My book now has an ISBN, and it is beginning to feel real.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is the universally accepted number that is used by the book industry worldwide to identify any individual book. If you want to sell a physical book in bookshops the chances are that a shop will not agree to sell your book if it does not have an ISBN.

In Britain and Ireland it seems that the only source of ISBNs is the Nielsen agency. You can buy individual numbers from some companies that help authors with self-publishing, but if you want your own number you have to go directly to Nielsen.

And it is important to realize that these numbers are not free. In fact they are not cheap at all. You can buy one number, but that costs £99 (Nielsen are a British company and so charge in Sterling). They also sell a pack of ten numbers for £149.

I had been considering getting the single ISBN, as I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish anything else in the future and was trying to save money. But then I found out that an ISBN is only for a particular edition of a book and that if you want to publish an e-book, as I intend to do, you need a separate ISBN. In fact, I will need at least three in total, one for the printed version, one for an e-book for iBooks, and one for my Amazon e-book.

So I got the ten. It is quite a simple process, you fill out a form, email it to Nielsen, pay them and they give you your numbers. They got back to me within about three days, though they say it can take up to ten working days. So A Year in Lisbon now has a unique identifying number, one that will distinguish it from every other book published throughout history. It is 978-0-9954832-0-0. It is an unremarkable collection of digits, but it is my unremarkable collection of digits, and that is something.

Now all I have to do is print the thing.




It’s been five months since I wrote a blog post here. I had not been intending to take such a break, but work got in the way, and I haven’t had a second really to think about publishing.

I reckon that I am going to need a little bit of time to publish, launch and promote the novel, so I have put off the whole process until now. We are in sight of the summer, four weeks until June, when I anticipate having more time to devote to this project. You only publish your first novel once, and I want to do it properly.

This fact has probably informed my decision to get the novel professionally typeset. I was debating this very question the last time that I posted, and was inclined to just run with what I had, which was a manuscript laid out in Word. Yet the truth is that most printers require a book to have been laid out in a professional desktop publishing programme like Indesign, and it does look a little better to have it done properly.

My graphic designer said that he would do this, as well as designing the e-book for iPad, for a reasonable fee, so I went with it. He completed the typesetting recently and sent me the completed file, it looks good, cleaner and clearer than the file was in Word, though not hugely different. I imagine that the benefit will be seen when the book is finally printed.

So all that is left to do is get an ISBN number and then send the files to the printers. An ISBN number is essential if you want to sell your book in bookshelves or even online. This number identifies a book, each published book has a unique number that gives some information about the publication, and it is also used by booksellers to order and list books. No bookshop will take a self-published book without an ISBN.

I think I have found a printer that will do the job for a reasonable amount, as little as €4 per copy. My plan is to print 100 copies initially, try and sell them privately in bookshops and during a book launch, and hopefully pay for the whole escapade with these sales and with sales of the e-book. Right now my only goal as far as sales go, is to make enough to pay for the whole cost of publishing, which right now looks to be about €1300. This is where the real work begins.