The Intelligent Smart Brilliant Novel. Or, The ISBN Controversy

So, what is an ISBN?

It doesn’t stand for Intelligent Smart Brilliant Novel. (Sorry!)

It’s the International Standard Book Number that allows you to distribute your book (and obviously sell it) through retail channels.

There are a few ways you can get one.

If you are published by a traditional publishing house, you will receive an ISBN as part of everything they do for you.

If you are self-publishing a book, you can get an ISBN free-of-charge from Createspace, for example.

The company will give you that number and that is all. They don’t own the book; it only means you that they are considered the publisher of record and they’re listed on amazon, etc. (You own the copyright; this has nothing to do with that.)

I didn’t get a free copyright, however. I chose to go through R.R. Bowker which is the company that sells the ISBN and I bought a bargain of 10 copyrights for $250. Why oh why did I do this?

Because at the time I was reading different books on self-publishing, including  Carla King’s  great Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors. Somebody, and I don’t know who,  suggested that I buy my copyright and then set up my own publishing company. I even picked my own name, Kent & Cordell, because it sounded lofty and literary. I didn’t want people to know ’twas I who I was publishing. I thought it would look more professional –and I’d sell more books—if I had a so-called publishing company backing me up.

Then I read Catherine Ryan Howard’s book, Self-Printing, and she ratted me out. She said it’s so obvious when authors allegedly start publishing houses and the first book they happen to publish is their own!

So, I did away with Kent & Cordell. In my book, on the copyright page, I say this:

Copyright © 2012 Diana Bletter

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 0985343206

ISBN-13: 978-0985343200

In the smashwords edition, I also say (as required by them):

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

But I don’t make mention of my publishing company. In fact, there’s no publishing house anywhere on the book.

I admit I’m still sheepish about telling people I published this myself because it seems less legitimate….and most newspapers won’t review self-published books…and you’re going through the back door…

But I’ve come a long way since self-publishing first. In fact, when my novel, The Witches’ Secret, (out soon!) won a semi-final award at the Amazon Break-Through Novel Award a few years ago, Createspace offered to print it and then get it on amazon absolutely free so that I could start selling it. But, I was full of sniffling self-pity and scorn. I refused to settle for anything but a traditional publisher. Just think, I could have already been selling my book for all these years but my pride got in the way!

Yes, it’s true that traditional publishers sometimes overlook great books…and publish books they think they can make money on. (Duh!) And I still would have loved it if my agent (who believed in The Mom Who Took Off…) had been able to sell it. But I’ve learned that it is better to embrace reality and decide what to do about the facts than to keep wishing unpleasant facts will miraculously change and not do anything but feel sorry for myself.

What does this have to do with an ISBN number?

Because…here’s the deal…You can take one off my hands! If you think you have a really good book and you want one of my ISBN numbers, and you want my new publishing company, Kent & Cordell, to be listed on all retail channels as your publisher of record, write and tell me why! And it’s yours! The winner wins a sparkly new ISBN number!

So, the photo: my son, Ari, sent me the photo of the Diana cigarettes. The point is this: if it’s good, people will buy your books. And even if it’s bad for you, people will buy your cigarettes! So


Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker’s free book!

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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6 Responses to The Intelligent Smart Brilliant Novel. Or, The ISBN Controversy

  1. As always, you present the tangled information in a clear and understandable way, Diana. I’m glad to know THE WITCHES’ SECRET will be released soon. I googled the title and searched through Amazon, and now I know to watch for it!

    • dianabletter says:

      Thanks, Marylin! I’m still waiting for your soon-to-be-released books that I know are in you! Keep writing.

  2. Hi Diana,
    Thank you for more fabulous information about self-publishing. And although I’m not quite sure what’s happening with my baby record-keeping book, I need to be prepared so I’ve also taken advantage of Mark’s e-book. I loved to say I’d take an ISBN number of you, but I’d be premature at this point. Is your new book really about witches? Still reading your Motorcycle book and I’m enjoying it, just finding the time to finish it is difficult. 🙂

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Tracy, I wish you luck on your baby record-keeping book–I’m sure it will be wonderful, as is your other artwork!

  3. carlaking says:

    Yikes! I am seeing this 3 years later and I need to let you know that you shouldn’t trade ISBNs. Your ISBNs are assigned to your publishing company (or author name) and that’s how the world finds you. So buy your own and use your own. It’s worth it! The Self-Pub Boot Camp Guide for Authors is in its 3rd edition now.

    • dianabletter says:

      Hello Carla, Thank you for getting back to me. What’s 3 years among friends? I still have my ISBN numbers although I have published my last novel with HarperCollins. Thanks for getting in touch and keep writing and inspiring! Diana

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