Friday, 26 April 2013

The Paperwork: ISBNs, Tax and Legal Deposit

The sexiest blogpost title ever?
You need to know this stuff. So stop fiddling with that thing and pay attention.

ISBN - International Standard Book Number

An ISBN identifies your book, like a fingerprint. If you want your own ISBNs, you need to buy them. In the UK, this means going to Nielsen.

In order to buy your first batch of ISBNs, you will need to be able to enter the following information for at least one book. Unless you have already completely formatted your print book, this will usually mean entering info about an eBook edition, as for a print book you have to enter number and size of pages WHICH CANNOT BE CHANGED LATER.

Publisher, Imprint etc: as an independent author/publisher, then you retain the rights to your book, so use your own name or the name of the publishing company you have created for yourself. They will also ask you for the draft title page and title verso. Don’t panic about how this is going to be laid out in the final version. What matters is:

- the title page shows the exact title and the author’s name and nothing else

- the title verso shows the copyright and publisher contact info – example below

Copyright page

Copyright © 2012 by JJ Marsh

The moral rights of the author have been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.

Cover design: JD Smith

Published by Prewett Publishing.

All enquiries to

First printing, 2012

ISBN 978-3-9523970-1-5

The form will also ask you for the short description of the book – which here is NOT the blurb, but closer to what elsewhere might be called the keywords and something called the BIC code.

BIC codes are the way that traditional publishers have been classifying books for years. (See Metadata in the Wish You Were Here chapter for more information).

When you are ready to attach ISBNs to further titles/editions of title, you can download the new title form from


In Britain, you have to buy a batch of ten ISBNs. The US, Australia and Switzerland allow you to buy individual ISBNs but do remember that you will need a different number for each format, paperback, Kindle eBook, Smashwords eBook.

UK site:

US site:

Australian site:

If you come from somewhere other than the above, find your site here:

Do I need an ISBN?

No, not necessarily. Amazon offers a free ASIN (an Amazon identifier), which identifies Amazon as the publisher. Smashwords and Lulu likewise. You receive all your royalties, naturally, but will be ‘published’ by those organisations.

If I have an ASIN, can I get listed in the Nielsen catalogue?

A spokesperson for Nielsen Bookdata UK says: “For Nielsen, an Amazon identifier is not sufficient. Most international bookdata handlers require an ISBN.”

And finally, does the ISBN have a future?

The Economist says it’s questionable, Laura Dawson (Bowker) says yes.


US Tax Exemption

If you are publishing in the US and are not a US resident, you will need to send US tax exemption forms to Kindle and Smashwords. Smashwords is the only one that will warn you about this.

The link below gives an excellent step by step guide to exactly what you need to do. Read it and follow it to the letter:

In summary, the key things you need to know are:

Before anything else, you need to telephone the IRS in the US and obtain an EIN number. Once you have this, keep it somewhere safe.

For each company with which you are publishing in the US, get a copy of the form W8-BEN.

Fill that in (in Blue Ink), ticking ‘individual’, and EIN and entering that all-important number.

Send ORIGINAL copies of the form (not scans or photocopies) to each of the companies. The addresses are given in the link above. Do it ASAP.

Legal Deposit
The Laws on Sending a Copy to National Libraries


Publishers are obliged to send one copy of each of their publications to the British Library, free of charge, within one month of the date of publication. The other five libraries (see below) have the right to request the deposit of publications, free of charge, within a year of the date of publication.

Legal Deposit creates many advantages for the author and publisher, including the preservation of their work for future generations, recording the publication by online catalogue and listing on the BNB (British National Bibliography) a system used by librarians and the book trade for stock selection.

National Libraries: The British Library , Bodleian Library (Oxford), University Library (Cambridge), National Library of Scotland, Library of Trinity College (Dublin) & National Library of Wales

More information here:


Rules vary regarding legal deposit from canton to canton, but the ISBN Office advises you to send a copy to the Swiss National Library and send you the forms to do so with your ISBNs.

Swiss National Library
ISSN Centre Switzerland
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern


Legal deposit by the publisher

(The term "publisher" is deemed to cover any professional publisher or any natural or legal person acting as such (printer, association, trade union, civil society, self-publishing author, main depositary of imported works, or public administration).

One copy must be sent to the BNU (Bibliothèque Nationale Universitaire) at the address below.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Dépôt légal des livres
Quai François-Mauriac
75706 Paris cedex 13
Tel: 01 53 79 43 37
Fax: 01 53 79 46 00
POST FREE! The items may be sent post-free on condition that they clearly bear the following indication: "Franchise postale - Dépôt légal - Code du patrimoine art. L132-1"


All works under copyright protection that are published in the United States are subject to the mandatory deposit provision of the copyright law (17 USC section 407). This law requires that two copies of the best edition of every copyrightable work published in the United States be sent to the Copyright Office within three months of publication. Works deposited under this law are for the use of the Library of Congress. Mandatory deposit applies to works first published in a foreign country at the point at which they are distributed in the United States.

Find out more here:


Legal Deposit is a requirement under the Copyright Act 1968 for publishers and self publishing authors to deposit a copy of any print work published in Australia with the National Library and when applicable, the deposit libraries in your home state. Legal Deposit ensures that Australian publications are preserved for use now and in the future. Please send a copy of your work to the National Library of Australia as soon as it is published:

Legal Deposit Unit
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

Telephone: 02 6262 1312
Fax: 02 6273 4492


  1. Very proud to see my cover alongside the other three. I might add that Jane has done an amazing job of the interior design as well. Her work reminds us all that books should be beautiful objects too.

  2. Wow, these are stunning, just gorgeous!

  3. I think they all look (and sound!) brilliant!

  4. Such fabulous covers and all so different. Congratulations to your very talented designer(s).

  5. all looks very exciting! So sorry I can't be at the launch :-( but GOOD LUCK to all concerned!