Aka: My final decision on ISBN’s
So this weekend, in case you didn’t realize, I’ve published my newest novel In The Time Of Dying. I went the usual Lulu route, and I’m also going to try Smashwords for the eBook as well as Lulu.
I sat down on Saturday to create the hardcopy, and decided I was curious enough to see what it would be like to choose the Lulu option of a free ISBN (owned by Lulu) so as I was preparing to upload the formatted file, I clicked that box instead of the usual. At first, it all seemed very normal. They wanted me to read the licensing agreement that said Lulu would be the owner of the ISBN assigned to my novel, and while I would own the novel and all the rights, the number would always be theirs.
This wasn’t news. I knew this, and I’ve discussed it here at length. There are pros and cons to taking this approach, and neither one is right or wrong – it’s a personal choice.
So to further my curiosity, I picked the option that would put my novel out in the wilds of the Bookselling Marketplace. And by that, I mean any retailer dumb enough to be willing to stock or order it !
Things were moving along just fine. I was a little peeved by Lulu’s insistence at this stage that I would have to purchase, review, and approve my hardcopy before it would be made available – due to the ISBN assignment and all. The reason that peeved me was because I wanted it released NOW, and had been too busy to get this done any sooner.
But then it happened. I’d reached the stage of setting the price and I was confronted by a real surprise.
Because assigning an ISBN would place my novel in the general Marketplace, where retailers could order it – and return it – and discount it – and offer it up for whatever price they felt like it – – the list price to sell my 665 page Trade Paperback would be no less than $34.95.
Yeah, $34.95 for a Trade Paperback, 665 pages.
Oh, sure, they’d automatically granted me a profit of $13.40 whether I wanted it or not, but they’d given me no option to remove that, which would have altered the final sale price. No, they set that all in stone, and when I clicked the “What’s This?” link I was directed to a very convoluted, and frankly confusing, explanation of Retail, Remander, Returns, Sale Prices, Discounts, Profit Margin, and I’m pretty sure there was a line in there about blood, turnips and first borns.
My momentary freak-out included a panic that Lulu had undergone some sort of catastrophic change in pricing, and that a novel I would have priced UNDER $20.00 would now, regardless of choice, be sold at prices even I wouldn’t pay.
Fearing that was the case, I backed all the way out of there, started again from scratch, and followed my routine – choosing NO ISBN at all, like all the others. I followed my usual steps, and when I finally reached the pricing section I was once again in familiar territory.
So long as I did not want my book to contain an ISBN of my own or Lulu’s possession, and so long as I didn’t care if Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Joe Blow’s Books and Tea Emporium could stock, discount, or return my novel – I could price my lovely little Trade Paperback of 665 pages at a modest $19.05
What does this all mean?
Well, I’ve made my decision about ISBN’s for one. They’re an antiquated tracking system designed for the “man” to keep track of things hardly anyone keeps track of any longer. They’re markers of a dusty system that is going to have to grow with the times, or find itself obsolete.
Which is to say, I’m not interested.
I can’t see what an arbitrary number will do for me, aside from forcing me to charge ridiculous prices for my novels and ensuring zero sales. Or offering up a profit margin for booksellers who can then return the purchase for full refunds. ISBN’s don’t guarantee sales, or reviews, or even any sort of respect.
Low prices and well written novels are the only avenue to sales and building readership. Consistency and reliability garner return visits, quality stories win a writer respect. So from this lesson, I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that ISBN’s are not for me. I’m going to remain fully and completely Independent. Forging my own way, good, bad or indifferent.
Your mileage may vary
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3 thoughts on “Power to the people”
Not sure why you think ISBNs are antiquated. I think it’s a valuable tool for tracking books.
think bout generating your own isbn? http://www.tux.org/~milgram/bookland/
You can generate your own bar code for an ISBN – you cannot “legally create your own ISBN”.