Ebook ISBN Bar Codes, Titles and Legals - What Every Ebook Author Needs to Know Before They Publish


There's a lot of confusion about ISBNs and ebooks. Every PRINT book that's sold in a shop and/or stored in a public library HAS to have an ISBN number and bar code. ISBN stands for the International Standard Book Number. The ISBN registration agency run by Nielsen reaches out to over 100 countries around the world. If you want to give your book a code identity you can purchase your own ISBN from Nielsen in the UK or, for the USA and the rest of the world, from their international site. But you have to buy them in batches of 10 which costs £111.86/$163.00. The good news is ebooks don't need them. There are advantages, but you don't have to have one. If you publish with an epublishing site, some of them allocate a free ISBN which will list that company as the book's publisher. You don't need to worry about this, you still hold all the copyright and are free to register the book with other epublishers. The only restriction is that some sites have a pricing policy. Amazon Kindle, for example, says that your list price mustn't be greater than the lowest retail price for any physical edition of your book. If you do decide to assign an ISBN to your ebook, you must be aware that each different version (ePub, Kindle, PDF etc) will require a different ISBN. If you are republishing a book of yours that has already been published in print (and assuming, of course, that the rights have reverted to you), DON'T use the print ISBN number.


When my current agent was considering whether to take on my latest novel or not, her main concern was the title. It wasn't until I'd suggested 5 or 6 titles (out of a shortlist of dozens) that I hit on one which she thought was good enough and she signed me up. If I hadn't come up with a great title I wouldn't have been taken on. Period.

I even had an agent contact me once who'd been given a title by an editor at one of the major publishing houses. She was looking for an author to write the book to fit it. That's how important an ebook title is. If you want to sell your ebook to the widest audience possible, give it a lot of thought. Look at other books in your market area. See if there are any memorable sentences that stand out in your text (some phrase titles, like Does My Bum Look Big In This? enter the language). Ask the opinions of those around you but don't drive them crazy. Invite a group of friends round for wine and food and a one-off brainstorming session. If you belong to a writing group, give one of your reading slots up to a title search. That's how I got mine.

Here's a list of book titles taken from literature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_book_titles_taken_from_literature


If you've written a novel, you'll need to insert the all persons are fictitious disclaimer. If you have included people you know, even if it's just their name as an in joke, email them to ask their permission first. Even if it's your best friend, closest relative and it's the most flattering portrait in the world, situations do change.

If you've written a non-fiction book, the easiest way to see if you've covered every angle in the disclaimers section is go to a bookshop or library, find a title that covers a similar area and see what their publishers have written at the front. Not to copy direct but to get a good idea of what you need to write. My first ebook, Done & Dusted - The Organic Home on a Budget, has lots of advice on cleaning and stain removal so I had to make it clear that I would not be liable for any damage or loss resulting from anybody following the advice in the book. I was once asked by a newspaper reader of my column if they could tell me if they had a legal case against a chair manufacturer after they'd spilled something on the cover which wouldn't come out. I refused to answer the question or they might have shifted their legal claim over to me. Some people are just extremely litigious and authors and self-publishers can't be too careful in covering themselves.

If the contents of your ebook are controversial in any way and you're getting sleepless nights about whether you should publish or not, there is professional liability insurance but it's not cheap. Even at the reduced rate the cost is likely to be around £500/$728 per annum in the UK and more in the US. Check carefully to see what you're covered for. There are lots of insurance companies that sell policies for writers which include public liability and legal costs if you pursue your own case but the policy (especially if it's cheap) may well not cover you if anybody sues YOU.

A UK specialist insurance company for writers, journalists and photographers that does sell comprehensive cover for libel, slander, infringement of copyright, breach of confidentiality, negligence and liabily to the public is Imagining Insurance. There are special reduced rates for members of the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) and the SOA Society of Authors. The US Author's Guild has a package for its members which covers libel, slander or disparagement; invasion of privacy; trademark and copyright infringements and plagiarism.

c.2010 Stephanie Zia.

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