Press-Ready Day 7 - ISBN, UPC, LCCN... What do you really need
When you publish a book through print or digital, it’s best to have a way to inventory it. If you never want your book to be sold anywhere but at your convention table, then you can skip all identifying numbers.

If, however, you want to sell your book online, in stores or have it in a library, you’ll need some sort of identification.

This info is for the US only. Each country does things differently, so you’ll have to check. I believe ISBNs are free in Canada?


International Standard Book Number – They’re not cheap, but the price of one is almost the same as the price for 10 (no joke, check it out). If you’re in the US, you’ll be using Bowkers. You can search all you want for alternates, but this is where you’ll be redirected. 

Now, you can go through print-on-demand services like Createspace, Lulu, etc. (more about those later) and they will give you an ISBN through them. Read these thoroughly and decide what you want. They will own the ISBN, their name will be listed as the publisher. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on what you want. However, some ISBNs will only work within that company’s system. And that’s just silly.

You need an ISBN if you intend to have your books in a library or in a major bookstore. You may be able to slide by in a small shop though.

By the way, you’ll get an ISBN-13. It has 13 digits. We’re switching over from the old ISBN-10. Unfortunately, places like Amazon Seller require ISBN-10, so just hop online and search for a free converter. Don’t ask me why you’re not just given both, I can’t help you with that logic.

Here's an article on how to read an ISBN 


Universal Product Code – More low-key and way less expensive than ISBNs, but not interchangeable. They are used for any product and are more for tracking inventory. So if you give your book to a store, your book will be encoded with a description that will show up once scanned by a store.

If you’re doing a floppy, single-issue comics, you’ll use a UPC. If you’re doing a series of the same title with multiple issues, you’ll want to add a 5-digit extension number. That number, by the way is made up of the volume number, the cover variant, and the printing number. So if I’m on issue 5, first variant cover, third print run, the number would read 00513.

Here's an article that covers UPCs for floppies more thoroughly 


Stock Keeping Unit – A store may stick an SKU barcode to your book, encoded to their system to track sales. You can make up your own SKUs if you run a store. I have them in my online shops. The SKU for Style Quest is GN-SQ-P-S standing for Graphic novel, Style Quest, Print, Softcover. That number means nothing to anyone or anything except my store tally.


Cataloging in Publication – This is essentially the bibliographic record for a book that is likely to be acquired by a library and must be gotten before the book is printed, and the information printed on the copyright page. 


Preassigned Control Number – This is a Library of Congress Control Number (see below) that is pre-assigned to a book that is likely to be acquired by a library. This has to be done before it is published, and is printed on the copyright page.


Library of Congress Control Number – This is the number associated with the Library of Congress’ bibliographic record, given to books that are likely to be acquired by the Library of Congress. Only publishers can acquire these and it must be done before the book is printed. This number is printed on the copyright page. You will eventually send the best copy of the book to the Library of Congress. Digital books will not receive an LCCN, even if their physical counterpart has one.

So… What are barcodes?

Barcodes are the visual representation of a number. The barcodes on your book will be: an ISBN or a UPC. If it’s entered into a library, they’ll put the library’s barcode on it with a sticker. Not your problem. You’ll want to purchase your UPCs legitimately through one of several websites (mine came with a digital certificate of authenticity from BarcodesTalk which I find hilarious), but you really don’t need to buy ISBN barcodes. You’ve paid for the number and the registry, you can just generate a free barcode online by looking up a free barcode generator. Really.


That wraps up a full week of public pre-press hints and tips!

There may be a few more topics throughout the month that are free, but the rest will be patron-only content. You can gain access to this content for as little as $1. I regularly post about once a week to the various patron levels, so I'd love to keep sharing with you!

Here are the topics planned for the rest of the month with wiggle room for questions and extra topics:

Hope to see you there!