ISBN means International Standard Book Number. Consider it like a catalog number for books. If you are self publishing your book, it is a good idea to get the ISBN. It is not mandatory for publishing a book, but it is needed if you want to sell that book on retail channels like Amazon, Flipkart etc.
Publishers can get ISBN numbers in bulk. But for an individual like a self-published author, getting the ISBN was a hassle and time consuming process earlier. But the good news is that thanks to technology, it is now very easy and quick to get the ISBN in India.
Here’s how you can get the ISBN in India:
Who needs the ISBN:
An ISBN is not an absolute necessity for publishing a book. However, if you want to sell your book on retail channels, then you do need this number. Also, many self publishing services like KDP, Smashwords and Draft 2 Digital automatically allocate the ISBN or similar number. You can use your own ISBN, but you don’t need to. You can just keep the automatically allocated number.
However, some services (mostly for print books) don’t allocate the automatic identification number. For books published through these services (like pothi.com), you’ll need to get the ISBN if you want to sell your book to other retailers. Also remember that you need a separate ISBN number for every edition or format of the book. You can’t use a print book ISBN with your ebooks.
Before you apply for the ISBN:
When you apply for ISBN, you are asked to upload the book’s cover and give information about book’s page count and price. You also need to upload a Title Verso page (explained later in the post) and scanned images of identity proof like the Aadhaar card. So you need all that ready before you apply for ISBN.
Price of the ISBN in India:
Are you wondering what an ISBN costs in India? Well, it costs nothing! That’s right, you can get it for free by just applying for it.
Where to get the ISBN in India?
In India, the ISBN is allocated by Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN. The agency has its office in Delhi. Earlier, authors and publishers needed to send application to the Agency. After manually reviewing the application, the agency used to assign the ISBN and send it to the applicant via normal post.
But now, you don’t need to send any written application and then wait for approval. The whole process has come online now. So, just head over to http://isbn.gov.in/ to apply for your ISBN.
The agency website will ask you to register first by clicking at the ‘New Applicant Registration’ button. Once your registration is approved, you can apply for the ISBN. This approval process takes less than a day. You’ll get approval or rejection notification over the mail. When approved, the agency will assign you a temporary password which you can later change.
Make sure to keep you login details safe. If you apply for another ISBN later on, you can use the same account.
Process of applying for the ISBN in India:
Once your account is approved, and you are logged in at the agency website, You can apply for ISBN by clicking at ‘Apply For New Application.’ You’ll need to fill a form and upload your cover and identification proofs. The form is not lengthy or complicated. Still, if you have any confusion, the agency provides a step-by-step guide for it. Just fill your details, upload your book’s cover and your identity proofs and submit.
The Title Verso page for ISBN in India:
Along with the Cover design and Identity proofs, you’ll also need to upload a Title Verso page which gives information about the author, printer, copyright holder and copyright notice etc. A wrongly filled Title Verso page can delay the approval of the application. Thankfully, I did not face any such problem. If you want, you can download the Title Verso template that I used and follow it.
Once you submit the application, you’ll get a mail stating your application has been submitted and you need to review it and submit it for further processing. At this review step, if the website gives you any error notification, you need to correct that in your application. If there’s no error notice, just review the application and submit.
You should get your ISBN within 24 hours of final submission.
Getting ISBN in India is now easy and quick
Earlier, the whole process involved over a month long wait and also depended upon the efficiency of the postal department. I remember, when I applied for ISBN for my novel Lemon Girl, I had to wait over a month and then rescue the ISBN letter as it was about to flutter out of our gate. But all that is a thing of past now, thanks to the magic of internet. When I applied for the ISBN now, the whole process from user registration to ISBN allotment took just 3 days! Really, getting ISBN in India has never been this easy and quick.
* All time estimates are based upon my experience and might not be the same for everyone and at all times.