To paraphrase an old poster, “The writer’s job is not finished until the numbers are done.” The most important identifier a book can have is the International Standard Book Number. Without an ISBN, your social science fiction as if doesn’t exist; it will not be found in most bookstores, whether brick or online.
ISBN’s provide unique identification and simplify the distribution of books throughout the global supply chain. To assure uniqueness, ISBN International has a designated agency in each region. In the United States and its territories, the sole official ISBN source is Bowker.
1. International Standard Book Number
An ISBN is a 13-digit number consisting of a prefix (currently either 978 or 979), a Registration Group element, a Registrant element, a Publication element, and a check digit. It identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition, and format, and it is used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and others for ordering, listing, sales records, and stock control purposes.
It is always the publisher of the book who registers for the ISBN. This is important because you, the author, own the intellectual property, but the publisher owns your book’s identification. Royalty payments (roughly the retail price of books sold net of printing costs and the costs and profits in the distribution channel) go to the account of the registrant. Subject to your agreement with the publisher, they will send you a specified portion of the royalties in a specified timeframe.
2. The List Price
Price setting is an art and science in all fields of commerce, books included. One way to look at pricing is how much you and your publisher want to earn over your book’s costs including third-party profits. If your book is non-fiction, such as do-it-yourself, a bit of research on your competition and audience helps identify the “sweet spot” – the price range in which your readers are used to buying that kind of book. This makes writing non-fiction less risky and possibly more rewarding than writing fiction, especially for novice authors.
The science part is figuring the relationship between price and the number of copies sold – the so-called price elasticity or price/demand curve. To say that you wouldn’t mind making only a dollar a piece if you could sell a million books sounds extreme, yet it contains a grain of truth. For example, an Amazon 2014 study concluded that e-books are highly price-elastic. If the price of a book is reduced by 33%, the number of copies sold increases by 74%. The author receives less in royalty per copy, but her total royalty check will increase by 16% after the price reduction.
3. Library of Congress Control Number
The LOC is the largest library in the world, carrying more than 167 million items on bookshelves measured in hundreds of miles in length. The application is relatively straightforward, as long as you don’t forget to send a complimentary copy of the best edition of your book as soon as it comes out.
LOC Number doesn’t protect your copyright, though the U.S. Copyright Office is administratively located within the LOC. That requires a separate application, payment of a fee, and uploading your work online.
4. BISAC Codes
BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications, and the codes are maintained by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). Selecting a BISAC code for your book is a two-step process: first, select a major heading from the BISAC Subjects Headings List, then, pick one of the subtopics listed under the selected heading. A book can be assigned up to three BISAC codes.
Since Amazon tracks a Best Sellers Ranking of books in specific categories based upon BISAC codes, it is to the author’s advantage to define the categories as narrowly as possible: the fewer competition, the better potential ranking. Authors who proclaim themselves “Amazon #1 Bestsellers,” are usually referring to an Amazon Best Sellers Rank within a specific category.
In our case, we have selected a BISAC code for each of the three uniquely different parts of #TheTwin. The three codes are:
• YAF058120 YOUNG ADULT FICTION – Social Themes – Friendship
• CGN004070 COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS – Science Fiction
• FIC039000 FICTION – Visionary & Metaphysical
Metadata helps your book be discovered. It is a structured record in a digital database searched by booksellers, librarians, and others. Your book’s inclusion doesn’t guarantee sales, but without it, they would be hard to come by.
Metadata includes the cover picture and description of your book, table of contents, brief bios of the author and other contributors, pertinent numbers and codes, right down to the packaging, dimensions, price, and availability. The record is linked to your book’s ISBN, and Bowker provides assistance and tools for filling the information in.
6. A Domain
Domain name is your book’s address in the internet universe. If an author consolidates all their books on one website, the domain may be something like theauthorsname.com; while the name of a domain dedicated to one book may be derived from that book’s title. In our case, we have selected a domain name that matches the title exactly: TheTw.in.
If your book is non-fiction dealing with a specific topic or field of your expertise, you want to make sure that anyone googling for that resource will find a link to your website on their first search screen. That’s search engine optimization or SEO for short. But if you write fiction, it’s not that simple. For example, we define #TheTwin as social science fiction; hopefully, one day when someone asks Siri or Alexa, “Find me some social science fiction,” they’ll land on our book’s website.
7. Publishing Options
#TheTwin is an interactive publishing experiment: the book and its website. It offers our readers, who are also writers and artists, space to publish for free before striking out on their own. For additional reading about your publishing options, we recommend the overview posted by AFW.