006

The ISBN FAQ should answer most of your ISBN questions. Whether or not you need an ISBN depends on how you want to distribute the book -- the purpose of the ISBN is for marketers, retailers, libraries, etc. to be able to identify the book.

Any retailer (including Amazon, et al) will require an ISBN (and its corresponding barcode), but if you're just going to be selling yourself these via your web site, then it's not essential.

Each book would require its own ISBN -- even different editions of the same book (hard cover and TPB, for example) need different numbers.

Regarding the cheap POD: there are companies that do not charge setup fees, such as Lulu and CafePress. I'm not sure whether they supply ISBNs as part of the packages they offer, though.

However, if you only want to distribute it as an e-book, then all you really need is a place to host the files and some way to accept payment. It may be simpler to just do that yourself, depending on your comfort level with those steps.
posted by camcgee at 11:13 AM on March 3, 2006
posted by id girl at 11:14 AM on March 3, 2006

David St. Lawrence blogged a 38 part series on self-publishing his book Danger Quicksand - Have a Nice Day, and although his effort was U.S.A. based, much of his experience might still be instructive to you. He's a nice guy, and welcomes e-mail questions from like minded folk.
posted by paulsc at 12:04 PM on March 3, 2006

Kevin Kelly (cool tools) had two articles I remembered that describe this:

1. How to Sell Your Book, CD, or DVD on Amazon
This describes the process of getting a single ISBN if you need to.

2. Print on demand
posted by Arthur Dent at 3:50 PM on March 3, 2006

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