How to Get an ISBN Number

So you've finally read all the wikiHows about creating characters, building a plot, and writing a book. Congratulations, that's a great accomplishment! Now you want to publish your book online, and they want you to give them an ISBN number. "Sure," you tell yourself. "What is that, and how much does it cost?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and is a unique number assigned to a book so that it can be identified internationally. It allows book sellers and readers to know what book they're buying, what the book is about, and who the author is. It's a bit of a process, but we've done the legwork, and will show you how to get one of your own.


  1. Image titled Get an ISBN Number Step 1
    Find your local ISBN agency. Open your browser, and enter
    • Click on the '-- select group agency -- menu. It lists virtually every country in the world. Select your local agency. We'll pick United States for our example.

    • We see for our local agency, that the R.R. Bowker company in New Jersey is our "local agent," even though they are located on the opposite coast. It lists an address, phone and fax numbers, a contact name, plus email and web addresses.

  2. Image titled Get an ISBN Number Step 2
    Click on the URL link. You will be taken to an eye-catching website where you can learn all about the what, why, and how of ISBN numbers, which you are free to peruse as long as your eyes can handle it.
    • For our purposes, we will jump right to getting an ISBN.
  3. Image titled Get an ISBN Number Step 3
    Click the gigantic orange "Get your ISBN TODAY" button. This takes you to another page with a little more information about ISBNs. Feel free to peruse that at your leisure, or go directly to their ISBN purchase page.
    • From here, you can buy as many ISBN numbers as you think you will need.

    • Important: you will need a separate ISBN for each version of the book you publish. That includes hard cover, paperbacks, ePubs, PDFs, apps, and second editions.
  4. Image titled Get an ISBN Number Step 4
    Fill out the form. You can buy the ISBN before you need it, and when it's time to publish, log on to the Agency website and fill out the form and the information.
    • Note that this information is for the U.S. ISBN agency. Prices and procedures will vary depending on your region. If you're not in the U.S., the first step will take you where you need to go.


  • Every publisher has their own block of ISBN numbers. These numbers cannot be shared or sold.


  • Be wary of anyone offering to sell you a single ISBN number, unless they are an authorized agent of the ISBN agency. Using this number will mean that you will not be listed correctly as the publisher in industry databases. The US ISBN Agency does now allow self-publishers to purchase single numbers from their portal. In addition, their approved providers ( and can provide single ISBN numbers.

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Categories: Publishing