Friday, April 13

How to self-publish on Barnes & Noble

I want to write an ebook on how to self-publish and thought I'd motivate myself by writing one section a week and posting it here. I intended to post this article Thursday, so it's a day late, but I'm a big fan of the sentiment: "Better late than never!" :-)

Eventually, I'll write articles on how to self-publish on each major platform -- Smashwords,, Apple, Sony, and so on -- but I thought I would begin with Barnes & Noble. So, here we go. As always, your feedback is appreciated!

Publishing On Barnes & Noble

What is required
Only publishers can get books into Barnes & Noble's Nook Store, so you'll need a business license. In the United States information on starting up a business can be found at BusinessUSA ( The website is chalk full of useful information and it's easy to navigate. In Canada, you'll need to go to your city or municipality's website.

Okay, so, you've got a business license and you want to publish your ebook with Barnes & Noble. What now?

First, head off to PubIt! ( and take out a free account but be warned. In order to complete registration you'll need a U.S. bank account, a U.S. credit card and a U.S. tax id number. Also, your bank account, credit card and tax id number must be tied to a U.S. address. This would seem to indicate that only US residents can get their ebooks into the Nook Store. Not so!

Getting your books into the Nook Store though Smashwords
If you can't take out an account at PubIt!, but you want to get your ebooks into the Nook Store, you can do this through Smashwords. (Thinking about it now, I should probably have written about Smashwords before Barnes & Noble! Ah well.)

Unlike at Barnes and Noble, you do not have to be a publisher to publish through Smashwords. That said, if you want to get your book into the Apple Store or the Sony Store, your book will need to have an ISBN number, and in order to buy your own ISBN number you do need to be a publisher. If that doesn't appeal to you, don't despair! Smashwords will provide you with a free ISBN if you don't want to buy your own (see below for details).

Using Smashwords to Distribute Your Ebook
If your ebook makes it into Smashwords Premium Catalog it will be sold in the following online bookstores:

Apple -- it has iBookstores in 32 countries
Barnes & Noble
WH Smith in the UK
The Diesel eBook Store
eBook Eros (operated by Diesel)
Baker & Tayler (Blio and the Axis 360 library service)

As you can see, one of the premium distribution chanells is Barnes & Noble, so by getting your ebook accepted into the premium catalog at Smashwords you will, eventually, be able to get your ebook into Barnes & Noble's Nook Store.

That's about all there is to say about that except to explain Smashwords' policy on ISBN numbers. However, rather than restate Smashwords policy, I'm just going to post an except from it.

Smashwords Distribution Information Page: How Smashwords Distributes Ebooks
Will Smashwords assign me an ISBN number?
Starting March 2010, Smashwords added support for ISBN-13 numbers with our new ISBN Manager feature. We offer three ISBN options: 1. You can attach your own ISBN number to your book; 2. You can obtain a free ISBN from Smashwords that registers Smashwords as your publisher (your book must be accepted into the Premium Catalog to be eligible to receive the free ISBN), or; 3. You can select the premium ISBN from Smashwords. The Premium ISBN service,  which registers you, the author or publisher, as the publisher in the ISBN record and lists Smashwords as the distributor, is $9.95 and is available only to residents of the United States and U.S. territories, and your book must be accepted into the Premium Catalog.  For publishers outside the United States, click here for list of international ISBN agencies.

What's the difference between the Premium ISBN and the Free ISBN?  Which is better?
We recommend the FREE ISBN because it's free.  We pay for the ISBN so you don't have to.  The Premium ISBN offers no advantage over the free ISBN.  Unless you're a publisher of multiple authors, the Premium ISBN is essentially a vanity ISBN for those who feel it's important to be listed as the "publisher" in the Bowker Books in Print Database, a database few readers will ever view (most readers search for books via title and author name searches at Google and online bookstores).  Of all the Smashwords retailers, only Sony polls Bowker for data in the ISBN record.  The FREE ISBN is available to any Smashwords author, anywhere in the world.  Although it registers Smashwords as the "publisher" in the Bowker record, we are not your publisher.  This designation is due only to the legacy limitations of Bowker's categorization options for ISBNs.  If Smashwords is listed as your publisher in the ISBN record, it in no way limits your ownership of your book, and in no way makes us your publisher.  

Can I use a Smashwords ISBN elsewhere?
We do not recommend this.  Smashwords ISBNs are provided as an exclusive service benefit for authors and publishers who utilize Smashwords' distribution services.  To use a Smashwords ISBN elsewhere, or to utilize Smashwords as a free vending machine for ISBNs, goes against the spirit of why we make this benefit available to our authors and clients.  To do so would also potentially create situations where your book is listed incorrectly.  If you plan to utilize an ISBN outside of Smashwords distribution, it's best to go to ISBN registrar and obtain your own.

Do I need an ISBN to publish on Smashwords?
No, you don't need an ISBN, though your book will be more successful if you have one because you'll enjoy broader distribution.  Why? Sony and Apple require ISBNs.
Clear as mud? Let me try to summarize.

A) If you ARE a publisher and live in the US:
- Head over to Barnes & Noble's PubIt! page and take out an account, then follow their simple and easy instructions and publish your ebook. (We'll talk about formatting your ebook for publication with PubIt@ later in this series.)

B) If you ARE a publisher but don't live in the US:
- Head over to Smashwords and publish your book through them, being careful to indicate that you want Barnes & Noble as one of your distribution channels. Eventually -- in a few weeks -- your book will show up on the Nook Store shelves.

If you are NOT a publisher:
- Same as for (B), above. If you want an ISBN number for your book, Smashwords will assign one to your book for you free of charge (see above for the details).

I hope that made some sense, there is SO much to cover in this area! Eventually I'll get through it.

Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: techshout

Related Articles:
Publishing With Smashwords: What can Smashwords do for me as a writer?

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