29 February 2012

Can I Use the ISBN Provided by Smashwords to Publish Elsewhere?

Recently I've gotten some comments (on my post from last March comparing Amazon's KDP and Smashwords) and emails asking this question.

Short answer? No.

There, question answered, thanks for reading!

Okay, okay. I know some of you are kicking your feet and whining But why not? It'll save me money to use the ISBN provided for free (or as part of the $9.95 Premium option) from Smashwords when I upload to [insert other ebook retailer here].

My gut-reaction reason for not using the ISBN given to you by Smashwords when you epublish elsewhere is that it's simply unethical. Smashwords is not your cheap ISBN vendor. They offer their free or low-cost ISBN service to people who use their distribution services. It's a perk. Something to entice you to do business with them, you see. If you take that ISBN and attach it to your Kindle book or any other ebook format that you then distribute yourself (or through some venue other than Smashwords), you're taking advantage of the service they've provided. In the long run, this could hurt indie authors everywhere. If everyone snagged a free or cheap ISBN from Smashwords and then used it elsewhere, you can bet your laptop Smashwords would eventually stop offering the service. You might be saving yourself some money in the short term, but you'll be doing yourself (and the rest of us) a huge disservice in the long run.

*steps off soapbox*

Now let's look at some of the logistical reasons you don't want to do this.

First, you don't need an ISBN to publish and have your ebook sold through any of the major outlets except Sony and Apple. You can sell direct through Amazon and have Smashwords distribute to various other outlets without an ISBN. So why even bother putting an ISBN on your Kindle version when you upload to KDP? Amazon will assign you their own identification number. The point of an ISBN is to identify a title (or an edition of a title). Retailers then use the ISBN to track sales of that title or edition. Since Amazon and other retailers will assign their own identification numbers to your book for sales tracking purposes. I'd be curious why indie authors feel the need to bother with an ISBN for the ebook at all, outside of the retailers that require it.

You're required to have a different ISBN for each edition of a book. If you do a print edition, you'll need a different ISBN than your ebook edition. It's currently hotly debated whether each of the ebook formats constitutes a different edition, thereby requiring different ISBNs for each. Some say yes, others say no way, and it's even unclear based on what I've read from Bowker and here. Here, in the ISBN Users' Manual, is the closest thing I've found to the assertion that each format will require a different ISBN. But it also begs the question of whether an ebook is either "software" or an "online publication." Their section on non-printed books was written in 1996 and covers physical items like audio cassettes, CDs, computer tapes, and more, but (obviously) not ebook files. Behind the times much?

When you purchase an ISBN yourself, there's a dropdown menu to specify why type of book the number will be assigned to. Among the different format types, there is a "multiple formats" option - according to some people's personal experiences I've read, like this one - to select when specifying what the ISBN will be associated with. It would seem this option would be sufficient to use with all ebook formats. Of course, ISBNs are expensive, which is why many people have been asking about using the one given to them by Smashwords in other places. In the U.S., it's $125 for one ISBN, $250 for 10, $575 for 100, or $1000 for 1000 (obviously the best deal, but how many indie authors have $1000 to spend on ISBNs, and how many anticipate needing that many?) plus processing fees. If you're Canadian, you are super lucky. You can get yours for free.

When Smashwords purchases the ISBN for you, that ISBN is attached to the ePub version of your book ONLY. Why? Because that's the industry standard for everyone but Amazon, and that's the format that is distributed to Apple and Sony, the two retailers requiring and ISBN. So the ISBN record will only list ePub as the format, even if you use it when you upload to Amazon.

If you've purchased ISBNs for your ebook versions, let us know about your experience and your thoughts.

21 February 2012

A Birthday Wish

The day is barely half over and I've been happily surprised at the number of people taking a moment to wish me happy birthday on Facebook and elsewhere. It has been very sweet, especially since a number of these people are folks I know only through social media and networking as a writer. I've spoken often about my love of the writing community, sites like Agent Query Connect, and all the fun and support I get on Twitter. It amazes me every day how well I can get to know and care for people whose faces I only know from their online avatars. And I'm touched by your birthday wishes for me today.

I have just one birthday wish, and that's for everyone in my extended "family" - my network of writers, readers, and friends - to support a young man in the fight of his life. Let me tell you Joshua's story.

Just one month ago, Maxwell Cynn shared a very personal revelation on his blog: His 21-year-old son, Joshua, was diagnosed with acute T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia. Two days later, his heart stopped. Thankfully, the ICU doctors and nurses were able to bring Joshua back and he is currently undergoing chemo and treatment for his cancer. Read Max's heart wrenching post here.

Many of Max's friends were touched by the news and one in particular, Eden Baylee, sprang into action to help. She set up an IndieGoGo campaign, Indies Unite for Joshua, to help raise money for Joshua's treatment and other expenses. At the time of his diagnosis, Joshua was half a semester away from graduating with a degree in philosophy, with a 4.0 GPA. He had to leave school to enter treatment. The Indies Unite for Joshua campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 by the end of May to help Max and his wife offset the cost of Joshua's treatment and school loans.

Now back to my birthday wish, and all of you. Max is one of those online-only friends of mine that I mentioned above. He's always been exceptionally sweet and kind, and he's a long-time supporter of my writing endeavors. He's a writer as well, and his books are a great read (thought-provoking, smart, and sexy on top of all that!) My wish is for all of you do one small thing to help Max's son Joshua.

How can you help? The obvious answer is donate. You can claim lots of great perks for different donation levels (starting at just $10), ranging from ebooks to guest blog spots to professional manuscript editing. Eden also recently secured the support of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian, and you'll be able to see those contributions on the campaign page starting Monday, February 27th.

If you are unable to contribute financially, or would like to do more, there are plenty of options. Emotional and moral support is just as important. Here is what you can do:
  •  Purchase one of Max's books.
  • Snag the widget from the Indies Unite for Joshua page and display it on your blog or website (like I have in my sidebar here). Click "embed" on the campaign home page for the code for the widget.
  • Share the campaign on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network you belong to. Please use the hashtag #IndiesUnite4Joshua when tweeting. It'll help IndieGoGo see who's sharing the campaign and hopefully get more exposure that way.
  • Re-tweet, re-share, re-post as often as you feel comfortable! If you see me (or someone else you follow) tweeting about it, re-tweet it for us!
  • Visit Max's blog to read more about his brave son Joshua and leave a comment of support and encouragement.
  •  Tweet Joshua and let him know you're pulling for him!
  • If you would like to help in some other way that I haven't mentioned, contact me and I can put you in touch with the appropriate people.
If every one of my blog followers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends shared this story, and even just two or three of their friends/followers/readers did the same, that would be a few thousand new people who would hear Joshua's story. Somewhere in that few thousand, I know there are plenty of people who would like to help, and with that help, I know we can reach our goal.

Keep fighting, Joshua!