• Purchase ISBN if and Barcode if required
  • Incorporate into book pages


  • Create Bowker account to purchase ISBN
  • Verfiy login and password
  • Purchase ISBN plus Barcode if required
  • Receive ISBN and Barcode details
  • Import ISBN and Barcode into book pages


So, what is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.

It is a unique identifier for books made up of 13 digits. An ISBN is used internationally so if you’re unsure whether you need one or not, check out the information below. It should assist you in making a decision that works for you.


If your book is going to be sold to family and friends only or at best, at the local market then you don’t need an ISBN. However, if you plan to sell your book in bookstores, or to libraries, also through online retailers like, you will require an ISBN.

You also have the option of purchasing a Barcode. The Barcode is your ISBN, represented in a form that can be identified by scanners. It gives your publication a professional touch but it has other important data embedded relating to price etc. A Barcode is recommended if you plan to sell through bookstores. They’ll want to be able to identify your book and access it’s details at a glance. A scannable Barcode takes care of all that.

If you don’t want an ISBN or Barcode skip this step.

If you think an ISBN might be for you, then read on…


If you are featuring an ISBN and Barcode, these will be incorporated into your book pages in the appropriate areas, before the pages are finalised. The ISBN is usually positioned on the Copywright page which is usually a few pages in from the inside front cover. The Barcode goes on the rear cover, lower right or lower left and not too big. Your Barcode will be sent to you as a PDF and it can be scaled up or down to any size without incident as it is a vector graphic. In terms of an appropriate size for the rear cover, imagine the cover divided into eighths. Make it at least an eight of the size or slightly bigger, but don’t let it dominate. It needs to be large enough to scan.

See further down page for what to do once you have your ISBN.


Bowker is the only company you can purchase your ISBNs direct from. When you buy them direct, then you become the publisher. If a third party issues your number then they are listed as the publisher with all associated details, both in your book and in online searches etc. So when your book is listed anywhere, it will reflect the ISBN purchaser as the publisher. When you go through a vanity publisher, most times they will provide a free ISBN but with some you can supply your own, it just depends who you go through. After some internal debate over whether or not I needed an ISBN, I figured it WAS in the best interests of my book to get one. I was also looking long term, not short term. So I purchased my own ISBN.

A single ISBN by itself can be costly (around $44 AUD) and most authors plan more than one publication. If your book is published in hardback, soft cover, paperback or ebook you’ll need an isbn for each. So I found the best way to purchase them was in a block of 10 ISBNs. Each number once issued to you is stored and filed away, until you’re ready to use it. Then you simply allocate your book title details to it when you’re ready and it is activated once the details are submitted. It takes around two months to appear in general online book searches and in the Google Books listing. If you purchase a Barcode as well.

There is no discount for purchasing multiple Barcodes so it made sense just to get the one at the time.

Lastly, the unavoidable $55 New Publisher Fee you get hit up with once when you sign up to make your first purchase. This is a one off fee and if you want your own ISBN, there is no getting around it. As Bowker are the only licenced issuer of ISBNs, you are at their mercy…and they’re well aware of that!


Detailed below are my costs:

  • $55 AUD … New Publisher Fee
  • $88 AUD … Block of 10 ISBNs
  • $45 AUD … 1 x Barcode

Obviously bearing in mind only 1 of the ISBN’s is required per publication.

To purchase your ISBNs direct from Bowker (USA):

For Thorpe-Bowker (Australia):

For more information on ISBN this FAQ page may be helpful

For those purchasing Complete Publishing Packages, you can a get a free ISBN through Busy Fingers Publishing or just supply your own. There is also the option available to purchase a Barcode in your package. Click on link for more details.

Once you have your ISBN go to:

There are instructions on how to import your ISBN and Barcode (if applicable) into these pages:

  • Copyright Page
  • Rear Cover Page

This is the last step in the completion of your cover artwork.

It MUST be done before finalising your book page SVG files.


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Or to direct page Assistance Package Step 06 ISBN